If the Washington Bullets are going to master the Seattle SuperSonics' defense, "our coaches are going to have to come up with a way for us to beat that zone," said Elvin Hayes.
The SuperSonics played more of a straight-up defense in the first game of this series, but deployed a double-teaming, trapping zone the entire game last night and it caught the Bullets by surprise. They scored only 30 points in the second half.
"Was it that many?" asked the Bullets' coach, Dick Motta.
"We're going to have to make some kind of adjustments," said center Wes Unseld, "because they aren't letting us get the ball inside. They're trapping the forwards and we are acting like we don't know what to do."
"I'm not crying about anything, because everything they did was completely within the rules," Motta added. "But we did not function well against their zone. We just have to regroup and sharpen up our zone offense.
"Against a zone you have to hit the outside shot and we didn't. I don't think Jack Sikma left the three-second lane on defense one time. It was a good strategic move on their part and they really played it well."
The NBA rule on zone defenses is vague. It says, basically, that there must be a defensive player within six feet of every offensive player, unless the defense is double-teaming.
Bobby Dandridge, who was moved to guard in the final quarter in at attempt to get the Bullets' offense going, said, "As long as we don't make the outside shots, they are going to stay in that zone. They are playing within the rules, but they are quick and use those zone principles well. That's what's enabling them to pick off so many of our passes.
"They aren't standing around playing a 2-1-2 zone. They are playing an aggressive, double-teaming defense and we just aren't together on what we are running against it."
Whenever the Bullets passed inside, two or three Sonics would converge on the ball. As a result, the Bullets' big scorers, Hayes and Dandridge, had only 14 points the second half. Hayes could do little about it, but Dandridge was moved outside to get him some shots.
"We had to do something," Motta said. "I put him there to get points."
Dandridge, however, said he felt he was put at guard to contain Seattle's Dennis Johnson, who scored 20 points, most after posting up the Bullet guards.
"The move is basically a defensive move," Dandridge said, "but I still feel I can score from back there. I'm not going to score off the same plays the other guards score off of though, and that may affect our offensive flow."
Hayes got only six shots the second half.
"They must have told themselves that they weren't going to let me score no matter what," Hayes said. "There were so many people on me that I couldn't even turn to the hoop. If I could have turned, I could have gotten the shot off. They totally took away our inside game."
Hayes also said that the Bullets were at a loss in attacking the Seattle zone.
"They pressed us in the back court and then, by the time we got the ball in the front court, we only had about 15 seconds or so to figure out what to do and it wasn't enough time.
"That's why he (Motta) put Bobby at guard, so he could get us some kind of offense."
The Bullets' top scoring guard was Kevin Grevey with 10 points, but he injured his right leg and played only 29 minutes.
He said he had "strained a tendon behind my knee. I hurt it two days ago and it's just gotten scorer and sorer. I'll be okay for the next game."
Motta said he was not pleased by anything he saw last night.
"I don't think I would take these game films to a clinic and brag about either team," he said.
"Of course we would have liked to have been two up going to Seattle, but we were in the same position we are in in the Atlanta series and in the San Antonio series.
"I guess we're more comfortable when we are in that situation." CAPTION: Picture 1, Elvin Hayes blocks a John Johnson hook shot, but the SuperSonic defense outshone that of the Bullets over the long haul. By Richard Darcey-The Washington Post; Picture 2, Gus Williams of Sonics drives by Tom Henderson (nearest camera) and Kevin Grevey to score two of game-high 23 points. By Richard Darcey-The Washington Post