Ending a five-game trip to the west in an ignominious fashion, the Washington Bullets were soundly defeated by the Denver Nuggets, 101-90, tonight before a crowd of 14,728 at McNichols Arena.
Denver's Alex English, the NBA's leading scorer, had 38 points.
Perhaps the biggest injustice of the night was the fact that with 7:19 left in the game, the Bullets, now 25-29 on the season, were actually only down by 80-78, reducing what was at one time a 23-point deficit.
After English scored to make it 82-78, Washington forward Dan Roundfield attempted a length-of-the-floor drive but missed a layup through heavy traffic. Denver rebounded, and at the other end of the floor, English was fouled by Kevin McKenna while attempting a shot. On the play, the Bullets' Manute Bol was called for goaltending.
English converted the subsequent free throw to give Denver an 85-78 lead with 6:22 to play and the Nuggets then went on to rout the Bullets, who were taken out of their game most of the night by the Nuggets' passing offense.
Denver's constant motion led to either a number of embarrassing mismatches (like 6-foot-11 center Jeff Ruland on 6-7 Nuggets guard Bill Hanzlik) or long passes to wide open members of the team streaking to the basket for easy layups. English was at the payoff end most of the time. Washington was led by forward Cliff Robinson's 17.
"I thought we really had a chance when we got their lead down to four, then suddenly it was up to seven," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue. "The thing is, we were trying to get a timeout on the play when we got possession. I know I heard Kevin McKenna calling for one but it was like the officials weren't going to acknowledge it."
Chances are both Lee Jones and Blaine Reichelt, tonight's referees, were just as anxious to get the poorly played contest over as anyone else. The Bullets, nearing the end of a seven-game road trip, made 49 percent of their shots but had 29 turnovers, which Denver turned into 27 points. The Nuggets hit only 43 percent of their field goal attempts and had 20 turnovers.
Despite their late-game flurry, Washington, facing the Nuggets for the first time this season, seemed out of the game most of the way. Denver scored the game's first six points and led by 31-21 after the first quarter. In the second period, the Denver lead never dipped below 10 points.
"I think playing last night, having to travel today and then only seeing Denver play on film really had an effect on us in the first half," said Shue. "But Denver really played well, their defense was fine. Ours was very, very poor."
Bullets guard Gus Williams, who played only 14 minutes, with all but two coming in the second half, said: "We're not accustomed to that strong passing game that Denver has."
The Bullets may have been confused by what Denver was doing offensively. However, Nuggets Coach Doug Moe had no problem describing what he saw when his team was on the defensive end of the floor.
"I wouldn't even pay to see a garbage-type game like that where you put three players out front and just post someone down low to see what happens," he said, referring to the Bullets' tendency to isolate their players one-on-one or two-on-two.
"We ended up playing the same kind of game, though. If either team had improved from 'just stinking' to 'just bad,' they would have blown the game open."
That the Bullets were able to come back at all probably could be directly attributed to Bol. After getting into early foul trouble and playing just six minutes in the first half, the 7-7 rookie got six of his eight blocked shots and six of his nine rebounds in the second half. Spurs 120, Suns 114
Guard Alvin Robertson became the second player in NBA history to post double figures in four categories, leading San Antonio to victory at home.
Robertson had 20 points, 10 assists, 10 steals and 11 rebounds and is the first to reach double figures in those four statistical categories.
Nate Thurmond, who had 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocked shots on opening night of the 1974-75 season for the Chicago Bulls, accomplished the only other known "quadruple double" in the NBA.
Robertson is an all-star in his second season with the Spurs.
Spurs forward Mike Mitchell led all scorers with 27 points, including 13 in the opening period. Cavaliers 111, Knicks 105
Roy Hinson scored 21 of his 34 points in the second half and John Bagley had 20 points as visiting Cleveland handed New York its seventh consecutive defeat.
The Knicks, who have lost to Cleveland five straight times, got 21 points from Louis Orr and 16 from Trent Tucker. Free and Mel Turpin each had 18 points for Cleveland.
Trailing by 62-60 early in the third quarter, the Cavaliers scored eight straight points, six by World B. Free and the last two by Hinson on an alley-oop shot with 7:08 left in the period. Kings 115, Rockets 105
Reggie Theus scored 18 points in a third-quarter rally that lifted Sacramento at home.
Theus finished with 22 points. Mike Woodson also had 22 for Sacramento, which outscored Houston by 40-31 in the third period for an 88-79 lead going into the final 12 minutes.
Houston's Ralph Sampson scored 24 points