In the fourth quarter of the last two games, Atlanta's guards have outscored the Bullets' guards, 28-12, and Elvin Hayes and Bobby Dandridge have combined for only 15 points. In those precious 12 minutes when it matters most, the Hawks are doing it and the Bullets aren't. Small wonder, then, our ears are suffering the assaults of Terry Furlow, the Hawks guard who leads the NBA in mouth.
Emboldened by a moment's success after a three-year professional career distinguished by nothing of merit, Furlow the other night talked more trash than a Dempster Dumpster could haul away. He called Hayes "a cheap-shot artist" and said Wes Unseld "has bullied his way through the league all these years." Furlow also judged the Bullets to be "crybabies . . . with no class" and said he is sorry if he sounds like Muhammad Ali but it's hard to be humble in the face of greatness and, "Hey, Sunday, we'll find out who the men are."
Anyone who isn't watching the Bullets and Hawks tomorrow afternoon better have a written excuse from his parents. Call off the family picnic. Sell a small child and buy a ticket from a scalper. At least talk nice to the TV to make sure it works. Then load up the refrigerator with diet beer and send infants and pregnant women out of town (this is serious, foolks). Get ready for:
"The world championship game, that's what I think of it as," said Furlow.
"A hell of a game," said Unseld.
Unseld's voice was cold.
In the sixth game, Unseld was an angry man. The referees, he felt, did not allow him to play his game. Petty fouls did him in, Unseld felt. Rage owned him. With his truck-axle arms, he shoved and hammered Hawks. Finally, he fouled out and sat on the bench in icy silence.
When had he last been so angry?
"Who was angry?" Unseld said in the locker room afterward. He smiled when he said it because he thinks newspaper talk is a waste of time. If he is angry, he'll be angry on the basketball court, not in the newspaper.
Someone asked about Furlow. Furlow and Unseld tangled in a scramble for a loose ball. Furlow wrestled out of an Unseld bearhug and went momentarily berserk. He even stormed around, pointing fingers and yammering as if he intended to throw punches at Unseld, who at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds may be the NBA's strongest man.
What about that Furlow incident?
"Furlow and I didn't get into anything," Unseld said, adding darkly, "Thank goodness - for one of us."
The Bullets can win Sunday. They should win. They are the better team. They can shove a basketball into Terry Furlow's canyonesque mouth. They can move a step nearer defense of their world championship. But they can not do it unless they come to share something of Unseld's anger.
Bobby Dandridge is a bright fellow as well as a beautiful basketball player. His presence made the Bullets world champions last season. He wasn't angry about anything the other night. The way he talked was revealing of a certain arrogance that - beware of a subjective appraisal here - has hurt the Bullets.
"Once the Hawks were allowed to throw their bodies around tonight," he said, "that was the turning point. It gave certain players confidence. And now they've generated a whole team of players who think they are players."
Who think they are players. Dandridge said it innocently, meaning that the Hawks now believe in themselves. More likely, though, it is a case of Dandridge - and, by extension, the Bullets - finally believing the Hawks are players.
"They think we are invincible no longer," Dandridge said.
Dandridge is late in arriving at that idea and so are the Bullets. That arrogance, unwitting or not, hurts a team anytime but especially hurts in games against teams struggling for their first great success, as Atlanta is. If the teams are reasonably close in ability, and the Bullets and Hawks are, that hunger for glory can decide the winner.
And while only Unseld seemed an angry man among the Bullets, every Hawk is soaring. A man came up to forward Tom McMillen the other night and said, "I've got a nickname for you. It's "Timex." You take a licking, but you keep on ticking."
McMillen is symbolic of these Hawks. No Nureyevs, they, no beautiful bodies. On first sight of that crowd - one guy is 5-8, one has no front teeth, another is a thinly disguised skeleton - you'd swear it was an AAU team from Plains.
Bird-brained typists have described McMillen, who is 6-11 and 210, as a crane, an ostrich and a stork. At 6-9 and 230, Elvin Hayes deserves to be "The Bionic Body." But in the fifth game, Hayes had two points in the fourth quarter, and in the sixth he had four the last quarter. The crane/ostrich/stork has left feathers all over the bionic body.
It is, then, not so much a case of the Bullets playing badly in this series. They have played exceptionally well at times and aginst a lesser team would have won it by now. Altanta is working at the top of its ability, and Sunday's game commands our attention because the Hawks have shown no sign of allowing the proud Bullets to win by simply flashing their championship rings.
Early in the second quarter of the sixth game, the Bullets had rallied from nine points behind to tie at 31.
Atlanta called a timeout and Dick Motta, the Bullets' coach, shouted to his players, "They've had their shot. They've had it. They can't play any better."
In the next 4 1/2 minutes, the Hawks outscored the bullets, 9-2, and Motta had to call a timeout of his own to slow down the stampede. The Bullets never caught up again. CAPTION: Picture 1, Bullet Wes Unseld has just fouled out; Picture 2, Coach Dick Motta is unhappy. Photos by Richard Darcey - The Washington Post