One glaring statistic best illustrates the Washington Bullets' Offensive dilemma against the Seattle SuperSonics. In the fourth quarters of the first two games of the National Basketball Association championship playoff, Bob Dandridge and Elvin Hayes have only EIGHT points.
Washington won the opener only because guard Larry Wright made enough outside shots to offset the forwards' lack of production. But no one was able to rescue the Bullets in Game 2, and now the Sonics are back home, knowing they have their opponent scrambling for ways to untrack its attack.
There is no secret to what Seattle is doing. The Sonics are just imitating the sagging, trapping defenses used successfully by San Antonio and Atlanta.
And there is no secret to what the Bullets have to do to free Dandrige and Hayes from their unwanted, game-long escorts. Just as against the Spurs and Hawks, they must receive scoring from their beleaguered guards or the Sonics will tighten their defense on the forwards even more.
"Bobby and Elvin are going to get their points because they have the ball a lot," said Seattle forward John Johnson. "We just can't let the guards score a lot or have someone like Larry Wright come off the bench to beat us again."
A less-experienced Seattle team tried the same strategy in last year's championship round, but the Bullets came up with enough good nights from Kevin Grevey, Charles Johnson and Wright to thwart the Sonics.
"That's the key," said Seattle's Johnson. "The good teams in this league have balanced scoring, not one guy averaging 26 points a game. The Bullets normally are that way. But if just two guys score, it makes their job harder.
"We were mixing up our defenses better in Game 2. We gave them a lot of looks. They said it was a zone but it wasn't. We were just doing standard trapping and trying to make it harder for them to score inside."
Seattle might have had a two-game lead in this series had it decided to start trapping earlier in the opening contest. But the Sonics fell 18 points behind before going to that tactic. The way they have frustrated the Bullets since has been startling.
Washington has made only 39 percent of its shots in the last five quarters. Dandridge has scored 24 points and Hayes 23 but in the fourth period of each contest they have been all but shut off.
Hayes has tried only four shots in those two quarters, making one. Toss in a foul shot and he has scored only three points. Dandridge is two for 10 and a free throw for five points.
In the second game loss, neither had a point in the final 10 minutes, when Hayes took one shot and Dandridge missed his last five.
"We aren't really together in how to beat this defense," said Dandridge. "They are quick and they pick off our passes if we aren't careful. It would also help if we made some open shots. But we've been faced with this problem before."
And they never really have solved it. They managed to overcome both San Antonio and Atlanta not because the guards came round but because, in the end, Hayes and Dandridge simply refused to be stopped.
But Seattle is by far the best opponent the Bullets have faced in the playoffs. The NBA's No. 1 defensive club, the Sonics are quicker than the Hawks and more organized than the Spurs. They are comfortable in a trapping defense, but they also can match the Bullets' physical play underneath.
Unless the back court finds its touch - just one consistent outside shooter would satisfy Coach Dick Motta - Seattle may be too talented to lose, even if Hayes and Dandridge play well.
"We've got the plays in our offense to handle what they are doing," said Motta, in what is a replay of his playoff-long explanations. "But if we can't put in wide-open shots, we are going to lose. That's been the case since we started."
Nor are the Bullets helping themselves with careless mistakes. They already have committed a stunning 41 turnovers, leading to 39 Seattle points. That kind of give-away is making the Sonics' task much easier.
"We have confidence in what we do defensively," said Sonic Coach Lenny Wilkens. "It's not like we haven't done this before. But we are trying to mix things up. We don't want them to see the same from us every time.You don't come out and expose all your ideas from the very start."
The fact that Seattle doesn't doubleteam every time down the court has confused the Bullets, who were accustomed to San Antonio and Atlanta staying with the same defense an entire game.
And the Sonics have adjusted their so-called zone to frustrate the Bullets in another way. When the ball goes inside to either Hayes or Dandridge and they are surrounded by two players, they had been passing quickly out to a guard at the high post. The guard would either shoot or pass to a player on the opposite side.
But Seattle's defense is eliminating the head-of-the-key pass. In order to catch the ball out front, the Bullet guard now must move closer to the half-court line. By doing that, he takes himself out of shooting range and allows the Sonics to readjust their defense.
What makes Seattle's domination over the last five quarters more impressive is the decline of guard Fred Brown, who played only seven minutes of Game 2. He has been in a playoff-long shooting slump, reducing the Sonics to six reliable players.
"We are trying to tell Fred to shoot more," said Wilkens. "He's hesitating and trying to get everyone involved. I think now that we are home, he'll feel more comfortable, I took for him to start scoring a lot better."
Grevey, who is bothered by a sore tendon in his right thigh, made the trip and is expected to be ready for Sunday's third game. . . The Sonics were greeted by a crowd when they arrived on their charter flight today from Washington.