'78 team inspires Wizards to blowout victory

'78 team inspires Wizards to blowout victory
April 6, 2013, 10:30 pm
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Unseld on what it takes to win a championship

An eye-opening moment came for the Wizards in Saturday's game. 

They saw the 1978 NBA championship team, the Bullets, watching them. 

"I think it was huge. I really do. That's all the talk was the last two days," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of a 104-85 win vs. the Indiana Pacers. 

John Wall led the way with 37 points on 16-for-25 shooting, five assists, four rebounds, two blocked shots and only two turnovers. 

"You don't want to lose (in front of) the only team to win an NBA championship," Wall said. "We also want to keep our streak going."

That's now nine victories in a row at Verizon Center, where the Wizards are 22-17. That's a better mark than the Milwaukee Bucks (36-39) who hold the eighth and final playoff spot entering Saturday's games. 

The Wizards (29-47) are two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers (31-45) for ninth place. 

That won't be good enough for the Wizards to end a five-year playoff absence, but it is a goal Wittman has for his team to finish the season strong and one spot from a berth. They've already been eliminated.

At the halftime ceremony for the Bullets, a banner raised to honor the 35th anniversary of their championship team. 

The players in attendance included Greg Ballard, Bobby Dandridge, Kevin Grevey, Elvin Hayes, Tom Henderson, Joe Pace, Wes Unseld, Phil Walker and Larry Wright. Coach Dick Motta was there. 

Washington responded. Going into halftime ahead 51-48, the Wizards opened with a 12-0 run, including six consecutive points by Wall. They led by as many as 21 to blow out one of the East's best teams.

"We talked before the game. We had a number of these guys that come back in here and they know who these guys are," Wittman said. "It's just not a name or a face anymore. That's the unique thing that is different than a lot of different teams I've been on. ... To have players from that generation hang around, come to practice, not just the games. We got guys that come to practice, stand up there on the railing at the practice court and watch us, shake our guys hands, kick them in the ass if they're not playing good. I like that. And I think our players like that."

That Bullets went 44-38 in the 1977-78 season -- seven other teams had better records -- but won the title on the road in a seven-game series with the Seattle SuperSonics. 

Hayes and Dandridge were the top two scorers. Hayes also led in rebounding and blocked shots. Chenier, who is a color analyst for CSN for Wizards telecasts, only played 36 games because of season-ending back surgery and didn't appear in the Finals.

The Bullets mascot was changed to the the Wizards for the 1997-98 season. 

"That was a good energy boost for us," Wizards backup point guard A.J. Price said. "We knew it was going to bring the crowd out. It's going to be a packed house. They got the support that they deserved."