Maurice Cheeks scored his team's first 11 points, but it was Andrew Toney and Julius Erving who led the late rally Sunday at Landover, Md. that carried the Philadelphia 76ers to a 115-104 victory over the Washington Bullets. It was the 11th win in a row for the 76ers, and gave them a 16-3 road record, best in the NBA.
Despite the fast start of Cheeks, who finished with a season-high 25 points to lead the 76ers, the Bullets outplayed them for most of three quarters. With 47 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bullets had their biggest lead, 91-75.
At this point, the Bullets' offense collapsed. In the next 7:19, they scored only six points. The 76ers then scored 25 points to make the score 100-97 with 5:28 left. Erving had seven of the points and Toney took over to score six points in the last four minutes to keep the pressure on the Bullets.
The Bullets, thanks to a three-point basket by Jeff Malone, managed to score 13 points in the final 12 minutes.
"Sure, we've won 11 in a row, but we've had some really tough games lately," Coach Billy Cunningham said. "This was similar to the game Wednesday night at home with Detroit. Both these teams have what it takes to be a contender.
"I think you have to give some credit to our defense. When we tightened up, we forced the Bullets into errors and into taking some poor percentage shots."
The 76ers, who have the longest winning streak in the league this season, figure to stretch that to 13 before next Sunday when they face the champion Celtics at Boston. Tuesday the 76ers are in New York to play the crippled Knicks and they return home the next night to play inconsistent Atlanta.
Milwaukee 140, Denver 116--The Bucks put on their best offensive display of the season at Milwaukee against the weakest defensive club in the NBA and presented Coach Don Nelson with his 400th coaching victory. Nelson became the 16th to win that many, only the 11th to do it with the same team.
Paul Pressey scored 10 of his 21 points in the first quarter to get the Bucks off to a strong start. Except for a brief spell in the second quarter, the Bucks were in charge the rest of the way.
Pressey made 7-of-8 shots and also led both teams in assists with 11.
New Jersey 100, Houston 99--Otis Birdsong sank a fallaway 21-foot three-pointer from the corner with three seconds remaining at East Rutherford, N.J., then the Nets defense held on to pull out the victory.
The Rockets, who had rallied to wipe out a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter, took timeout after Birdsong's clutch basket and had three seconds left. Robert Reid hoping to throw a lob pass that either Akeem Olajuwon or Ralph Sampson could tip into the basket, used up three timeouts trying to set it up, and finally had to throw the ball to Mitchell Wiggins. Wiggins' 24-footer fell short at the buzzer.
The Rockets had a 99-98 lead when Birdsong fouled Reid with 47 seconds left. It was ruled a deliberate foul, so even though Reid missed both free throws, the Rockets retained the ball. Sampson shot an air ball and the Nets finally got the ball and set up Birdsong for the desperation winning shot.
Dallas 124, Portland 101--Reserve forward Dale Ellis was only 2 for 7 in normal field goal attempts at Dallas, but he was 6 for 8 on his three-pointers and wound up with 27 points to lead the Mavericks to an easy victory.
The Mavericks led by as many as 30 points in the fourth quarter as they moved to within 1 1/2 games of Midwest Division leader Houston.
Seattle 119, Kansas City 114--Gerald Henderson, who has not been the answer to the SuperSonics' backcourt problems so far, turned in his best performance at Seattle.
Henderson, returning to the starting lineup after being a sub for one game, scored a career-high 31 points. Ricky Sobers came off the bench to score 11 points in the fourth quarter to stifle the Kings' late rally. His two free throws broke a 114-114 tie with 58 seconds left.