The main topic after the Philadelphia 76ers' 115-104 come-from-behind victory yesterday over the Washington Bullets at Capital Centre was scoring depth. It was obvious that Philadelphia, winners of 11 straight games, had it and the Bullets didn't.
"We played a fine game for three quarters; it was definitely winnable," Bullets' Coach Gene Shue said. "But we need Cliff Robinson in the lineup. He's another weapon and when you have the people to put in the game it can make all the difference."
But Robinson injured his right leg at the 2:19 mark of the second quarter after scoring 12 points.
The Bullets led then, 53-47, and would go on to a 91-75 lead with a little more than a minute left in the third period.
Robinson suffered a strained right leg and a sprained right knee, but accompanied the team to Cleveland last night for tonight's game with the Cavaliers. His playing status will be day-to-day as Washington begins a four-game road trip.
What happened after the Bullets built their lead could be only be described as the ultimate freeze. Scoring the next 11 points, the 76ers put a defensive blanket on Washington.
In the final period, the Bullets shot three of 23, and one of those baskets was on a goal-tending call. Between Gus Williams' layup with 9:16 to play and Jeff Malone's three-point jumper with 2:05 left, the Bullets were without a field goal.
"You look at a 16-point deficit and an 11-point win; you just can't plan something like that," said the 76ers' Julius Erving, who scored 21 points. "We just got it going on defense," added Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham. "We came out flat and couldn't get going but our defense got us into the flow."
That the 76ers were able to make things happen late was the result of the early play of guard Maurice Cheeks, who led the team with 25 points (nine for nine from the field) and had seven rebounds and seven assists.
Fourteen of those points came in the first period, a quarter in which Philadelphia scored 20 points, with both Erving and center Moses Malone held scoreless. "I don't know what made me take all those shots; it was just something that happened," Cheeks said. "We were just trying to keep the tempo up."
For much of the game it seemed as if Washington had total control. The 76ers began running the same play -- a double screen for Andrew Toney -- that beat the Bullets the last time the clubs met.
And, like that 93-89 victory Nov. 27, Philadelphia began the game shooting poorly (37 percent in the first period).
Erving and Malone didn't get started until late in the second quarter. The Doctor, scoreless in the game's first 14 minutes, made eight consecutive points in the period to draw his team to 36-all.
Malone missed all four shots he took from the field, plus two foul shots, in the first quarter, and didn't score a field goal until 5:54 remained in the half, which ended with the Bullets on top, 57-53.
Robinson didn't come out of the locker room to begin the second half but it appeared he wouldn't be missed when the Bullets scored 17 of the next 24 points to move ahead by 74-60.
The game then became streaky. Washington scored six straight points, Philadelphia scored six. The Bullets scored eight in a row, Philadelphia six.
The Bullets then scored four in a row in a 10-4 run that gave them their 16-point margin with 1:05 to play in the period. When Philadelphia scored four points to end the period, very few in the crowd of 18,609 had an inkling of what was to come.
The Bullets' poor shooting became more of a factor as the time grinded down, and when the 76ers took a 98-97 lead on Sedale Threatt's jumper with 5:58 to play it seemed as if the team might never score again. Malone blocked two close-in shots to thwart Washington's comeback and force the team to take three-point shots.
Erving, who started Philadelphia's comeback with five points to open the fourth quarter, said: "When you're down like that, you're in a situation where it's nothing ventured, nothing gained. I've always dared to be great and our team is the same way."
Shue, despite consecutive losses to what apparently are the best teams in the league, feels that his team could be, too.
"They have a lot of weapons; they made their comeback with Moses on the bench," Shue said. "With Cliff, it's all different for us. We can put someone in who can score. I know what the deal is, I just want to have the players we acquired."
"This is very frustrating for me; extremely frustrating," Robinson said. "With the injuries and the death in the family, it just hasn't been my season, thus far . . . Now this."