The Washington Bullets finally found a team in worse shape than themselves, and they used the occasion to rout the New Jersey Nets, 109-94, last night at Capital Centre in front of a Christmas crowd of 4,827.
It was the lowest attendance at a Bullet game in Capital Centre in five years.
Center Wes Unseld, who sprained his ankle Tuesday, decided prior to the game that he could not play, but his absence made little difference. The Nets were without starters Mike Newlin, Cliff Robinson and Foots Walker and started four rookies. They played much of the game with five first-year players on the floor.
The Bullets scored the game's first 10 points and were never in danger. The victory was only their second in the last eight games. His team was so hungry, said Coach Gene Shue, "We would have taken a forfeit."
Greg Ballard, after a three-for-13 shooting night Tuesday, converted 11 of 15 shots and led all scorers with 24 points. He had eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Mitch Kupchak, spelling Rick Mahorn at center, scored 18 points and had nine rebounds. Elvin Hayes had 16points, 15 rebounds, seven blocked shots and three steals. He also passed Walt Bellamy, moving into fourth place on the NBA's all-time rebounding list with 14,247. Ahead of Hayes are Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Nate Thurmond.
Mahorn, in his second start, scored 14 points and contributed 11 rebounds and four blocked shots.
"I feel myself improving all of the time, and I felt pretty good tonight," Mahorn said, "but I still asked Wes a lot of things. He's still the big daddy here."
"Ricky is going to be a great player because he has so much potential," said Kevin Porter. "It's only a matter of time. Without Wes tonight, we kept the ball outside more and moved it around."
"We ran the plays we felt they had weaknesses for," said Mahorn. "My main job was to get in place for offensive rebounds."
Newlin, who warmed up, but couldn't play on a bad foot, is the Net's leading scorer, has missed most of the month with a bad ankle.
"I'm thankful for the win, but they were in a weakened position, said Shue. "Newlin is their offense. He's capable of scoring 40 points.
"We played about as well as we can offensively and we kept them out of their offense pretty well."
The Nets were losers for the second time in two starts under new Coach Bob MacKinnon, who succeeded Kevin Loughery earlier this week. They started rookie guards Lowes Moore and Darwin Cook, rookie center Mike Gminski, who scored 19 points (six in the first half), and rookie forward Mike O'Koren, who finished with eight.
Another rookie, Rory Sparrow, was the third guard. Rookie Edgar Jones scored 16 points and had seven rebounds.
Unseld may play Saturday against the Houston Rockets.