Kevin Porter hardly smiled as he spoke. In fact, his eyes narrowed and his voice sharpened as if he were suddenly reliving the frustration of last season, when Dick Motta plunked him squarely at the end of the Washington Bullets' bench and never looked back.
"Dick didn't have confidence in me, and that hurt more than anything," Porter said.
This was a vengeful night for Porter. This was a night for him to laugh and tell Motta, "I told you so." But after scoring 25 points to lead Motta's old team, the Washington Bullets, to a 106-94 victory over Motta's new team, the Dallas Mavericks, Porter seemed anything but jovial.
Bitter, perhaps, but certainly not jovial on a night the Bullets broke a five-game losing streak with only their fourth road win this season.
"I was 10th in the league in assists," Porter said, "and Dick didn't give me what I thought was a proper chance to play. I know what I can do. He was in a funny situation because they (the Bullets) would not negotiate with Los Angeles (about Motta changing jobs), and he soured towards everything here. I had to carry my part of that burden."
Porter converted 12 of 19 shots from the field and added seven assists for his best game of the season. He scored 18 points in the first half, but more important, drove the lane for two consecutive baskets midway through the fourth quarter as Washington broke open a close game.
It was the Bullets' second success in two attempts against Motta. Dallas, an expansion team threatening to post the league's worst record since the 1973 Philadelphia 76ers (9-73), has won just six of 46 games. r
"It is eating at him," Porter said. "It has to eat at anyone."
Motta said: "Kevin had a very good game tonight. He had games like that last year."
Motta is generally considered to have done a good job coaching the Mavericks, a team of late cuts and rejects who have played most teams respectably, as they did tonight.
But as they also did against the Bullets, the Mavericks folded down the stretch. It has happened often.
"It looked as though they were going to put it away," Washington Coach Gene Shue said, "but then we began to get the ball inside. We drew some fouls and it seemed to turn around for us. We wanted this game badly."
Dallas led, 80-77, early in the fourth quarter, after erasing what had been a 16-point Bullet lead in the first half. But Porter scored on a driving layup to cut the gap to one. Then, after Anthony Roberts gave the Bullets the lead with a three-point play off an offensive rebound, Porter stole the ball from Dallas guard Geoff Huston and fed Wes Matthews for a dunk that gave Washington an 84-80 lead with 6:15 left.
Dallas drew within two points several times, but Porter drove the lane for two more baskets, and Matthews turned a 20-foot fallaway jumper into a three-point play, giving Washington a 95-90 lead with 3:27 left. From there the Bullets coasted.
Huston and Jim Spanarkel led Dallas with 20 points each, followed by Bill Robinzine, 19 points and 18 rebounds. Elvin Hayes scored 21 points for Washington. The Bullets, playing without ailing Wes Unseld, were outrebounded, 55-43. Dallas had 23 offensive rebounds.
"They (Washington) have some vets who have been through these type games a thousand times," Spanarkel said. "This was just what they were looking for in a game with us (Dallas)."