It was Kevin Porter here, Kevin Porter there, Kevin Porter everywhere, yesterday at the Capital Centre.
The little guard, who has had a difficult time much of the season, handed out a club record 24 assists in a crowd-pleasing, razzle-dazzle ballhandling display that earned the Bullets an important 119-114 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Many of Porter's assists were spectacular behind-the back, between-the-legs passes. He also had four perfect lob passes to Elvin Hayes that resulted in easy baskets for the all-star forward.
Hayes played the entire 48 minutes again and had 33 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots.
While Porter's heroes delighted his followers among the crowd of 7,780 there were some bad news for the Bullets yesterday. Forward Gred Ballard strained a back muscle shooting a jump shot in the first quarter.
He tried to play again in the second half, and scored 10 of his 14 points in the third quarter. He made seven of-10 shots from the floor, but after the game, he said his back was very sore. "I'll get treatments on it for the next two days and try to play Tuesday (against Boston at Capital Centre)," he said.
This was the third straight game Porter has taken charge to keep the Bullets in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
In the last three games, Porter has had 54 assists and scored 53 points. Hayes has scored 88 points in those same games.
"Early in the season I think Coach Motta lost confidence in me," Porter said. "I never lost confidence in myself, though. "I found myself doing things I wasn't comfortable doing. I was trying to play more of a pattern game and that just isn't my style. I realized that I just had to go out and be myself and play the way I know how to play, which is running and pushing the ball up court and getting it to the open man."
This was also a day when Porter made sure everyone was involved. Reserve center Dave Corzine made five baskets, all after passes from Porter.
"I've finally found the key," said Corzine. "I can become a dominant factor in the NBA if I just stay two steps behind Kevin Porter all of the time."
The victory improved the Bullets' record to 37-41. They are still in seventh place in the conference, but with New York losing to Philadephia yesterday, they moved to within one-half game of the Knicks and are tied in the loss column. New York is 38-41.
Fifth-place Houston, which was idle yesterday, is in fifth place, one full game ahead of the Bullets with a 38-40 record.
As soon as the game was over yesterday, Bullet Coach Dick Motta. Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff, General Manager Bob Ferry and owner Abe Pollin rushed to the players' lounge to watch the final minutes of the New York-Philadelphia game on television. There was a collective sigh of relief when the 76ers held on to win, 112-118.
Kevin Grevey contributed a solid effort of 23 points and five assists as the Bullets shot 54 percent.
Coming off a 122-133 victory over the Knicks Saturday in New York, the Bullets started slowly against the Pistons, the team with the worst record in the league.
"We tried to warn our people that this was going to be a hard game," Motta said.
The Pistons suited up only nine players, five of them rookies. Ron Lee was the only man on yesterday's roster who was in the league before last season.
Still the Piston's hustled and two of their rookies, Terry Duerod and Greg Kelser, had 24 points each.
All three of their centers -- Kent Benson, Leon Douglas and Bob McAdoo -- were injured and not with the team, but the Pistons outrebounded the Bullets, 49-47. Rookie Phil Hubbard, who is only 6-foot-8, filled in at center and had 13 rebounds and 19 points.
The Pistons held a 58-54 halftime lead, but Ballard scored 10 third-quarter points before his back stiffened. Grevey added eight points and Porter six assists as the Bullets led, 86-80, going into the final period.
The Bullets broke the game open early in the fourth period, outscoring the Pistons, 8-1, to take a 13-point lead.
Porter had four assists in that spurt, including a behind-the-back pass to Corzine for one lay-up, a bounce pass through heavy traffic to Grevey for another layup and a bullet pass to Corzine for a third.
The crowd was so appreciative of Porter's performance, that when announcer Marv Brooks announced he had broken his own Bullet record with his 23rd assist, it rose to its feet and gave Porter a 30-second ovation. wPorter sheepishly hung his head, then stole the ball from the Pistons the next time down the floor.