In a statement that raised eyebrows, Bullet coach Dick Motta says, "I fear the San Antonio Spurs more than any other team in our division."

Motta's statement also raises a question: who are the San Antonio Spurs?

Well, for openers, the ABA exiles have scored more points than any other team in the NBA, and they've allowed more points than any other team in the NBA.

The Spurs also have won 17 of their last 23 games, including eight of their last 11 away from their friendly arena. Their record is 36-28, three games behind the Bullets in the Central Division and 1 1/2 games behind second-place Houston.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, if you remember them, are in fourth place.

"We're good enough to go all the way," declared Spurs coach Doug Moe. "The big thing is that we have a lot of good players."

It's strange to hear the coach of a team that gives up more than 114 points a game - almost three more than any other team in the league - say that his defense is the key to his offense.

But that's what Moe says, and the Spurs are averaging nearly 115 points a game - almost two more per game than any other team.

"Our whole game is geared to our defense causing things to happen," said Moe, who was the assistant coach at Denver last year. "We may be last in defense, but we're No. 1 in causing turnovers and we're in the top three in the league in steals and blocked shots. We just don't play the conventional sit-back-and-wait NBA defense. We like to make things happen.

"We feel it's a lot tougher to score when the defense is set up waiting for you, so we try to control the tempo so that doesn't happen too often."

The key to the Spurs is George Gervin, the 6-foot-7 guard whom Bernie Bickerstaff, the Bullets' assistant coach, once said has a jump shot that looks like it came out of a lunch bag.

Gervin, a forward most of last season, has scored in double figures every game this season. He is averaging 23 points while shooting 54.5 per cent from the field and 83.3 per cent from the foul line.

The Spurs' other big man is 6-9 Larry Kenon, who is averaging 21.3 points and 11 rebounds.

The starting center is 6-11 Billy Paultz. It has been said that Paultz couldn't jump over six sheets of paper, but he sets the picks Gervin needs and he is an accurate shooter from 15 feet. He provides most of San Antonio's rough stuff.

The other forward is second-player Mark Olberding, a 20-year-old who would normally be a junor in college. He is strong, aggressive and afraid of nothing.

Gervin's backcourt mate is 6-4 Mike Gale, the team's primary ball-handler and the one who plays the opposition's best guard. Gervin's defense is not great.

The reserves are led by what the Spurrs call the Three Musketeers - 6-8 Coby Dietrick, a great outside shooter; Louie Dampier, a great outside shooter, and Alan Bristow, a former Virginia Tech star.

Moe calls on them often, and they are averaging a total of 27 points a game.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Spurs' success this season is that it has been achieved without James Silas, a man many feel was the best guard in the NBA last season.

Silas averaged 23.8 points a game last season and shot 52 per cent from the field.

But he hurt his knee in the first exhibition game this season. It was operated on in November and was out six weeks. He came back Jan. 5 and scored 28 points in 28 minutes, but couldn't walk the next day. He has played little since.

"Silas is the best," Moe says. "But I just don't know about him for this year. His knee hasn't responded. If we get him back at all this year, it'll be a bonus. I just hope he can come back 100 per cent next season."

Ironically, it was a broken ankle suffered by Silas in last season's playoffs that necessitated moving Gervin to guard.

Moe put Gervin back to forward to start this season, but when Silas was hurt again, "We didn't have any punch at guard," Moe said. "We do with George there.

"Even when Silas comes back 100 per cent, we'll still keep Gervin at guard. He's just been to effective there to move him.

"I like our team," Moe said. "Other people think we are good and so we start thinking we are better, too. We'll just keep playing our game and see what happens."