Six games. Maybe. Of course, the Bullets have a chance, but for them to win the NBA's Eastern Conference Playoff the Philadelphia 76ers must cooperate. They do not seem in a charitable mood. As George Gervin put it, "you got to go with the millionaires."
Having said that, we devote the next 800 or so words to the ways Washington can win. The preplayoff fun, after all, is not another recitation of the 76ers' obvious skills but how the Bullets, by chance, can overcome Interplanatary Funkmanship, Dr. Jewelius and a bomber with more range and less conscience than our own CJ.
First off, the Bullets would not be the hoops' version of Leon Sprinks if they managed to win, for it says here - and has for some time - that they are the best team in the Central Division when healthy and suitable inspired.
Philadelphia is better, but certainly not invincible. Bullet fans can find comfort in the fact that when the 76ers had a chance to overtake Portland and end the season with the best record in the NBA they lost six of eight games, once blowing a 17-point third-quarter lead to Atlanta.
Bullet victory recipe ought to include a dash of Philly dissension, for it is whispered that Billy Cunningham actualy has the Phreelancers thinking t-e-a-m now and then, or at least throwing two passes before somebody gives the clearout sign for a solo gig.
After the final game of their four-game embarrassment of the New York Knicks, the Sixers' George McGinnis said: "I ain't no yo-yo. If Billy Cunningham continues to play me like this, I want out."
McGinnis, a wonderful player whose star often plunges during the playoffs, had 29 points, nine rebounds and five assists in game three. He played only 19 minutes of game four. He also later apologized for his remarks.
Then Darryl Dawkins, the manchild who could dunk Frank Rizzo if he had the inclination, complained he was not getting enough shots each game. Four more seemed a reasonable request, until one realize he ranks about sixth in the Sixer shooting spectrum. They are that deep.
To a man, the Bullets insist that playing Hubie's Hammers, the Atlanta Hawks, and San Antonio was especially good preparation for the 76ers. As assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff said: "I don't think Philly respects us now.We've got to get their respect."
"Philly likes to gamble a lot on defense," he said. "Jump into the (passing) lanes. If we take the second pass, instead of the first, like we did a lot against the Spurs, we should get some good shots."
An illustration of what he means happened on the last play of the first quarter Friday night. Bobby Dandridge cut hard from the baseline toward midcourt, as though he wanted to cut off Wes Unseld and take a pass for a medium-range jumper.
When his man tried to cut off that pass, Dandridge immediately cut back toward the basket and Unseld fed him a pass for an unmolested layup. The Bullets also will try to attack the Sixers through the back door.
"But we can't make any mistakes," Bickerstaff said, 'cause when they get you in the open court or on fast breaks you're in trouble. We've got to make them play the whole court from baseline to baseline."
The pivotal Bullet, as usual, is Dandridge, and anticipation of this series is the major reason Abe Pollin spent $500,000 for the right to give him another $250,000 or so in salary. Simply put, Washington had no one who could stay within shouting distance - with megaphone - of Julius Erving.
Dandridge at least keeps the Doctor in the earth's orbit. And, more importantly, he makes Erving work on defense. However, Dandridge seemed lethargic at times against the Spurs Friday, or at least tired enough to go 7 for 21 from the field. That hardly bodes well against the well-rested Sixers.
"How they match up with "E" (Elvin Hayes) also is important," Dandridge said. Usually, the Sixers use a center on Hayes and protect McGinnis by putting him on the less mobile Wes Unseld, who with Larry Wright has been an unappreciated star in the first two playoffs.
Despite some bad early passes, Unseld had five asists Friday - and Unseld had five asists Friday - and the final few minutes. And, for all the glowing comment about Charles Johnson, the guard who offered the Bullets inspiration when the game became tied at 88 was Wright.
It was Wright who put Washington ahead for good with a 12-foot jumper. It was Wright who fed Hayes for a stuff the next time downcourt, after an Unseld rebound, of course. It was Wright who fed Hayes for a turn-around jumper on the next possession; it was Wright who hit a driving layup that gave the Bullets an eight-point lead with four minutes left.
It is reasonable to expect Kevin Grevey to get into the offense now that he has a mortal, instead of Gervin, on him. But, how much longer can Johnson be counted on to do his Lloyd Free imitation?
Also, the Bullets need much more from Mitch Kupchak than he has offered so far, And Tom Henderson will not merit much Sixer attention if he continues that brick-throwing act on drives.
Unseld offers the best analysis: "all we can do is play hard. If it goes, it goes."