Washington Bullet Coach Dick Motta will say for the record that it makes little difference to him which team wins Wednesday's seventh game between San Antonio and Philadelphia, but logic says he has to prefer the Spurs.
The winner of the game at Hemis Fair Arena in San Antonio will advance to the Eastern Conference final of the National Basketball Associatiin playoffs against the Bullets. The first game of the best-of-seven series will be Friday at Capital Centre.
Washington beat San Antonio three out of four times this season and lost three of four to Philadelphia, but that doesn't mean much now.
The 76ers, in storming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the series with the Spurs at 3-3, have shown that they can call on something extra when they need it.
The Spurs, on the other hand, look like a team about to fold. They never have won a seven-game series, having lost nine of them so far, and the way they are going, number 10 is only one game away.
Still, any team that includes George Gervin is capable of winning every time it goes out onto the floor.
The 76ers and the Spurs, though both like to run whenever possible, are markedly different in style and type of personnel. Each would cause a different set of problems for the Bullets.
The Spurs are guard-oriented with Gervin and James Silas going to the basket almost at will. Their best inside player, 6-foot-9 Larry Kenon, plays like a guard most of the time, too-an out-of-control guard.
San Antonio ran three different plays in Sunday's game against Philadelphia-the "four" play for Gervin, the "one" play for Silas and the "two" play for Kenon. It looked like they ran each play twice with the rest of the time being every man for himself.
Mark Oblerding is the Spurs' only strong man and their centers, Billy Paultz and Mike Green, have done practically nothing in the Philadelphia series. In Game Six they combined for zero-for-nine shooting, 11 rebounds and four turnovers. Green had the laughable distinction of traveling twice and double-dribbling on the same play.
Allan Bristow and Coby Dietrick are the other San Antonio front-court players and neither man is a strong rebounder. So, as talented as the Spurs are in the back court, they are vulnerable up front and no physical match for the Bullets. Unless Gervin and Silas could score 100 points a game between them, the Spurs would be in trouble against the Bullets.
As Atlanta learned Sunday, Championship games are won inside and the Bullets should teach the same lesson to the Spurs.
A guard-oriented team can make it big in the NBA only by having big rebounders and defenders up front to get the ball back when the guards miss.
Seattle is the only other guard-oriented team left in the playoffs and its big men-Lonnie Shelton, Jack Sikma, Paul Silas and Dennis Awtrey-are bopping heads inside while Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson and Fred Brown are controlling things outside.
San Antonio, however, gets little or no help inside.
Philadelphia is a different story. The 76ers may be the only team that can match the Bullets' strength inside, thanks to a recent lineup change by Coach Billy Cunningham.
Two games ago he benched Henry Bibby and moved Julius Erving to guard. He also moved 7-1 Caldwell Jones to forward and started 6-11 1/2 Darryl Dawkins at center.
If the 76ers get past the Spurs, they will match up very well with the Bullets by putting Caldwell Jones on Elvin Hayes, Dawkins on Wes Unseld, Bobby Jones on Bobby Dandridge, Erving on Kevin Grevey and Maurice Cheeks on Tom Henderson.
Judging from the Bullets' guards performance against Atlanta, no matter who Washington plays in the next round, that team will have a backcourt advantage. The difference is, however, that Philadelphia will have the muscle up front to go with it.
Defense, as usual, along with rebounding, probably will decide the Eastern Conference champion. Neither San Antonio nor Philadelphia plays defense like Washington.