"Wrong?" said Wes Unseld. "Nothing's wrong. We're in a position where maybe we should have wrapped this up earlier, but we've got a seventh game and we're going back home. We can't ask for anything more."
Yes they can. They can ask their guards to stay in the same area code as the Atlanta Hawk guards-and score every quarter or so. And they can ask themselves-make it an order, in fact-to stop fussing every time a call favors the Hawks.
"It could be (that the Bullets are hurting themselves by growling too much at the officials)," said Bobby Dandridge. "At some point, you've got to adjust to their style, to who's officiating that particular night and stay on top of your game."
The Bullets were blown out tonight, in part, because they blew their composure, growled so often that at one point Jake O'Donnell stopped in front of their bench and said: "I don't want to hear another word. Shut it"-he put a finger over his own mouth-"I know you will comply."
They did not. They were called for just as many fouls as the Hawks, but they played a familiar tune with a new title: the Washington Whine. It is sung almost entirely by losers.
The Bullets had expected a different song. They had expected it Tuesday in Capital Centre. And in the fourth quarter tonight, with the Hawks running rampant, a front-row sign was raised to taunt them: "The Fat Lady Won't Sing Tonight."
At the moment, she has stopped even humming.For her to be in good voice Sunday in Capital Centre, some adjustments must be made.
"Balanced scoring throughout and coming up with assists distribution," said Dandridge. "Balanced scoring and defense. Team defense."
Which is about as close as anyone came to saying: Get your guards up. Charles Johnson is pressing so hard he takes shots that would be silly for anyone with a 10th of his intelligence.
Once in the second quarter tonight he had a shot blocked by Tree Rollins. Johnson got the rebound. At 6-foot or so, CJ has no business trying to back up against someone 14 inches taller. He did-and the Hawks got the ball.
Only Kevin Grevey plays decent defense against the Hawk guards. And he was four for 14 from the floor. With 4:38 left in the second quarter, Coach Dick Motta showed his exasperation with the guards: He put in Phil Chenier.
Motta was hoping Chenier could forget his back problems and somehow recover the zest he knew a few years ago. Or at least hit an open jumper. In a total of eight minutes, Chenier failed in all areas.
The Bullets were stymied at nearly every turn once again. They got 15 more offensive rebounds than the Hawks but still were outscored by 18 points. They were unable to score at all the right mental moments, immediately after timeouts.
"Do they have the psychological advantage?" Unseld asked. He was calm and rational. "The only way you can judge that is after Sunday. If they win, then they had it. If we win-no. There's no way to judge something like that now. There's no way there should be."
But the giddy Hawks are gaining confidence with almost every play. Terry Furlow is so brazen that he seemed to want to fight Unseld tonight.
"Hey, where are the world champs?" a fan shouted during a Bullet third-quarter timeout.
Only Dandridge shot decently. And the Hawks-Steve Hawes in particular-were exceptionally hot from the outside-and gathering in loose balls when that mattered most.
Early in the second half, with the Bullets down eight points, Dan Roundfield whirled around Unseld and moved toward the foul lane and the basket. Elvin Hayes moved to double-team and Roundfield's shot bounced off the left side of the rim.
From the left baseline, Hawes moved unmolested, grabbed the carom in midair and scored.
With less than two minutes left in the third quarter, Roundfield blocked Dandridge on a fast break, flicking the ball to a teammate who passed long to Hawes. His open shot from the right baseline swished. This was about five munutes before CJ and Greg Ballard botched a two-on-one fast break.
When Furlow sank a last-second bomb, the Hawks leaped into each other's arms. Furlow and Eddie Johnson fell to the floor, in an embrace. Grevey saw a positive omen for the Bullets.
"They've already accomplished what they've wanted," he said. "They go tus to seven games. We haven't accomplished what we want. We didn't get like that even when we won the seventh game of the championship series last year.
'Bunch of prima donnas."
Grevey said that would haunt the Hawks.
"I guarantee it," he said. 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