The maligned, beleaguered and undermanned Washington Bullets turned in one of their most impressive performances of the season last night as they stunned the Los Angeles Lakers, 114-104.
They did it without a regular center, too, as Elvin Hayes and Mitch Kupchak filled in at the position for the ailing Wes Unseld and his backup, Rick Mahorn, and outplayed 7-foot-2 Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
With Abdul-Jabbar reduced to mortal standards, the Lakers sputtered and the Bullets came away with what an elated Coach Gene Shue called "without a doubt the most satisfying game since I've been here."
"E said he could play Kareem and he did," Shue said.
Hayes started at center against Abdul-Jabbar and Kupchak provided relief help. As a tandem, they outplayed Abdul-Jabbar.
Hayes had 21 points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots and Kupchak 20 points, 12 rebounds and a blocked shot while Abdul-Jabbar made only 11 of 27 shots and finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and one blocked shot. He got eight of his points and three rebounds in the final four minutes after the outcome was already decided.
Unseld missed his fourth straight game with tendinitis in his right knee.He is listed as questionable for tonight's game against Detroit at the Silverdome.
Mahorn broke his right hand three games ago and it was thought he would be out at least three weeks. But after examining him yesterday, team physician Stan Lavine said Mahorn could start playing when the swelling went down, which should be in about 10 days.
General Manager Bob Ferry said last night that the Bullets will probably sign 6-11 Lewis Brown to a 10-day contract and put Mahorn on the injured list today. Mahorn would then have to miss a minimum of five games. The Bullets have six games scheduled in the next nine days.
Brown, from Nevada-Las Vegas, was playing in South America.
The Bullets jumped to a 12-point first-quarter lead against the Lakers, lost it in the second quarter, played steady in the third and put the Lakers away in the fourth.
This was the sixth straight time the Bullets have beaten the Lakers at Capital Centre.
Kevin Porter had a season-high 15 assists, Greg Ballard broke out of his shooting slump with a 12-for-16 night and Kevin Grevey contributed 26 points. But the key was the way the Bullets contained Abdul-Jabbar.
"We have five guards and four forwards and we just went out and did the best we could," said Hayes.
Hayes has had his fill of Abdul-Jabbar, dating back to their classic duels in college, when Hayes was at Houston and Abdul-Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor, was at UCLA.
Hayes won this round in their continuing battle.
"I didn't let him get the position he wanted. I made him physically fight for his position and I think that bothered him. And I took the ball to him on offense," Hayes said.
"I just love to whip him. I still get a lot of satisfaction out of that."
Said Shue: "Elvin and Mitch did a good job on Kareem, and everyone else was dropping in on him, too. We just played a good helping defense. We were letting some people on their team shoot whenever they wanted to."
Shue was speaking mainly about Michael Cooper, Jim Chones and Eddie Jordan. Cooper led the trio with 14 points, Chones scored eight and Jordan had four.
"There's an old pro saying that some players still don't understand," Shue said: "When you find yourself open, there's a reason."
The Lakers seldom left Ballard open, but it didn't matter. He made his first five shots and kept looking for his shot the rest of the game.
He had been in a terrible slump the previous five games, shooting a lowly 31 percent.