The Atlanta Hawks made it crystal clear tonight that they are not going to be pushed around by the Washington Bullets.
"You must meet physical force with physical force, execute under duress and put the ball down," said Atlanta Coach Hubie Brown after his team outslugged the Bullets at the Omni, 104-86, to force a seventh game in their playoff.
This was perhaps the most physical game of the series but, according to the Hawks, only a prelude to what is going to happen in the seventh game Sunday at Capital Centre.
"The first six games have been battles, Sunday will be the war," said Tom McMillen.
"I think they are going to come out and try to beat us up and take us out of the game in the first quarter, but we aren't going to fall for it," added Wayne (Tree) Rollins.
The loudest Hawk, however, was guard Terry Furlow, who says he can see the Bullets starting to crack.
"It's obvious that we've dominated the back court," Furlow said, "and that takes a lot of the pressure off our big people." The Hawks guards out scored their Bullet counterparts, 40-20, tonight.
Furlow almost got into a first-quarter fight with the Bullets' Wes Unseld after a scramble for a loose ball, and that kind of set the tone for the rest of the game. Both teams dished out punishment, and neither backed down.
Furlow said the Bullets, namely Elvin Hayes, resorted to taking cheap shots by throwing elbows when they began falling behind.
"That's what pressure will do to guys who don't have any class," Furlow said. "You're going to see who the men are now. A seventh game is a man's game. I think we have a better team than the Bullets and it's starting to show. If we were up 3-1 they never would have caught us."
Brown said the most important part of tonight's game "was the defense because we were able to hold them to 86 points and they got 15 baskets on 26 second shots."
The Bullets shot only 32 percent for the game.
"Our defense was so good because we put pressure on the shot and pressure on the pass," said Brown. "I think the Bullets' frustration started showing with all of those offensive fouls they committed."
Eddie Johnson scored 22 points for the Hawks and directed an almost flawless game in the final period.
The Hawks just spread the floor, kept the middle open and Johnson would work the 24-second clock down, then drive to the basket. If the Bullets picked him up, he passed off; if not, he went for a layup. He had 12 points that period.
"Eddie came to life with some truly great shots and that's what makes the delay-game work," Brown said. "But the key who really did it for us tonight, the guy who just went about his business like he has for three years, is Steve Hawes."
Hawes had 14 rebounds and 14 points before fouling out in the final period and Brown pointed to Hawes' offensive work in the third quarter as "very crucial. He made three long jumpers, a baseline tap-in and a baseline drive, and all of those came when we were holding them (the Bullets) off."
Hawes' tap-in gave the Hawks a 56-46 lead, but then the Bullets scored six straight points and Brown called time with 7:35 left in the third period. After the timeout, Hawes scored on two straight 22-footers and Atlanta's lead was back to eight points.
"Hubie called some great timeouts tonight," Hawes said. "What made them so good is that every time he did, we came out and executed a play and got a basket.
"Whenever he called a timeout late in the game, he'd just tell us to relax and we'd weather the storm. We've learned a lot from the other games in this series. We played hard, but we tried not to be as emotional on the floor. Our emotions were taking away from our execution before."
Dan Roundfield came through with another big game, limiting Bob Dandridge to 15 points and scoring 16 himself and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Roundfield also made a magnificent block of a Dandridge layup late in the third period. Had Dandridge scored, the Bullets would have cut the Atlanta lead to six, but after Roundfield's block, Hawes scored on a fast break to boost the Hawks' lead to 10.
"I has just made a bad play at the other end and I needed to do something to make up for it," Roundfield said.
"We were a different team after that play," Brown said. "That block was probably the biggest single play of the game because it pumped all of our guys up and it came at just the right time."
Hawes felt the biggest play of the game was when Unseld fouled out with 7:16 left and the Bullets down by 12.
"When Wes got into foul trouble earlier in the game it made a big difference, because no one rebounds like him." Hawes said. "Even when he doesn't got the ball, you know he's there somewhere and you think about him." CAPTION: Picture 1, Wes Unseld (left) wrestles with Terry Furlow in first quarter, by UPI; Picture 2, Tom Henderson gets shot blocked by Eddie Johnson in fourth. Richard Darcey-The Washington Post; Picture 3, Dan Roundfield stops Elvin Hayes from scoring late in game when Bullets trailed by 10. Photos by Richard Darcey-The Washington Post; Picture 4, Ted Turner, owner of Hawks, celebrates from courtside Omni seat. AP