A rejuvenated Drew scored 14 points as Atlanta surged to a 48-42 halftime lead. Still, Brown read his basic riot act to both Drew and Furlow in the dressing room, at one point ordering the latter to strip off his uniform.
It was another Brown harangue, however (this one on court in full earshot of blushing longshoremen), that may have turned the game. Roundfield, admittedly "drifting" through the contest, had been of little consequence until late in the third period when Brown began baiting him from the sidelines. That was enough for Roundfield. Instantly he sprinted after a Bullet fast break, caught up and literally threw Dandridge into the photographers' section and Dandridge's short jumper nearly to Plains. Roundfield finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds; the steady, underrated Steve Hawes outplayed Hayes for 14 of each; Furlow continued to murder the Bullet guards; and Drew and Johnson evenly divided 44 points, Fast Eddie running down the clock toward a 104-86 rout which sent the series back to Maryland.
"They think we are invincible no longer," said Dandridge, whose team shot a humiliating 32%. "Now they've generated a whole team of players who think they are players."
Whether that was said with respect or not hardly mattered. What was important was that in the last quarters of Games 5 and 6 Dandridge and Hayes had combined for just 15 points.
"We're fronting, keeping them out of the box [the lane] and frustrating them," explained Brown, whose Hawk defense had limited the champions to 15 points a game fewer than their season average. "We are rising to the occasion to play a great team some great basketball. I only hope this series is not spoiled by one of us playing badly on Sunday."
Certainly nobody will have to live with that ignominy. At the end the Hawks knew they had achieved parity with the champions; at least they had come as close as a loser ever could.
During a time-out in Game 6, Motta had screamed at his players, "The Hawks have had their shot. They've had it. They can't play any better." But, of course, he knew otherwise. Near the end of Game 7, Motta walked down the court. He congratulated Brown, Roundfield, Furlow and all the rest. And he said later, "They have been great for basketball."
For the Atlanta Hawks, Heaven will wait.