The Bullets looked at film's from their current playoff series against San Antonio yesterday, but it might have been more helpful if they had reviewed last year's fourth playoff game against Houston.
That contest, played at Capital Centre, was the turning point in the Rocket series. The Bullets lost, wiping out a first-game victory at Houston, and then went on to bow in the series, 4-2.
This weekend, Washington faces similar circumstances against the Spurs. The clubs split games in San Antonio earlier this week and now the Bullets can put a hammerlock on the best-of-seven series by winning at the Centre tonight at 9 o'clock and Sunday afternoon at 1:30.
"If we lose one of these two, then we've nullified what we did in San Antonio," said Coach Dick Motta. "But winning three games in a row against any team is difficult, especially if the team is as good as San Antonio.
"The odds favor them, so I think we are still the underdogs. They only have to win 33 percent of the games on our court while we had to win 50 per cent on theirs.
"We got a split against them. We accomplished what we had to in order to get the edge. Now they know they have to split with us this weekedn, and we know they are capable of doing it.
"Last year against Houston, we relaxed mentally in the fourth game. We have to guard against letting up again, although it's a natural thing to do. Very few people can maintain a consistent level of emotion for a long time."
To maintain their edge over the Spurs, the Bullets realize they have to continue to generate a consistent running game, which will relieve pressure from their set offense.
"You can't come down and set up every time," said Motta. "It puts too much of a burden on the offense. They are going to get used to defending it and that will cause problems.
"But if we can get enough fast-break points, things losen up and we play better."
In game one, when the Bullets did not run well, they shot only 39 percent and lost. In game two, when fast breaks helped them open up a 21-point lead, they converted 57 percent of their attempts and won. Of their 50 field goals, 22 were layups produced by a combination of fast breaks and good execution of the offense.
"We were getting out on the break and creating a lot of three-on-two situations," said Bob Dandridge, who has emerged as the key man in the Bullets' running game. "And more importantly, we were converting the chances, something we haven't done that well this year.
"We were either getting layups or pulling up for jumpers. We were taking the good-percentage shots like we should."
Motta feels that as long as Dandridge, who did not practice yesterday but will play tonight, stays healthy, the Bullets have the offensive tools to cope with the Spurs' aggressive defense. Without him, they are forced to rely too much on their inside scoring and patterned offense.
The club also is getting a lift from playmakers Tom Henderson and Larry Wright. Henderson ran the offense in game two as well as he has all season and Wright came off the bench to provide what Motta calls "explosive points" on breaks.
"What's important for us is to take what they give us," said Henderson. "We can't force it. If we have a chance to break we should take it, but if it's not there, we have to pull up and execute the offense correctly."
What Motta and his players are worried about now is the adjustments in tactics San Antonio will make. After being outrebounded decisively in game one, the Spurs blocked out better in game two and outrebounded the Bullets by one. But in the process, they lost the edge off their usually explosive running attack.
"If they got back to running, they have to give up something on the boards," said Motta. "And then we have to make sure we take advantage of what they are doing inside.In a series like this, gimmicks shouldn't be able to work."
Motta also would like his club to grab a big enough fourth-quarter lead so that Spur and guard George Gervin will not be able to control things as he did near the end of Tuesday's contest.
"I kept telling the players he was going to miss a shot down the stretch but he never did," said Motta. "He makes the game look almost too easy. That's what makes you mad."
A crowd of about 15,000 is expected tonight. Ticket sales have picked up considerably since the Bullets' victory Tuesday . . . Tonight's game will not to televised, but will be broadcast over WTOP Radio. Sunday's game will be blacked out on Washington area television unless the Carter sells out.