While Coach Doug Moe, the eminently laid-back leader of the equally laid-back Spurs, was busying himself with golf games, gin rummy hands and press conferences—"Study films? Sure, I watch Tarzan," he said—Motta was gaunt and testy, haggard and humorless.
There were sufficient reasons. The Washington bench had been depleted, with Mitch Kupchak out with a back injury and Larry Wright rendered ineffectual following a sprained ankle. In Game 2 Hayes had jammed the middle finger of his shooting hand and was in the midst of painful, hot-wax dipping treatments. In Game 4 Dandridge, sometimes triple-teamed, made just three baskets. Even Wes Unseld—whom Moe delighted in referring to as "the 300-pound moving stump"—was being jostled into a non-factor by the skinny Spurs.
Then there were the Bullet guards. Ah, yes, the guards. Or rather, oh, no, not the guards again. Carrying over their terrible shooting from the Atlanta series, Kevin Grevey and Tom Henderson had missed 68 of 115 shots in the first four games against San Antonio, while yesteryear's hero, Choo Choo Charlie Johnson, had failed on 21 of 32.
Armed with little else, Motta went directly to his guile bag and aimed for the Spurs' psyches. "If we could only play to 70% of our ability...we're 15 points better," he said. "The pressure is all on them now. The Spurs can't hold leads. I see it in their eyes." Motta also worked on the Bullets. "This team is not in character yet," he said. "This is not my team."
One day someone wondered whether Motta had asked Forward Dandridge to work in backcourt and to guard Gervin, which he did in last year's playoffs. And whether Dandridge, who still harbors a grudge over the fact that he's paid $200,000 a year less than Hayes for ostensibly more varied work, had refused, which he was rumored to have done this year. "I didn't hear that question," Motta snapped, walking away.
Hayes summed up the Bullets on the brink of extinction. "It's all so different from last season when we were relaxed. The pressure. The mental part. Everyone's after us. Defending this.... " He paused. "This is the hardest thing I've ever done."
Their insouciance and arrogance useless now, their weaknesses exposed, their reputations in the balance, the Bullets finally started to perform with emotion.
In Game 5 at home, Hayes collected 24 points and 22 rebounds, Grevey and Henderson (the latter rediscovering how to make a layup) converted 17 of 35 shots, and Greg Ballard, the Bullets' most consistent reserve, added another fine performance off the bench as Washington won 107-103.
For Game 6 back in the HemisFair, a bloodthirsty Spurs crowd greeted the visitors with howls, boos, flying cups of Lone Star and one sign: MOTTA; LOOK INTO OUR EYES. But the Bullets moved to an early lead as Grevey played the fire out of Ice.
"If Gervin doesn't get the ball for a while, he goes into a lull," said Grevey. "He stops running and working for it. I was in his chest."