Bullets Coach Gene Shue has been complaining most of the season about the lack of consistency from his reserves, but he had nothing but praise for them last night as Jeff Ruland, Don Collins and Charles Davis, the only reserves who played, provided the lift that carried Washington to a 104-100 victory over the Houston Rockets at Capital Centre.
Ricky Sobers scored 22 points, his high as a Bullet, and made three free throws in the last seven seconds to ensure the victory, but it was the play of Ruland, Collins and Davis that kept the Bullets in the game.
Ruland scored 19 points and had a season high-equalling 17 rebounds. Collins had 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals and Davis had 12 points, 10 in the second quarter when the Bultets were fighting just to stay in contention.
Ruland had nine points and Collins 10 in the fourth quarter.
Collins teamed with Sobers in the backcourt for all that period because Frank Johnson took a hard fall while scoring on a fast break late in the third period and bruised his knee, hand and hip.
"It was definitely a question of the bench," said Shue. "This was a game we needed very badly and we went out and won it in the fourth quarter. We converted on 17 of 24 possessions in the period and scored 32 points."
The Bullets struggled most of the rest of the game, though. They went scoreless for a 4 minute 30 second stretch of the third period and were outscored, 15-2, to fall behind by 10 before rallying behind Collins, Ruland and Sobers to come away with their fourth victory in a row, which equals their longest winning streak this season.
It was also the last of a seven-game homestand in which the Bullets won six of the games to improve their record to 24-25 going into the all-star break.
No Bullets made the Eastern Conference team for the game Sunday at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The team will be off until it meets Sunday night in Oakland. The Bullets start a six-game road trip against the Warriors Tuesday.
Last night, after playing with so much intensity against the Boston Celtics Tuesday, the Bullets came out with wandering minds against the team with the worst record in the NBA.
"We just weren't ready," said Sobers, "and we have to be ready to play everytime we go out. We have to be hungry against every team like we were against the Celtics."
It was also a very physical game, and in the fourth quarter Sobers and Houston's Calvin Murphy got into a shoving match. Later that period, Ruland and James Bailey squared off.
Officials John Vanak and Lee Jones called Shue and Houston Coach Del Harris together and warned them that if their players didn't settle down, they would start ejecting people from the game.
The score was tied at 91 when the Bullets scored five straight points on one free throw by Rick Mahorn, two by Ruland and a driving reverse layup by Collins. The Bullets never lost the lead after that.
Houston did close to 99-98 on a three-point play by Caldwell Jones with 94 seconds left, but Collins made two free throws after he was fouled by Joe Bryant nine seconds later.
A hook shot by Jones, who had 24 points, made it 101-100. The Rockets were forced to foul to try and get back the ball, but Wally Walker fouled Sobers away from the ball, which gave Sobers one free throw and the Bullets possession of the ball as well.
Sobers made the free throw and, after the Bullets inbounded the ball, Walker fouled Sobers again and he made two free throws to seal the victory.
Elvin Hayes, playing perhaps his last game at Capital Centre, scored 15 points and had seven rebounds and blocked two shots in 24 minutes as a reserve.