The Philadelphia 76ers showed tonight why they are the best team in the National Basketball Association.
Julius (Dr. J.) Erving played only 25 minutes, scored a season-low 10 points and did little to distinguish himself. For 2 1/2 quarters at the Spectrum, the other 76ers stood around looking disinterested.
Then reserves Bobby Jones, Steve Mix and Lionel Hollins took over and the 76ers stopped yawning, easing past the Bullets with a 30-10 spurt. It turned a close game into a 95-79 rout.
The Bullets were simply out of their element.
They shot a season-low 36 percent and scored the fewest points they've scored this season. They had 14 shots blocked, six by Caldwell Jones.
The victory was Philadelphia's 27th in its last 29 games and improved its record to 28-4, best in the NBA. Tonight's victory was the 13th in the last 15 tries against the Bullets.
Every 76er will say that this is Erving's team and he is the man who makes it all go, but it is the bench that puts the 76ers over the hump. That was never more evident than tonight.
In that decisive 30-10 spurt, Jones and Mix each had 11 points and Hollins six.
"We're just really rolling right now," Jones said. "We always seem to find a way to win the games, no matter what happens."
Erving's playing time was limited because Carlos Terry accidently elbowed him on the mouth in the third period and five stitches were required. When Erving left, the score was tied, 59-59. Four minutes later, the 76ers led, 75-63, and Mix had scored nine of those points. All were either from inside or from the foul line.
The 76er bench totaled 48 points. The starters scored 47.
"This game really shows our depth," Erving said. "We don't rely on one guy to win. We win as a team and when we lose, we lose as a team.
"Even when we were playing badly, we were still down by only six points. We knew we'd get in stride sooner or later. It doesn't surprise me at all that our bench was so effective. The way Washington has been playing, our second team should be able to beat them."
The 76ers committed 27 turnovers and shot only 44 percent. No 76er scored more than Bobby Jone's 16 points and they still won by 16. Mix scored 14 and Caldwell Jones 12.
Wes Matthews led the Bullets with 18 and Elvin Hayes had 15.
The defeat was the Bullets' third in a row.
They'll play the Indiana Pacers, winners of five of their last six, Saturday night at Capital Centre.
The Bullets controlled the tempo in the first half, making it a halfcourt game at both ends and were able to stay ahead. The 76er fans, who are used to seeing their team slam dunk opponents into submission squirmed in the second quarter when Mitch Kupchak and Terry jammed back-to-back dunks.
Kupchak drove around Bobby Jones and greeted Mix with a slam, and on the next play, on a fast break, the 6-foot-1 Matthews took off 10 feet from the basket, went up in front of 7-1 Caldwell Jones and threw one down.
That gave the Bullets a 35-29 lead. They held on and led, 46-43, at halftime.
A basket by Wes Unseld increased the lead to 55-47 early in the third period, but that's when the 76ers looked at the block and went to work.
Rookie Andrew Toney scored on a base-line jumper and Hollins followed with a fast break layup. The Bullets tried to hold on, and even after the 76ers tied the score at 59-59 on a 10-footer by Hollins, Washington retook the lead on a drive by Grevey. The visitors never led again, though.
Mix tied the score with two free throws, then put Philadelphia ahead with a fast break basket. Then the 76er points just kept coming.
"We just played outstanding defense in the second half," Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham said after watching his team yield only 33 points after intermission.
"I can't remember too many games in which we were held to 40 points in a half" Mix said, referring to his team's first half output. "But we showed our character by the way we came back in the second half. I guess we're just good."