The Philadelphia Phreelancers are in their annual late-Spring Phunk. Surely, you recall the symptoms from a year ago, against Portland. The Phreelancers do. They are wonderful analysts; they also are like the doctor who knows he has lung problems and still chain-smokes.

"We are playing right into the Bullets' hands," said George McGinnis. "But the times we don't get offensive movement isn't because we have guys who just want to take the ball and go. But we do have players with supreme ability and confidence - and that can sometimes be a problem."

For instance?

"Say Elvin (Hayes) is slacking off me and we call a play (that calls for McGinnis to pass instead of shoot). I'm saying to myself: 'I can score now. ' It's the same with the other guys.

"And it's not working."

Anytime a heavily favored team finds itself in deep trouble, as the Phreelancers are against the Bullets, the heavy finger of blame begins drifting about the dressing room and stops at one player. It bore in on McGinnis last year, like a laser; it stalks him again - and he refuses to duck.

A basketball purist gets especially irritated at McGinnis in a slump, with that jump shot that resembles something developed in a rocky elevator. McGinnis bobs up with the ball, but instead of releasing it at the top of his jump he brings it down a bit and then - boom, as though hit from beneath - surges up again and lets fly.

Fourth, ooops, fifth floor, bricks.

McGinnis was 31 for 80 in the championship series against the Trail Blazers last year; he is 4 for 40 in three playoff games this year against the Bullets, with 17 turnovers and 15 fouls.

But just when one is about to unload a verbal barrage at McGinnis, there he stands, tall and smiling moments after the near-ultimate in frustration Friday, ready to accept the toughest questions. When athletes in similar positions have fled - or hidden - from reporters, McGinnis remains open and gracious. A Craig Morton in short pants.

What's wrong with the Sixers?

"How much time do you have?" he said, suggesting it ought to be measured in sunsets instead of seconds. Later, he comes to the conclusion that he is allowing his fued with Hayes to dominate him.

Jack Nicklaus would understand.

For years, Nicklaus could go about his business on the golf course in impeccable manner, snapping his concentration on and off on command - except when paired with Arnold Palmer. When Jack and Arnie played together, they played each other instead of the course and the rest of the field. Generally, one shot 74, the other 75 and somebody else won the tournament.

Hayes and McGinnis have been going at one another, on the court and in the papers, for weeks now. Who fired the first shot is uncertain, but glares rather than handshakes were exchanged as they met with officials before Friday's game; adjectives and elbows were hurled later.

Once, after McGinnis had missed the first of two foul shots, lip readers at outside insisted Hayes motioned for Mitch Kupchak to grab the rebound and said:

"This guy can't shoot." (McGinnis made the shot.)

As he later admitted under prodding, McGinnis "had a fire in my eye, and he (Hayes) knew it." Enraged, he was called for the first time the Sixers got the ball - and had four turnovers the fist four minutes of the game.

The numbers insist Hayes and McGinnis had a Jack and Arnie Friday: Elvin was six for 15 from the floor, four for the nine at the foul line and grabbed 12 rebounds; George was five for 12 from the floor, six for eight from the foul line and had seven rebounds.

Hayes clearly had the better supporting cast.

"At this point, I've been to conscious of Elvin," McGinnis admitted. "You want to be intense, but not to the point that you forget about what's going on around you. I was."

Then McGinnis said he had planned to check Hayes on defense (instead of center Caldwell Jones) but Coach Billy Cunningham had switched to his pattern of the first two games just before tipoff.

"I think I can play Elvis and play him effectively," he said, "When the center plays him, he can't give the others the type of help we need on defense, the type of help Elvin gives the other Bullets.

"I thought I would play him. I was looking forward to it. I did some the second half. The center's got to help us out, but Elvin takes so much of his time that's not possible."

"Not really. I think at this point, what the hell should I worry about. We've been here before. We've been in tough situations. But we can't just talk it, about what's been wrong. We've got to play.

The reference to talk had come earlier, when BMcGinnis said there probably would be some sort of team meeting today. Would that have been helpful last year, before the final two games against Portland?

"Not really," he said, "because no one would have listened."

McGinnis seemed hopeful ears - including his own - would prick up before today's fourth game. There is not that much to change, he said.

"Too much one-on-one is what we have now. One extra pass would do a lot. With two, we'd be fine.