The Philadelphia 76ers brought the Bullets' five-game winning streak to a halt last night with a 128-116 victory at Capital Centre.
The Bullets stayed close much of the game, but simply didn't have the manpower to overtake the team with the best record in the National Basketball Association.
Julius Erving was his usual dominating self, with 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the field, seven rebounds, six assists, three steals and a blocked shot, but the Philadelphia bench made the difference.
Coach Billy Cunningham used four reserves: Bobby Jones, Lionel Hollins, Ollie Johnson and Clint Richardson. They made 25 of 42 shots and scored 60 points -- 20 by Jones, 17 by Hollins, 15 by Johnson and eight by Richardson.
Another of the Sixer supersubs, Steve Mix, missed the game with a sprained foot.
"When you have a bench like that, it's going to take you to the finals," said bullet guard Kevin Porter."
"On their team it doesn't make much difference who's in there," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue, who used to coach the 76ers.
"We didn't really play a bad game. In fact, we played better than we did in some of the games we've won lately. We hung in there pretty well tonight, but Philly played great and always came up with the big plays," Shue added.
The Bullets shot 53 percent and stayed even on the boards, but the Sixers had the easy shots. They made 59 percent of their shots, and Andrew Toney, who went four of nine, and Caldwell Jones, two for six, were the only two of the nine 76ers who played who didn't make half the shots they took.
The Bullets got 27 points and 11 rebounds from Greg Ballard, but the most impressive of the Bullets was Don Collins. Playing in only his second game since coming to the team from Atlanta in exchange for Wes Matthews, Collins made 10 of 11 shots and scored 23 points in 28 minutes. He went head up against Erving whenever he was in the game and he held his own most of the time.
Collins will start at small forward in place of Anthony Roberts tonight when the Bullets host the Seattle SuperSonics.
"He'll start for now," Shue said, "but I don't know what will happen when we get over our injuries."
The injury Shue is most concerned about is the one to Wes Unseld's right knee that has forced him to miss the last seven games.
Roberts has started all seven, but played only six minutes last night and didn't score. He had two points in 13 minutes in his previous game.
The score was tied at 31 at the end of the first quarter, but Philadelphia ran off a 12-2 spurt to start the second period to take a 10-point lead and the Bullets played catch-up the rest of the game.
They never made it.
As a demonstration of their inside strength, the Sixers made six of their first seven shots of the second period and all were either layups or dunks.
Every time the Bullets made a run from then on, the Sixers came up with something to stop it and quiet the crowd of 13,618.
Collins scored five straight points midway through the third period to cut the Philadelphia lead to 71-69, but Bobby Jones made a 16-footer and then, after a Hayes miss, scored on a layup after outmaneuvering two Bullets for an offensive rebound.
Kevin Grevey, who was limited to nine shots in 33 minutes, made a baseline jumper, but Jones scored the game's next four points on a 17-footer and a fast break layup.
The Bullets were down by only four, 114-110, with 4:05 remaining, but Hollins made a difficult baseline jump shot and, after Hayes missed a short jumper, Dawkins made a pair of free throws after he was fouled by Hayes.
Ballard scored on a baseline shot to make the score 118-112.
Maurice Cheeks made a running one-hander and Erving a pair of free throws to put the lead back at 10.