They don't have an all-world guard who specializes in roof-high jump shots or a man-child center who puts labels like "Look and Believe" and "Cover Your Head" on his dunks. Nor do they have a nickname as catchy as the Bomb Squad.
"We're just a bunch of no-names trying to become somebody," said Bullet Larry Wright about his fellow reserves. "We'll let Philly have the nicknames.
But Lloyd Free, Darryl Dawkins and the other members of th 76er Bomb Squad no longer can have the publicity spotlight to themdselves. Not after what the bunch of low-key Bullets substitutes has done in the Eastern Conference Championship series.
"I don't think I'm exaggerating," said another member of the no-names, Charles Johnson, "by saying we wouldn't be leading this series if it wasn't for our bench.
"You don't win playoff games with just the five starters. You have to play more people and if the guys off the becch don't come through, you lose. It's that simple."
Just like picking Philly to win the series a week ago was soimple. If the 76er didn't have enough advantage with starters like Julius Erving and George McGInnis, they certainly would be able to subdue the Bullets once the Bomb Squad took over.
Yet, except for game two, when Steve Mix came into the contest in the second half to help Philadelphia win, the 76er bench has had little effect on the series.
Instead, it has been the Bullet reserves, filling in for injured starters or providing minutes of rest for key players Bobby Dandridge and Elvin Hayes, that has allowed Washington to gain its commanding 3-1 advantage, with game five scheduled for tomorrow night in Philadelphia.
"Their bench probably has better statistics than my bench," said Bullet Coach Dick Motta, who has manipulated his reserves like a chess master. "But that doesn't tell the whole story.
"One of my key substitutes (Mitch Kupchak) has been starting the last three games. So we are missing a big spark right there. And with Kevin (Grevey) hurting, I've had to maneuver a little differently than I might like.
"But the main thing, is we aren't losing ground when I go to my bench. I think some pwople expected that to happen when we matched up with the Bomb Squad, but it hasn't."
In December, before injuries swept through the team, the Bullet bench was being heralded as the best in club history.
Motta could send in Wright. Kupchak, Grevey and rookie Greg Ballard and change the tempo of the game to Guard Phil Chenier was sidelined with a back probelm and Grevey had to undergo on-the-job training o switch from forward to guard and reserve to starter. Kupchak was lost for a month with a thumb operation and Johnson had to belnd in with his teammates after being plucked off the free-agent list for what was supposed to be a 10-day period.
"What happened," said MottaM "is that everything I had established as far as roles and pattern of substitutions for the reserves went down the drain I had to fill in as best I could and as a result, some people got confused and lost their confidence. And with the injuries, my bench suddenly was my starters."
Wright, the emotional jitterbug who plays best in a fast-speed, loose game, found himself trying to be a set-it-up playmaker. It didn't work and he went into a prolonged slump.
Ballard, who longed for more playing time, had didficulty coping with his erratic use. When he did play, he pressed to make a quick impression and woud up taking bad shots and making too many mistakes.
Joe Pace, the Bullets' Dr. Dunk, moved in a nd out of Motta's doghouse all season. His occasional spurts of excellence were not enough to offset his habits of missing planes and meetings and loafing during practice.
But now almost every Bullet reserve can point to a segment of the Philadelphia series and say, "I helped win that game." And Motta says they can thank the kidseason injury problems fot their current glory.
"When we had those injuries, I said I hoped we would benefit in the long run from them, and I think we have," he said. "People who may not have received as much pressure playing time with a healthy team suddenly were getting more minutes. They picked up experience which is helping us now.
"Even with Wes (Unseld) hurt, I still have been able to establish roles and duties for the subs during this series. Everyone understands what we expect from them and it helps them play better.
"Take Charles Johnson, for example. We probably wouldn't be here with out him. Look what he did for us at the end of the season and against San Antonio. He's smart, he's experienced and he can shoot an opponent right out of the game."
Johnson's play against the 76ers has been typical of the Bullet bench in this round. His statistics are hardly gaudy (5.5 average, 24 percent shooting) but his 10 second-hald points in the third game took some of the pressure off Grevey's neck injury and his three steals and six assists in Sunday's game hepled prevent any Philadelphia rally in the fourth period.
"We are all involved in the game," said Johnson, the unemotional veteran who thrives best in tense moments. "That's important, because once you sit after warming up, you cool down almost completely. So if you don't get your mind involved inwhat's going on, you aren't going to be prepared to play."
Wright, who is as fiery as Johnsons cool, has sparkled.
Motta, has been using him regularly in place of Tom Henderson, hoping his jum-shooting ability will force the 76ers to guard him instead of freeing ont of their backcourt players to double-team the ball.
As a result, Wright has played 102 minutes in the series, 15 more than Henerson, and is averaging 10 points, fifth highest on the team, while shooting 54 percent.
It was Wright's driving dunk shot over George McGinnis in Sunday's game that brought down the house at Capital Centre and Began a prolonged victory celebration.
"My confidence is back where it should be," he said. "I'm a little guy and all that, but I'm going to be condident the rest of my life.
"We knew coming into this thing that the bench had to play well. The Bomb Squad was getting all the national publicity but I think we are equal to them. Now, I'm not saying we're better, just equal."
Ballard's glory moments came in the third game Friday night. He played 16 minutes of the second half and pulled down nine rebounds to help the Bullets protect a 17-point halftime lead. And he was matched against Dawkins defensively most of the time.
"Greg probably has been hurt the most by our injury problems," said Motta. "He should have had more playing time, but it's hard when you either have veterans ahead of you or when those same veterans need time to get back in shape. But he's shown what he is capable of doing in htis league with more experience."
Even Pace has had a role in the Bullets' success. Although prone to foul, he has done enough the last two games to allow Motta to rest Kupchak, who has a fatigue problem. As long as Unseld is sidelined, Pace will be asked to fill a quick in-and-out role to help keep Kupchak at peak efficiency.
"You can have those all-worlds and gorilla dunks and the rest of that stuff," said Motta. "The names promote individuality. We don't want that. We want to think teamwork.
"Besides, I don't think Larry Wright is going to survive n the NBA with a steady det of gorlla dunks."
After watching films of game four yesterday, the team and coaching staff attended a memorial service for Marc Splaver, the Bullet's publicity director ... Unseld's sprained ankle is improving daily and Motta hopes his centerwill be able to play tomorrow.