Entering tonight's pivotal second game of their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series against Atlanta, the Bullets are certain of one thing: Hawk Coach Hubie Brown will devise some recipe to make sure Bob Dandridge and Elvin Hayes don't enjoy another scoring feast against his playoff-hungry club.
"Hubie will come up with something to try to stop them," said Bullet Coach Dick Motta. "There won't be any major alterations. He's too sound of a coach to change things now.
"But he'd like to stop one of them and make us go to another part of our offense. If you were him, wouldn't you?"
Atlanta obviously can't allow Dandridge and Hayes to repeat their 61-point outburst that boosted the Bullets to a 103-89 victory Sunday. But the Bullets feel that they are now better prepared to deal with anything Brown cooks up for tonight's 8:05 meeting at Capital Centre before an expected sellout.
"Look, we really didn't play all that well on Sunday," said guard Kevin Grevey. "We were rusty and I thought it was a good time for Atlanta to catch us and steal one from us.
"We are going to be a lot harder to beat now. We've had a few more practices and we got the kinks out. I think we took their best shot already. If they can play better than they did Sunday, I don't want to see the game."
If the Hawks can prevent Dandridge and Hayes from scoring unimpeded around the basket, it will put pressure on the Bullets to execute their offense better than they did in the first game.
For much of that contest, they ran only three plays, all designed to pound away inside with their talented forwards. The result was that Grevey was the only other player in double figures.
"As long as what we did inside keeps working, there is no reason to change," said Wes Unseld. "But what worries me is how we will adjust.
"We didn't run our offense as smoothly as we can. If they shut off the inside, we'll win if we can find the other open men. If we can't, we are in for some problems."
Although almost every contest in a seven-game series has some degree of importance attached to it, this one is considered particularly crucial by Washington.
If the Bullets win, they will take a 2-0 lead to Atlanta for games three and four Friday and Sunday. But if they lose, the Hawks would have a shot to go up, 3-1, by the end of the weekend.
"I know we are always talking about crucial games," said Motta. "But this one is important to us. We realize what we did last year in these series. We stole an early game on the other guy's home court and took the upper hand.
"Now we can't let that happen to us."
The Bullets are using these early playoff games as a form of on-the-court training. Injuries and illness have prevented them from practicing at full speed since the regular season ended. And without decent workouts, Motta's intricate offense can break down.
At least Motta isn't worried about how deeply his players are involved in the series. He had planned to spend about 30 minutes looking at films of the opening game, but had to field so many questions that the team was in the movie room more than an hour.
"We've got no problems with concentration or enthusiasm," he said. "We are confident but we aren't cocky. All these injuries and sickness haven't let us get complacent."
He even was able to run his true first team through a skeleton-play drill to brush up the players on the offense. Until Sunday, his starters had not been on the court at the same time for a game since early March.
The only player limping yesterday was guard Charles Johnson, who bruised a knee in the second half of the opener. Johnson received treatment during the first half of the workout, then shot around and is expected to play tonight.
Atlanta's chances of pulling off an upset depend heavily on how well forward John Drew plays. Drew, the club's leading scorer, was limited to eight points Sunday, mainly because of early foul trouble.
The Bullets will try to keep Drew on the bench by letting Dandridge go one-on-one with him, hoping the Hawk player picks up some quick fouls. They realize that when Drew can play long stretches, he is capable of scoring even off a defender the caliber of Dandridge.
Atlanta is concerned about the physical aspects of this series. Although the Hawks don't mind mixing it up, Brown says he doesn't want to get involved "in a physical brawl."
"We can't let Wes and Elvin push and shove us and knock us around," he said. "We just cannot allow them to do that. We have to flight back. They aren't doing anything illegal. That's just the king of team they are."
Hawk guard Armond Hill, who is being hindered by a bone bruise in his hand, felt that Washington intimidated his team Sunday, "but we aren't afraid of them. They are big, but all this means is that we just have to execute better."