The San Antonio Spurs' victory celebration was short.
Moments after his team had done away with the Philadelphia 76ers in the seventh game of the Eastern Conference semifinal series Wednesday night-and with champagne flowing everywhere-George Gervin was thinking about the Washington Bullets.
"This game is over," Gervin said of the Spurs' 111-108 victory at Hemisfair Arena. "I have to look ahead to Washington, D.C. The Bullets are the world champions. They are the greatest and you've got to be ready to play them."
Although their victory was one of the biggest in San Antonio sports history, some of the Spurs may have let the excitement and the champagne do their talking for them.
"I predict we will beat Washington and it will go seven games," guard James Silas said. "Of course I'm serious. They're a great team but so are we."
The Spurs are not the same team that lost to the Bullets in six games in last yeat's conference semifinals, but the Spurs who will come into the Capital Centre Friday night do not appear to be a great team yet.
Gervin is a virtually unstoppable guard who showed Wednesday night that he is even willing to shed his celebrated "Iceman" exterior and dive to the floor for loose balls. He scored 33 points, averaging 26.3 for the series and 29.6 for the season.
When Gervin, the two-time defending NBA scoring champion, is going well, the Spurs are jingling, but when he is off, they don't make much noise. San Antonio may not have been pushed to seven games against Philadelphia had Gervin not fallen into foul trouble in the last four.
Silas is the playmaking guard and, even though he didn't play well Wednesday, he is a major reason the Spurs have made it this far.
Silas missed most of the previous two seasons with a knee injury. With him healthy, Coach Doug Moe has made reliable Mike Gale his third guard, and the Spurs are solid in the back court.
Up fromt, the Spurs have problems. Larry Kenon is their most flamboyant plater but the other forward spot and center are uncertain. Kenon's trademark is grabbing a rebound at the defensive end and then racehorsing on a one-man fast break. He blows as many of those plays as he converts, but he did get three baskets that way Wednesday.
Center Mike (Snake) Green, in his first start of the reason in Game 7, was superb with 20 points, eight rebounds, four blocked shots, three assists and three steals. He was forced into playing 39 ,minutes because the regular center, 6-11 Billy Paultz, pulled a hamstring. Paultz is expected to be ready for the Bullets.
Allan Bristow was the small forward for the first four games of the semifinal series, but when Philadelphia moved Julius Erving to guard and brought Darryl Dawkins in at center, that was the end of Bristow. He gave way to aggressive Mark Olberding, who has emerged as the Spurs' most physical player.
Olberding is a 6-9 230-pound four-year veteran, although he is only 23 years old. He will probably be matched against Elvin Hayes.
"I know where 'E' wants to go and I know what he wants to do," Olberding said. "I just have to do the best I can on him and hope he misses."
Toby Dietrick, a 6-11 nonrebounding forward-center, started in last year's series against the Bullets, but was benched in favor of Olberding.
Almost as well known as their highscoring offense is the Spurs' leaky defense. Hoping to cover that weakness, the Spurs double-teamed the ball constantly against Philadelphia. It hurt them as much as it helped, and against a team like Washington, which moves the ball well, that type of defense will not work.
"No one ever wants to talk good about our defense, but our guys worked their tails off," Moe said. "Our offense probably went sour more in the Philadelphia series than our defense did. Our defense kept in there."
Kenon, who has not gained any fame for his defensive efforts, agrees with Moe. "For us to win as much as we've won, we have to play some defense. I mean some defense."
The Spurs did silence some of their detractors by outrebounding Philadelphia by nine in the first game and holding their own in the others.
The Spurs are confident. They had never won a best-of-seven playoff series until Wednesday night, and Silas said it was like "a monkey off our backs."
"We're one of the last four teams and now anybody can beat anybody else. They're the champions but we're champions, too. We're strong and confident. We're going up there to win both games."
"The Bullets are strtong inside," Green said, "but we'll try to use our quickness. That and our hearts. We want to play the Bullets and we know we can beat them."
"We've always had Washington in the back of our minds," said Olberding. "We know they have a big front line and everyone saw what Hayes and (Bobby) Dandridge did to Atlanta. Hey, they're the world champs.You're talking about the best team in basketball."