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ALIVE, BUT JUST BARELY
Curry Kirkpatrick
May 07, 1979
Amazing Atlanta took the defending NBA champion Bullets to seven stirring games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, then the Big E and Bobby D made the Hawks' feathers fly
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May 07, 1979

Alive, But Just Barely

Amazing Atlanta took the defending NBA champion Bullets to seven stirring games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, then the Big E and Bobby D made the Hawks' feathers fly

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Furlow, on the other hand, was not so discreet. A 6'4" reserve guard whose boundless potential is exceeded only by his personal regard for it, the 24-year-old heretofore has been known mostly as Magic Johnson's recruiter at Michigan State, Julius Erving's roommate at Philadelphia and Coach Bill Fitch's whipping boy at Cleveland. But last week he unleashed a triple-barreled fusillade—two hands, one mouth—which made him the focal point of the entire series.

In a period of three days Furlow became an authentic media monster by first coming off the bench to lead the Hawks to two stunning victories with 35 points, and then firing such scattershot as:

?"Hayes is a cheap-shot artist. Write that."

?"Unseld is a bully. He has bullied his way through this league all his life."

?"The Bullets are crybabies. They bitch and moan all game. They have no class. They've got nobody who can stop me. I am going to dominate their guards physically and psychologically."

The Bullets started off Game 5 as if they would end the series right then. Almost before the Hawks bussed in off the Beltway, Washington had scored 34 points in the first quarter, the team's best period so far. "We should have kept kicking them till sundown and cut their heads off," Motta said. But late in the quarter the Capital Centre clock went blank, causing an 18-minute delay which the Hawks used to catch their breath and Furlow used to begin what he called his "verbal aggression."

Jogging along the baseline to stay loose, Furlow kept muttering to Kevin Grevey things like "Hello? You're in trouble now. Every time I get it, I'm looking for you. It's gonna be in your face."

Though he didn't start to rumble just then, Furlow carried out his pledge with eight points in the third quarter and eight more in the fourth. With 5:46 remaining in the game, the Hawks led 99-90, but then youthful jitters set in, they made but one basket in the last 4:08 and the Bullets whittled away.

With 14 seconds left, the Hawk margin was 105-103, time for both teams to go to their meal tickets for the deciding pas de deux. That would be Dandridge juking along the endline and Roundfield flying through the air for the block. Sure enough, the most valuable Hawk knocked away Dandridge's 15-footer only to watch the ball sail right back to the shooter. Dandridge jumped again. So Round-field jumped again, forcing the Bullet to change his arc. This time the shot bounced off the rim, and the victory went to the Hawks, 107-103.

Returning to the madhouse Omni in Atlanta for Game 6, the Bullets still appeared not to be taking Furlow—or the Hawks—seriously. But early on, during a loose-ball melee, Unseld nearly separated Furlow from his life by locking him in a bear hug. The enraged Furlow tore away, fists balled, and the two men had to be separated—"Lucky for one of us," the 6'7", 260-pound Unseld coldly said later.

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