Bullet guard Kevin Grevey was drying his hair after a shower yesterday morning and he felt something pop in his neck, by midafternoon, he could hardly turn his head.
"It's getting worse by the hour," said Grevey as he prepared to see team physician Dr. Stanford Lavine for treatment. "But I'll play tomorrow, you can count on that."
Whether the crick in Grevey's neck will be mended enough to let him play in tonight's second game of the NBA Eastern Conference championship series against the 76ers (WDCA-TV-20, 8 p.m.) was the main concern the Bullets yesterday.
Club officials wondered if they should brace for a repeat of the midseason injury string that sidelined four players. Center Wes Unseld alreadly is out with a sprained ankle.
"You've got to hope thing aren't going to turn bad for us," said Dick Otta. "But you never know. The way things have gone for us, you've got to be gun shy."
Motta knows it will be tough enough to beat the 76ers with a healthy squad, much less with one hobbled by the loss of two starters.
The 76ers were lethargic and overconfident in Sunday's opening loss, but the Bullets expect their attitude to change for this one. And they realize that without Unseld, many of the subtle things accomplished in that first game, especially on offense, will be difficult to duplicate.
"We aren't the same team with Wes gone," said Motta. "But with Mitch (Kupchak) in the lineup, maybe we can do other things on offense to make up for him.
"It would be harder if Kevin can't play. But I fully expect him to be okay. He's tough and he doesn't like to sit out. With treatments, he should be all right."
Gravey had a similiar figure for the Bullets, because of his outside shooting (to prevent Philadelphia from sagging on the inside man) and because of his matchup defensively with 76ers Doug Collins.
Grevey is the Bullet guard big enough to handle Collins, the perpetual motion machine who Motto feels is a key figure in Philadelphia's success in the series. Collins scored only 12 points in the opener.
"What bugs me," said Grevey, "is that I got my shooting back (26 points in the first game) and now this has to happen. You feel like you are jinxed."
If Grevey can't play, Motta said he probably would start Larry Wright, who gives up five inches to Collins Charles Johnson would serve as Wright's backup.
The injuries to Grevey and Unseld put added pressure on Washington's bench, trying to compete with Philadelphia's bomb squad of Lloyd Free, Steve Mix, Darryl Dawkins and Joe Bryant.
"I don't think we are hurting with Mitch at center," said Motta. "The key for us is whether Joe (Pace) and Greg (Ballard) can replace what Mitch gave us off the bench.
"The same would apply to Larry and C. J. if Kevin is limited. These people have to come through for us."
Ballard, the rookie from Oregon who has suffered from inconsistent, playing time this season, will pick up most of Kupchak's forward minutes. And Pace is scheduled to be the first reserve at center.
Motta was unhappy with Pace's hustle at yesterday's workout and spoke privately with him later
"This is the time for Joe to really help us," said Motta. "I just hope he realizes that."
Pace has been in only three of the nine playoff contests for a total of 15 minutes. He admits he is not in good conrition but blames that on sporadic appearances.
"We've got a gap of maybe 11 to 17 defensive rebounds without Wes in there," said Johnson. "We've all got to make up for his defense. He plays position defense, the best kind, and we are used to him being around to help.
"Everyone has to play a little differently. We have to change our approach and concentrate on more things."
"The 76ers are healthy and preparing, they say, for revenge.
"It's not that we don't respect them (the Bullets), but they don't have talent like we have talent," said Free, the high-arching, long-range artist. "That's why we are on TV so much. People like to see the acrobats. You know, Julius Erving and the Flying Circus."
The Flying Circus took some tumbles Sunday. The 76ers, the best running team in the league, managed [SOURCE OMITTED FROM TEXT]
The 76ers also feel they have to cut off the Bullets' attempts to sneak Bobby Dandridge down court on fastbreaks while Elvin Hayes and Kupchak rebound.
"We originally were supposed to have a guard drop back to top that, but it didn't happen," said Erving. "I hate to see him (Dandridge) have to many easy baskets."
Dandridge finished with 22 points, three fewer than Erving. But Dandridge, overshadowed by Hayes' 28-point, 18-rebound efforts, did more than score. He also had seven assists, five steals and nine rebounds.
We're going to play better," said Free.
"You know that and we know that. We're too good not to play better," only six fast breaks and the ball over 19 times. Three starters made only 13 of 42 shots and lost the rebounding battle. 64-57.
"Our defensive rebounding wasn't up to par," said forward George McGinnis. "We gave up too many second and third shots. They were more aggressive and we never got into our running game. Our big people were pinned underneath too much. We can't afford to let them do that."