Elvin Hayes was not at all surprised when the Bullets relinquished their 18-point fourth quarter lead to Seattle yesterday.

"This would happen with any other team in the NBA," Hayes said after the Bullets' 99-97 victory."A big lead sometimes is more dangerous to the team winning than nursing a two-point lead the whole game.

"The team that is trailing doesn't have anything to loss so they say, "Let's go all out and see if we can come back."Meanwhile, the team with the lead just relaxes."

The Bullets were nearly unanimous on why Seattle was able to chop down the lead, citing a change in Washington's offensive tempo.

"We just stopped running," Bob Dandridge said."We stopped getting out on the break.They had tried to run with us early on and couldn't.So they slowed down and went into patterns.That made us fall into lethargic patterns.We started walking the ball up and down the floor."

The Sonics were down, 91-75 when they initiated the full-court press.A similar tactic late in the first half had failed as the Bullets beat it for several easy shots to hold a nine-point lead.

But in the fourth period, Seattle's pressure started producing, forcing Washington into turnovers and culminating in easy Sonics layups, many by Gus Williams.

"we played too cautiously in that span," said guard Kevin Grevey."If they do it again, we have to play smarter and not to commit the turnovers."

Washington Coach Dick Motta was not as surprised that Seattle pressed late as he was when the Sonics did not press from the beginning of the game.

"We realised that they would press us," Motta said."But in the late going, I thought we dedicated ourselves to the clock - we weren't playing Seattle.That's a good lesson."

The Bullets began working nearly all the time off the 24-second clock before shooting their offensive pace slowed to a crawl.

"It's much easier to press a team when you're 20 points down," Hayes said."The team that is ahead starts passing the ball around a lot and that makes it easier for the defensive team to steal it."

Although many of the Sonics complained bitterly on Ed Rush's foul call when Dennis Johnson blocked Larry Wright's last-second layup attempt, some Bullets were convinced Wright need not have even had to take the free throw to win the game."I thought it was goal-tending," Hayes said.

Unseld added,"I was watching the shot and Johnson pulled it off the rim.When I later saw it on film, it was also a foul.But the goal-tending call should have superseded the foul."

The Bullets also agreed that Seattle played more of a strict man-to-man defense rather than the collapsing, double-teaming tactics of previous playoff foes Atlanta and San Antonio.

"I think we know how to exploit thier defense," said Grevey, who scored 19 points - six more than he averaged in last year's series against the Sonics."We have to run and push the ball inside.When the guards get good shots, we have to hit them."

Hayes also thought Seattle would play more physically than it did.

"This morning I was sitting at home thinking how the two most physcial teams in the league would lock horns and get it on," Hayes said."But Seattle was not as physical as I thought they'd be.However, I'm sure they will be Thursday night."