It never seems to fail: The player deemed expendable comes back to haunt his old club. Larry Wright did it to the Bullets tonight.
Wright scored 16 points, two on free throws with four seconds to play that gave the lowly Detroit Pistons a 105-103 victory in the Silverdome. Both Bullet starting guards, Kevin Porter and Kevin Grevey, had fouled out by the end.
It was Detroit's second victory in the last three games. The loss snapped a two-game winning streak for the Bullets, who next play Portland Tuesday night in Capital Centre.
The Bullets, who led by as many as 12 early on, held Detroit off until late in the game when baskets by John Long and Phil Hubbard tied the score at 97 with 3:31 to play.
Grevey made consecutive baskets to give Washington a 101-97 lead. But Terry Tyler, who led Detroit with 23 points, scored on an offensive rebound and made a short jump shot to tie it after Porter missed.
Paul Mokeski made two free throws to give Detroit a 103-101 lead, but Don Collins' short baseline jumper with 11 seconds left tied the score and set the stage for Wright after he was fouled by Porter, his sixth.
The Bullets went for the win in regulation time but Austin Carr's three-point field-goal attempt at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
"Of course, I like to win all the games, but it makes it a lot sweeter to beat Washington," said Wright, who signed with the Pistons as a free agent this season after failing to reach an agreement with the Bullets. "I spent four seasons there and have a lot of friends on the Bullets."
Wright began to make his presence felt in the fourth quarter with both Porter and Grevey in foul trouble.
"We needed a lift," said Wright, "and the situation presented itself to play hard and put some pressure on some of their people in foul trouble. (Piston Coach) Scotty Robertson had us guards run some plays and the shots fell on me."
"We wanted to go for the win," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue, who obviously didn't relish an overtime game minus both starting guards. "The shot (by Carr) didn't fall."
"Grevey and Porter fouling out had some influence, of course. We couldn't get any spread in the second half. They kept coming back. We cooled off in the second half. We got some good shots but didn't make them."
The Bullets made only eight of 21 shots in the fourth quarter and were outrebounded, 17-8, in the final 12 minutes.
"I could tell before the game that we would play well," said Robertson, whose team has won only 15 contests this season and has the second worst record in the NBA. "We're shorthanded. We only have nine guys dressed and Paul (Mokeski) sprained an ankle in the first half. But he came back and made some big free throws, as did Larry Wright.
"When you play Washington you better be physical. They are big and strong. We went right at them."
Porter had four fouls in the third quarter and sat out most of that period, but still finished with 13 points and 13 assists. Elvin Hayes led the Bullets with 19 points. Greg Ballard had 17, 13 in the first quarter. Grevey also scored 17.