Among other places. The Iceman got only eight points by halftime (a quiet 20 for the game) and had virtually gone into seclusion even as the Spurs roared back to even the score in the third quarter. But from 82-all (the game's 16th tie) early in the fourth quarter, Hayes single-handedly turned the game around. He converted a three-point play, blocked a Mike Green jumper, turned away a Gervin grenade and dunked an easy one himself. By that time the Bullets led 89-82, Gervin had missed five shots in a row and, as if that wasn't enough, here came Dandridge replacing Grevey to harass the Iceman some more.
What this personnel switch forced Moe to decide was where to hide Gervin's lazy, idling defense. On the tricky scorer, Dandridge, or on the power re-bounder, Ballard? Accepting his poison straight up, Moe kept Larry Kenon on Dandridge and ordered Gervin over to Ballard, for all it mattered. In the final 7:42 the two Bullets shared 17 of their team's last 19 points as Dandridge lured Special K to the outside, where he shot at will, while Ballard grabbed everything Dandridge missed and then jammed it back in over Gervin. Washington won going away, 108-100.
Ballard, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds in 29 minutes, said he wasn't that surprised by his performance. "I play with confidence when I know I'm not getting yanked in and out," he said. The second-year man acknowledged a novel team attitude. "The veterans here are usually blas� and that attitude spreads," he said. "But tonight I saw our glares all around."
A radio man with "KBUC" spelled out on his funny cap breathlessly asked Hayes, "Your guards, they really played tonight, right E?"
"We came out of a deep hole. Now we're back on level ground," said a puzzled E.
A mass belief that the Spurs might just as well phone in their score on Friday, saving themselves the long and futile journey to Capital Centre, was toned down by the knowledge of how difficult it is for any NBA crew to whip any other three times running. For all its faults and fiascos, pro basketball may be the most competitive sport on the planet—and the most unpredictable.
Sure enough, in Game 7 San Antonio took a 21-18 first-quarter lead with Gervin—get this—scoring zero. Then the Spurs took an 82-76 third-quarter lead with Gervin—whoa—having scored 34 on his way to his 42-point performance. Up to this time the Bullets again seemed listless (excepting the 6'1" Wright, whose fight with 6'9" Mark Olberding emptied both benches) and were being thoroughly outplayed.
But after the Spurs scored the first two baskets of the final period to lead 86-76, they became tentative and careless. Kenon had consecutive layups blocked by Hayes. Then the team suffered a no-shot, 24-second violation—an epochal event in Spur annals. Dandridge—now guarding Gervin till death do them part—kepi denying Ice the ball, then scoring himself on those wondrous shots he calls "riders." And the Bullets rallied to within 101-95 with 3:05 left.
Worst of all for the Spurs, they now had placed themselves in the vulnerable position—Game 7, on the road, battling against the champions and a raucous crowd—of having to score a clear knockout to win. They didn't get it, in part because of what the Spurs and some observers thought were ill-advised calls by Referee John Vanak.
On successive Bullet trips down the floor during the closing minutes, Olberding and Green were whistled out of the game with disqualifying sixth fouls—the former for elbowing around a screen (a play out of which Unseld has made a career), the latter for blocking off Ballard, who was hurling a back-to-the-basket, two-hand, no-look scoop prayer while jumping backward into the Spur center.