Havlicek laughed. "This time of the year all the ballplayers are very tired mentally and physically. It's now that you have to push yourself. You're tired but you can't worry about it. You know the other team is having the same problems."
Boston's victory narrowed the Bullets' series lead to 2-1, but otherwise didn't seem to prove much, except that Washington had showed that it could match the Celtics in scoring slumps. Boston's offense had picked up some—although 39% from the floor is not exactly a gaudy figure—but it was nowhere near the attack that carried the Celtics to 60 victories in the regular season and a 4-1 margin over Houston in the Eastern semifinals.
There were, nevertheless, some positive signs. Havlicek's 26 points was only one fewer than he scored in the first two games combined. Cowens had 24, up six from his previous high. And White's 21 maintained his consistency.
Boston can do little to improve its defense or rebounding, what with Cowens and Silas taking charge of the boards. Silas has been especially devastating. He finished the third game with 25—as many as Hayes and Wes Unseld combined—and eight of them came at the offensive end. In all, Boston had an amazing 21 offensive rebounds, which explains why the Celtics were able to take 100 shots and the Bullets managed only 87. Overall, Boston outrebounded Washington 62-46.
And Washington may have some new problems. "We've finally caught on to the rhythm of their offense," Heinsohn said. "We didn't know what they were going to do. Now we know. We know the patterns and we know the options."
After Boston finally took away the Bullets' running game, the Bullets had to struggle for everything they got. The same thing had happened in their playoff series against Buffalo. Whenever the Braves managed to force Washington into a patterned offense, the Bullets had to strain to score.
"That was a problem against Buffalo," Riordan said. "When we had our running game we were good. When we didn't our patterns didn't work. In the first two games against Boston we were converting our fast breaks and making our shots. They tried to control the game by stifling us, looking for mistakes. Only we didn't make any."
The mistakes were there Saturday. Washington was forced into 15 turnovers and Boston converted them for 21 points. The Celtics finished with nine steals.
"I think we won the game yesterday in practice," Heinsohn was saying. "Everybody got superinvolved, really got it together. But I don't think we could be any more intense than we were today. We played them as hard as anyone could play them. And we got our two guys involved. We got Dave down low, ran stuff down low, low, low. And we got the other guy involved. If he goes, he goes. Today he did."