The Washington Bullets showed tonight that they can win even without Jeff Ruland.
Carlos Terry and Joe Kopicki, playing power forward in place of the injured star, were two of six Bullets to score in double figures as Washington pulled away from the Indiana Pacers in the final period and won its eighth straight game and fifth on the road, 123-109, at Market Square Arena.
Don Collins and Rick Mahorn scored 24 points apiece. Collins had 16 in the final quarter, making all eight of his shots in the period.
Unfortunately for the Bullets, Atlanta beat the Chicago Bulls, 108-107, tonight, so Washington still trails the Hawks by a game in the race for the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot.
Ruland sprained his right wrist Wednesday against the Nets in New Jersey when he collided with Darryl Dawkins and banged his hand against the basket support. The incident occurred in the first quarter and he played the rest of the game, but the next day his wrist was sore and he was sent home to have it examined by team physician Steve Haas. X-rays showed no fracture, but the wrist was so swollen today that Ruland could barely button his shirt.
He said he would try to play Saturday night against the Boston Celtics at Capital Centre.
Terry, only 6 feet 5, compared with Ruland's 6-11, has played three positions this season and went into tonight's game averaging 1.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and shooting 33 percent. He made seven of 10 shots and scored 15 points and had five rebounds and four assists in his first start as a Bullet.
Kopicki had 11 points and six rebounds.
Ruland is the Bullets' leading scorer (19.3), rebounder (11.1) and percentage shooter (56). He is, obviously, their major offensive weapon and much of the team's offense is designed to get the ball inside to him.
Without him, they were forced to play a different style. "We played more of a full-court game," said guard Frank Johnson. "That type of game gets more people involved and it worked out good for us tonight."
The Bullets tried to get the ball up court more quickly than usual and, whenever an open shot presented itself, they took it.
"That was just a remarkable performance," said an elated Bullets Coach Gene Shue, who ran out onto the court and congratulated each player as soon as the game ended. "I was concerned not having Jeff, but Rick and Don gave us plenty of offense and we made the most of every opportunity. I don't see us going very far without Jeff, but we were able to do what we needed to make up for not having him tonight."
Shue moved players in and out and around the entire game. The Bullets posted Collins low and, when the Pacers put a forward on him, they posted up Terry. After milking that, they went low to Mahorn.
The Pacers ended up confused, not knowing who was playing what position.
Terry started at power forward, but played small forward and big guard. Collins played forward and guard and even Greg Ballard played some at guard.
"We did whatever we had to to win this game," said Shue.
Mahorn made nine of 10 shots and Collins 10 of 12 as the Bullets shot 58 percent from the field.
The Bullets had a 10-point lead in the second quarter, lost it and built it back to seven at halftime, but they couldn't put away the Pacers until the final period.
Two free throws by Marty Byrnes brought the Pacers to 89-86 with 10 minutes to play, but the Bullets scored eight straight points, four by Terry, to move to an 11-point lead with eight minutes left.
The Bullets constantly tried to get the ball inside to Collins, who scored virtually at will against Billy Knight, George Johnson, Clark Kellogg and anybody else the Pacers put on him.
"It was Don's night," said Shue. "He was fantastic."