It wasn't difficult for George Gervin to reconcile himself to the fact that Kevin Grevey had outplayed him during the stretch of the second half when the Washington Bullets blew open yesterday's fifth game of their playoff.

"If I give him some, he'll take it," Gervin said. "If I don't give him much, he won't take it."

Grevey eagerly took what the Ice Man granted yesterday, going inside and out for 23 points. That was his second-best offensive output of the five-game series against San Antonio and seven points above his average for the series.

But, more important, the Bullet guard played well defensively against the National Basketball Association's two-being leading scorer, particularly during the first 17 minutes of the second half.

Grevey had replaced Tom Henderson in trying to chill the Spur guard, who had averaged nearly 32 points the first four games.

"I knew my job today was to contain Gervin," Grevey said. "I was psyched up for the challenge of guarding him, especially after he scored 42 points in the last game. My defense helped me on the offensive end."

When Gervin hit a layup with 7:25 remaining in the fourth quarter to pulls the Spurs to within 10 points, 92-82, it was the first shot he had made after missing his first seven of that half.

"When he would drive, one of our big guys would come over to help out or else I would give up a couple of fouls, especially early in the game," Grevey said. "We wanted to let him know the defense was there. If nothing else, at least Gervin would take a couple of bruises with him to the next series."

Grevey also said it helped that San Antonio's picks for Gervin were "not as stern as before."

When the Bullets were on offense, Grevey said, he wanted to make Gervin work to guard him in order to slow down Gervin at the other end of the court.

"Gervin is susceptible to a good offensive player," Grevey said. "He's had it too easy this series because our guards haven't been hitting their shots. He hasn't had to play defense the whole series."

Grevey added that Washington's guards were getting easier shots because they were running without the ball more than in previous games.

"We came off Wes' (Unseld) picks more than we had been," Grevey said. "I had open shots any time I wanted them because we were running so well.

"The guards got more involved on the baseline where they cut to the basket when either (Bob) Dandridge or (Elvin) Hayes was doubled-teamed."

Another beneficiary of San Antonio's double-teaming Dandridge was reserve forward Greg Ballard, scoring 15 points in 21 minutes of action. Several of those baskets came because Ballard's man was keeping a wary eye on Dandridge.

"I was watching how my man reacted to what Bobby did," Ballard said. "If he double-teamed him, I just slid to the open spot. When Bobby has the ball, I know where to set up. They kept leaving an avenue open near the free throw line and I'd get open for easy shots.

"We had much more movement on offense than we've had at any time during the playoffs. Our cutting to the basket sharper. They're still playing their usual type of defense where they trap the man with the ball a lot and also guard the passing lanes."

Ballard said the Bullets had not been doing the little things right, and that the offense had become stagnant.

"The key factor may be the absence of Mitch (Kupchak)," Ballard said. Kupchak is expected to be out for the playoffs with a back injury.

"Mitch supplies versatility across our front line," Ballard said. "His game is more wide open, like San Antonio's. The Spurs have the type of movement that Mitch could play well with. His presence would take the pressure off our other front-line scorers."

Ballard grabbed several defensive rebounds late in the game as well as helping keep the ball alive on the Bullet backboard.

"I was determined I wasn't going to give up," Ballard said. "An individual puts pressure on himself. We may be wounded, but we're not dead." CAPTION: Picture, Greg Ballard of Bullets gets a hand in the face of Larry Kenon, causing Spur forward to miss fourth-quarter shot. By Richard Darcey-The Washington Post