Darren Daye was a bit taken aback at being asked why he had played so well in the Washington Bullets' 112-95 victory over the Boston Celtics at Capital Centre Saturday night.
Replacing Greg Ballard with 36 seconds to play in the first period, Daye effectively carried the club in the second quarter, scoring 11 of his 13 points, seven coming on free throws. Such a high number of freebies indicate a player is performing aggressively. Daye, however, saw that as nothing new.
"I've been happy with my intensity all season and it just carried over into tonight," said Daye, a second-year forward from UCLA. "This game we rebounded well as a team and pushed the ball out on the floor, which helps my game, but I've been consistent in other games. It wasn't just tonight."
Daye, who averaged six points and fewer than three rebounds per game last season, has been steady so far this season. A starter at the small forward spot on opening night in Chicago due to the late signing of Ballard, Daye has shot better than 50 percent from the field and averaged more than eight points and almost four rebounds per game, with career highs of 17 and nine, respectively, against Atlanta Nov. 2.
Daye, who is 6 feet 8, remained undaunted Saturday despite guarding 6-10 Kevin McHale, 6-11 Greg Kite and 6-9 Larry Bird, sometimes on consecutive trips down the floor.
"Only for a verrry short time," joked Daye. "Those were just switches in the game. You get picked, sometimes it happens."
Although the Bullets have had as much, if not more, success as anyone against the defending champions, it isn't often that anyone takes the fight to the Celtics the way Washington did Saturday. That the Bullets shot 51 percent from the field was due mainly to their 51-38 edge in rebounding, which led to a 37-4 margin in fast-break points.
"There was a lot of enthusiasm out on the court tonight," said forward Cliff Robinson, who scored 12 points and got nine rebounds after returning to the team following a four-game absence due to a death in his family.
Much of the enthusiasm Robinson spoke of was generated by the 14,395 fans in attendance, many of whom came expecting to see the Celtics rout the Bullets. But the Celtics might have left their game on the floor of the Boston Garden, where they beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 130-119, in a game marred by a bench-clearing brawl.
McHale, who said his part in the fight was reduced to "running around trying to save my face," didn't think the altercation could be used as an excuse for his team's poor showing against Washington. "We should be so embarrassed that we should want to go out and eat arsenic," he said.
Things probably aren't that bad for the 5-1 Celtics. The question is: are things that good for the Bullets, now 4-5 and impressive-looking winners in two consecutive games?
"We'd like to think these are the real Bullets," said Gus Williams, who led the team with 24 points. "It was just one game, though; there are still over 70 to play."
If they keep up with their present pace, one of the biggest recipients will be Daye, who said, "All I know is the better the team plays the better I play."
The Bullets were able to clear their bench during the rout, all 12 players getting at least three minutes of playing time. Jeff Malone, in his third game back from the injured list, played 22 minutes and scored six points, just missing on a three-point shot . . . Despite the convincing victory, the Bullets still worked out at Bowie State College yesterday. Everyone but Williams and Jeff Ruland, that is, who have played extensively in the last three games. "See you on Monday," Williams needled fellow guard Frank Johnson after Saturday's game.