A man in possession of an air-travel card, a six-pack of Visine and absolutely no discernible wits set off on a punishing crusade through the pro basketball playoffs last week. Determined to establish an interplanetary endurance record in the art of observing loose-ball fouls, he was equally intent on breaking the barrier of the 24-hour day. Unslaked by the desultory regular season, he kept muttering to himself, "I be lookin' for some real 'ball now." In six cities, seven days and four different time zones, he seemed to have found it.
MONDAY LANDOVER, MD.
Government sources say Washington Bullets Coach K. C. Jones may be replaced at any moment by the mascot dachshund, Tiny. Because the famous solo artists who make up the Bullets were humiliated in the 1975 finals and failed to win their division this year; because Elvin Hayes, Dave Bing and Phil Chenier have been on personal roller coasters; and because Jones, always a quiet, withdrawn sort, seems to have lost communication with his team, the Bullets must beat the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight or the coach is gone.
Washington is in horrid straits owing to mental errors by Hayes, Bing and even Wes Unseld. They have bestowed on Cleveland two last-second victory gifts and a 3-2 edge. Jones says his rumored demise is "just paper talk," but impeachment talk is in the D.C. air again.
Typically, the Bullets rush off to a 17-point lead in the first half. But Cleveland's Austin Carr leaves the bench to score 27 points and the Cavaliers rally to a six-point deficit, 81-75.
Washington's maligned Hayes is everywhere, combining 28 points with 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots. The Cavs' starting guards, Dick Snyder and Jim Cleamons, are nowhere, shooting 19 times and missing 19. Then Cleveland Coach Bill Fitch parks his hot Carr in the garage in order to go with his starters. The Cavs tie at 88, but Fitch's move looks questionable when Cleamons, not Carr, misses two open game-winning jumpers in the last minute.
In the overtime Washington slips ahead. With 1:02 left, Hayes banks in his pet turnaround for the clinching basket and a 102-98 victory. "It's a rhythm thing. Nobody been stopping that shot for eight years," Hayes says. "Our early lead meant nothing. You don't lose games in the first quarter." Hayes is asked if you win games in the first quarter. "Oh, sure," he says.
Chief Gentry, the trainer for Tiny, cries out in the locker room. "Tiny, Tiny! Where are you?" The dog is found being trampled by the press in the coach's office. Tiny obviously wants the job.
Jerry Colangelo, general manager of the Suns, wakes up in New York after an evening at P.J. Clarke's with his high school baseball buddy, Jim Bouton. It is 4 a.m. Phoenix time, barely 15� hours before tip-off for "the product."