Kevin Porter, in his first start since Oct. 18, directed the Bullets to a hard-fought 103-92 victory over the Detroit Pistons last night before only 5,147 at Capital Centre.
Porter made seven of 11 shots and finished with 16 points and nine assists. He scored 10 of his points in the final quarter and had eight straight to help the Bullets put the game midway through that period.
A number of circumstances led to Porter starting in place of rookie Wes Matthews. Shooting guard Kevin Grevey missed his first game of the season with bronchitis and the other shooting guard, Austin Carr, still is sidelined after undergoing minor knee surgery two weeks ago. Thus, Gene Shue started rookie Carlos Terry, not comfortable with the idea of two rookie guards in the backcourt against Detroit, a pressing team.
The Pistons lead the league in both steals and forced turnovers, but the Bullets handled the pressure well last night. They had 19 turnovers for the game, but eight of them were in the first quarter.
"Wes and Carlos in the backcourt wouldn't have been wise," Shue said. "K. P. has been playing excellent and I wanted his steadiness back there."
Shue has not decided whether he will continue to start Porter. He expects Grevey to play Sunday against the Boston Celtics in Hartford, Conn.
Porter and Matthews were an effective tandem when they played together.
Because of the injuries, the Bullets dressed only eight players, the NBA minimum, and used only seven. Rookie Rick Mahorn didn't play and Mitch Kupchak played only 13 minutes.
Center Wes Unseld sent all 48 minutes and had 12 rebounds and 18 points.
The only substitutions the Bullets made in the fourth quarter were Terry for Greg Ballard with eight minutes left and Ballard for Terry with 5:24 left.
"It was hard finding the right combinations, just like it's been all season," Shue said. "In the fourth period, I went with the players who were playing well and stayed with them. I wasn't going to make any changes then."
Elvin Hayes equaled Unseld's 18 points and he also blocked eight shots, the high in the league this season. He had 14 rebounds. Ballard was high for the Bullets with 21 points.
With Grevey and Carr out, Ballard was the only true jump shooter the Bullets had, so they made a minor adjustment in the offense to get him more shots.
"We ran a lot of the shooting guard plays for Ballard," said Porter. "We just put him in a different spot sometimes so we could bring him around the screens more."
The Pistons were without their two top scorers, John Long and Kent Benson, both back home with injuries, but they still scrapped and hustled like they have all season and made things difficult for the Bullets all night. l
Phil Hubbard was their leading scorer, with 19 points, and former Bullet Larry Wright had 16, seven assists and six steals.
The Bullets went into the final quarter trailing, 75-74, but opened the period with an 8-2 spurt to move ahead, 82-77. After a Hubbard basket made the score 82-79, Bullets, Porter and Hayes teamed to put the game away. Porter scored the game's next eight points. Four were set up by Hayes blocked shots.
Porter started the spurt with a 15-foot jump shot. On Detroit's next possession, Hayes blocked a Paul Mokeski shot and started Porter on a successful fast break. Hayes blocked a Hubbard shot the next time down the floor and Porter was off on another fast break.
Hayes rebounded a Terry Tyler miss and Porter scored again at the other end of the floor to give the Bullets a 90-79 lead with 7:27 left to play.
"This was a hard game to play because it was so raggedy," Unseld said. "They (the Pistons) don't look that good, but they get stuff done."
"I don't care who we were playing. That was hard," said Shue.