The Bullets will have to wait until today to find out if forward Bob Dandridge can play tonight against the Atlanta Hawks in the second game of the teams' best-of-three NBA playoff.
Dandridge did not travel here with the team, deciding instead to stay at home and receive treatments for muscle spasms in his neck.
Although the Bullets say he is "questionable" for the game, Dandridge said that if is neck feels better this morning he will fly down and play. But if the spasms continue to restrict his movement, he will sit out the game, which will be televised at 8:05 p.m. on WDCA-20.
Dandridge reported that the spasms were occurring irregularly yesterday and were painful.
Washington holds a 1-0 advantages in the series after winning, 103-94, Wednesday night at Capital Centre. If the Bullets win tonight, they will begin the next round Sunday in San Antonio. If they lose, the final game of this first round will be played Sunday at the Centre.
The Bullets made plans for today's game with the assumption Dandridge would not be available. "We want him and he's valuable to us," said coach Dick Motta. "I know he won't play unless he feels he can help us.
"But you can't cry over these things. Mitch (Kupchak) will start in his place and we will have to make do without him if he can't play."
Dandridge, who first complained of neck problems in January, scored 20 points Wednesday night before benching himself with five minutes to go because of the neck pain.
Without him, the Bullets will have problems defending against John Drew, the Hawks' leading scorer, who had 25 points in the first game.
Motta said he probably would put Elvin Hayes on Drew, as he did at times in the first game. But Motta switched Dandridge to the Hawk forward for much of the second half and not having that option available tonight could hurt the club.
"It limits our flexibility no doubt about it," said Motta. "But Greg Ballard becomes an important figure now. We will use him to help out and I think he's shown he can do the job."
Defending Drew isn't the only problem confronting Motta. He would like to free Hayes for more shots (he had only 10 Wednesday night, scoring 10 points) and he is trying to combat what Washington officials feel is an attempt by Hawk Coach Hubie Brown to influence the referees.
At practice yesterday, the Bullets worked on plays that would help Hayes shed the guarding of Hawk forward Tom McMillen. The club also polished options for when the Hawks try to double-team the ball, as they did effectively in the first game.
Brown said after the opener that his team was beaten up and manhandled by the Bullets. Motta said Brown was attempting "to isolate what we do and make an issue over it. They used to say staff like that when I coached at Chicago. They'd say, 'Bring your boxing gloves, it's going to be physical.'
"Heck, they push and shove as much as any team we play. They have to if they are going to survive. It's a two-way street out there."
The Hawks, who led the NBA in fouls this season, play a slashing, hacking, aggressive defense. In turn, they give opponents numerous foul shots, but Brown feels his strategy will create enough turnovers to offset the problem.
Washington players said they were fortunate to excape the opener with a victory, considering Hayes and Kupchak scored only 16 points. The Hawks were sagging and triple-teaming both players close to the basket and giving the Bullet guards open jump shots.
That is traditional playoff tactics against the Bullets, but Motta said that as long as his guards shoot well, the stragety will backfire on Atlanta.
"I'll take foul-time jump shots, if that's what they want to give us," he said. "We also think we can penetrate more than we did and get even closer."
Hayes, who was upset with his first-game performance, was loose and relaxed yesterday. He said he was willing to "sacrifice my shots and look for rebounds and set picks if that is what is going to work best.
"If they want to put three guys on me, there has to be something open that we can exploit. I think I also will be better if we can run more. I can beat McMillen and (Steve) Hawes down the floor."
McMillen, who has improved his defense noticeably since coming to the Hawks from New York this season, said he was surprised Hayes didn't shoot more.
"I expected him to shoot it but he passed off a lot," said McMillen. "My main goal is to keep him from getting the ball. I'm fronting him and contesting everythings and I'm not going to give him any wide-open shots. If he does get it, I get help from the guards.
"With players like Elvin, you have to just hope they don't have great shooting nights. If they get hot, there isn't much you can do about it."
McMillen also contributed 14 rebounds, which helped Atlanta complete successfully with Washington on the boards. McMillen said he though his club would do better tonight if its shooting improve.
"We had good shots but they just didn't go in," he said. "We got confidence from coming back (after trailing by 18 points) and I think that will help us."
"We want to keep the pace quick and open," said Motta. We can't be too cautious, or we start making mistakes and that's not going to help us."