With 30 seconds gone in the final period of last night's Washington-San Antonio game, Bullet guard Larry Wright drove the lane and crashed into the Spurs' George Gervin. The 6-foot-7, rail-thin Gervin went flying backward, hoping for a charging call. No foul was called and play continued.
But Wright had slumped to the floor and was holding his left ankle. The one Washington backcourt player who had been shooting well the last two weeks had to be helped off the court and a groan went up from the capacity crowd of 19,035 at Capital Centre.
"It happened so fast, I don't know what happened," said Wright, who scored six points before leaving. "I tried to go to the basket and there was some contact. I don't know how I hurt it.
"The same thing happened earlier in the year and I was out for weeks. I don't think it's broken but it hurts. We've been short-handed before. It just means someone else will get more extensive playing time."
Wright's injury was diagnosed as a bad sprain and his ankle was put in a cast as a precaution. It will be X-rayed today.
"Right now, Larry's status is day to day," said General Manager Bob Ferry.
The last thing the Bullets needed was another injury. It already was doubtful whether forward Mitch Kupchak, who has a recurrence of lower back spasms, would be able to play this series.
While the Bullet guards were shooting themselves into another nightmare, even before Wright's mishap, San Antonio's explosive back court of Gervin and James Silas were leaning and Twisting their way to 62 points as the Spurs frolicked to a surprising 118-97 victory in the opener of the seven-game Eastern Conference championship series.
Gervin had 34-points on 15-of-26 shooting and Silas sank 12 of 18 shots enroute to his 28 points. Neither had trouble getting open against the Bullet guards.
"Right now, Gervin and I are playing so well it would be very hard for any guards to contain us," Silas said, "Their guards were shooting so bad, it made it better for us. After tonight, my confidence is built up even more."
The Bullets confidence may have sagged. Wright, Charles Johnson, Kevin Grevey, Tom Henderson and Phil Chenier were 10 for 39 and committed eight turnovers. None of the Bullet guards were effective guarding Gervin or Silas.
"Gervin is an offensive machine," said Henderson. "He's going to get his points so we have to stop the other people. We have to make Gervin work harder on defense and cut Silas off. We've lost the home-court advantage and now we're under the pressure to come back."
With Wright out, the Bullets have only one completely healthy guard, Johnson, Chenier still is not 100 per cent, Grevey and Henderson appear to be showing the effects of their leg problems.
Grevey, who make one of nine shots last night, said he felt "fine" and had no excuses for his poor game.
"I feel good. I'm as healthy as I've been in some time," he said. "Maybe I need an injury to get going again. My first five shots were close, but it seems everything I do is coming up bad right now. Eventually, I'll get out of this slump before it's too late. This game is supposed to be fun. I'm not having any fun out there."
While, the Bullet guards were wondering where their jumpers had gone, the Spurs were sizzling. On more than one occasion the man called Iceman (Gervin) and Silas, who may be renamed Cube, were patient and deadly on offense. Silas hit his turnabout 15-foot with uncanny accuracy. At one point, he had hit 10 of 11 shots, including two roof-top archers on the baseline over Johnson.
Gervin has few peers when it comes to one-on-one. He used his 6-7 height to either post the shorter guards, jump over them or simply dash down the lane and throw up a soft leaner.
Despite his show-stopping performance, which included several steals and dunks, Gervin is not overly confident.
"You can't concede anything to them," he said. "Their guards can shoot the eyes out of it (the basket). They just didn't hit it tonight.
"There's a lot of pressure off us (beating Philadelpha in the semifinals). We made belivers out of a lot people, us included. We've always had it in us to play like this and now we know it."
The Bullets know it, too.
"I know on Sunday (in the second game) we have to take care of the ball a little better," said Henderson. "They played good team defense and caused some turnovers. Things just broke down." CAPTION: Picture, Kevin Grevey of the Bullets is too late to do anything about this dunk by George Gervin, the Spur's leading scorer. By James M. Thresher - The Washington Post