Now the Spurs were running scared, so in Game 4 San Antonio Coach Doug Moe elected not to run at all. It almost worked. Settling into a patterned, eat-up-the-clock attack, the Spurs led throughout but could not put the Bullets away. San Antonio was ahead 93-90 with 90 seconds left, but Dandridge—switched onto Gervin late in the game by Motta—forced the Iceman to miss an off-balance six-footer. Washington subsequently took the lead 96-95, and with 32 seconds left, Dandridge again forced Gervin into a peculiar clothesline jumper that Hayes, positioned under the basket, batted away to midcourt. The Spurs screamed for a goaltending call, but all they got was a 98-95 loss.
After the Spurs stayed alive with 13 blocked shots and a 116-105 decision in Game 5 played in San Antonio, their task was clear as well as monumental: they would have to win Friday night in Land-over, where they had never won and where the Bullets had not lost this season when more than 12,000 spectators were on hand.
For omen fans, a capacity crowd of 19,035 showed up. Spur Guard Mike Gale lost his uniform in an airline baggage mix-up and had to wear a Bullet road uniform turned inside out. Then the Capital Centre lights went out for eight minutes just after San Antonio had taken a 62-61 lead in the third quarter.
As the Spurs kept close tabs on Hayes and Dandridge, Bullet Guards Charlie Johnson and Larry Wright put in 30 points. With the score tied at 88-88 and 6:40 left in the game, Wright popped in a basket and then fed Hayes for a breakaway, eat-this-with-your-tortillas, monster dunk. The jangled Spurs missed their next five shots, not to mention any chance of surviving.
"The dunk broke their backs," said Hayes after his 25-point, 15-rebound performance in the 103-100 clincher.
"If you can't put the thing in the hole, you're gone," said Gervin, and that's exactly where the young Spurs were. For their part, the old Bullets were off to Philadelphia to try to uphold the seniority system once more.