Even when things were rough for the Washington Bullets, coach Dick Motta predicted that by the All-Star Game break they would be in first place in the Central Division and by April 1 they would pass the Philadelphia 76ers and have the best record in the Eastern Conference.
That has happened sonner than Motta exected.
Philadelphia has not been playing well lately and the Bullets, winners of 26 of their last 34 games, have moved one game ahead of the 76ers and have the best record in the conference.
Washington is 39-25 and Philadelphia 37-25. They don't play wach other until the final games of the regular season, April 9 in Philadelphia and April 10 at Capital Center.
Having the best record in the conference means more money and assures that team of the home-court advantage for all conference playoff games.
Here is how the NBA playoffs will line up this season.
Twelve teams will qualify.
The winners of the four division races will receive first-round byes. The field will be filled by the fourteams in each conference with the next best won-lost percentages. These eight teams will take part in the first round.
In that round, all best-of-three series, the team with the bestconference record other than two divisional championships meets the team with the sixth-best records, while the other two teams face each other.
The division champions with the best record in their respective conferences will begin play in the next round, facing the winner of the series between the fourth and fifth-placed teams. The other division champion in each conference will go against the winner of the series between the third-placed and eixth-placed teams. Both series will be vest'of-seven with the winners meeting in another best-of-seven series.
The League championship will then be decided in a best-of-seven series between the conference champions.
In all cases, the team with the higher winning percentage during the season will have the home-court advantage.
The Bullets have 18 games remaining and Motta says he feels the regular-season conference champion will be decided in those last two head-to-head meetings will the 76ers.
Motta said he tries not to look ahead to the playoffs, but it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid it.
"I worry more about ourselves than I do our opponents," Motta said. "If we mind to our business, we'll be tough."
He shudders, however, when he thinks of the 76ers. "When the bell rings, Julius Erving, George McGinnis and Doug Collins will be tough. I can't see another when I think about the playoffs like I do when I think of them.
While the Bullets have been burning up the league with their current winning streak, the San Antonio Sppurs have kept pace. They have won 17 of their last 23, including four in a row on the road. The Spurs now trail the Bullets by only three games.
"I just don't think people realize how good we are," said coach Doug Moe. "We're right up there with Los Angeles, Denver, Philadelphia and Washington. They'll see."
By averaging 12, 994 for their last four home games the Bullets increased their attendance to a season average of 10,835, with nine games remaining. The Bullets set a club attendance record last season when they averaged 10,752.
Bullet rookie Mitch Kupchak has made 39 of his last 62 field-goal attempts and has enough to qualify him among the league leader. For the season, Kupchak is averaging 9.4 points and shooting 56.3 per cent, third best in the league behind Karen Adbul-Jabbar of the Lakers and Bobby Jones of Denver.
Elvin Hayes continues to be among th+e league leaders in three categories. He is seventh in scoring with his 23.9 average, fifth in rebounds with 12.1 and third in blocked shots with 2.75 a game. Phil Chenier is 17th in the league in scoring with a 21.0 average.