Mitch Kupchak, suffering from an injured back, was not expected to play against San Antonio yesterday. One man changed his mind.

Mitch Kupchak.

"If we had lost today it would have been virtually impossible to come back," Kupchak said after the Bullets had tied their Eastern Conference final series against San Antonio at one game apiece. "I did not want to say to myself that I did not play in the most important game of the season."

Kupchak wore a brace during and after the game, and an extra uniform jersey to keep the heat in his back. He also paid the price for his six minutes, four points and four rebounds.

He spent more than an hour in the trainer's room following the game. And when he finally emerged, he walked slowly and extremely upright.

"Stiff is not the word," Kupchak siad. "Right now I'm immobile. If I make it to my car and to bed, I'm lucky.

"If it was a regular-season game, there's no way I would have played. If we had won the first game (Friday night) I would have probably sat out today.

"We won. That's the important thing."

Kupchak needed 10 minutes yesterday morning to get out of bed. He came to Capital Centre at 11 a.m. for treatment and later began running and jumping. He talked with Coach Dick Motta and team physician Stanford Lavine about his availability.

Lavine told them that playing would not aggravate the injury (back spasms). Kupchak asked Motta if he would play if he dressed. Motta said yes. CAPTION: Picture, Mitch Kupchak wears two jerseys to warm back.