Wes Unseld may not have the finesse of Dr. J. or the explosiveness of George Gervin, but down in the trenches, he is the master.
He showed it last night with a 23-rebound, 10-point, seven-assist game as he dominated Houston's Moses Malone and let the Bullets to a 92-85 victory over the Rockets at Capital Centre.
The victory ended a two-game Bullet losing streak and extended the Houston loss string to four.
It also left the Bullets practically tied with the Rockets for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Washington is now 34-38 while Houston is 35-39.
Fifth-place San Antonio is 35-37 after its victory over Detroit last night.
In addition to his rebounding prowess, Unseld took Malone completely out of his game.
Malone went into the affair as the league's leading rebounder, averaging 14.8 a game, and its sixth-leading scorer with a 26.5 average.
Unseld made it a night for him to forget.
He leaned on, pushed on and hung onto Malone all night long, and totally frustrated the 6-10 Houston center.
Malone finished with only 12 rebounds and 11 points and he got two of those rebounds and two points in the final two seconds.
He had only one offensive rebound before then and was within two seconds of being kept out of double-figures scoring for the first time in 147 games.
"It's all a matter of position," Unseld said, "because Moses just hangs around the goal. I just try to stay between him and the basket."
Unseld, who turned 34 yesterday, had watched as Gervin scored 41 points and Julius Ervin 40 against the Bullets in the last two games, and even though his effort last night wasn't as dramatic as theirs, it was just as effective.
"I don't get credit for what I do unless we win," Unseld said. "That's the way it's always been and probably always will be."
Unseld did get some help guarding Malone.
The Rockets' outside shooting was off last night, so the Bullets often dropped a guard off in front of Malone and with Unseld pressuring him from behind the Rocket center had difficulty getting the ball. He took only 12 shots.
Elvin Hayes led the Bullet scoring with 21 points. John Williamson contributed 18.
The Bullets led, 22-20, after the first period and actually put the Rockets away in the second quarter when they outscored the visitors, 32-18.
Willimson had 10 of his points in that period.
A 14-2 Bullet scoring spurt highlighted the quarter.
Hayes had six points in that spurt and Williamson four while all Houston could come up with was one basket by Calvin Murphy.
Murphy led the Rocket scorers with 22 points, followed by Rudy Tomjanovich with 14.
The Bullets' biggest lead of the game was 18 points, late in the second quarter.
Houston closed to within five points, 88-83, with a minute to play after a basket by Robert Reid, but Kevin Grevey, who finished 17 points, scored on a driving layup and then added two free throws to seal the victory, the Bullets' ninth in their last 13 outings.
The Bullets were without forward Bob Dandridge once again.
After missing 12 games, Dandridge played the previous two games, but said he was in considerable pain. He was on the bench last night, but not in uniform. It is uncertain when he will play again.
He has a calcium deposit in his calf.
The Bullets have today off and then entertain the New York Knicks Sunday at 2 p.m.
The young Knicks have the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference playoff standings, but after last night's victory, the Bullets are only two games behind them.