The game Dick Motta was playing within the Bullets-76ers playoff last night was called: Who Do You Trust? The scrubs had to play part of the time, but the Bullet coach startled everyone by allowing four of them on the court at the same time.
"No choice," he said later.
The problem began when Wes Unseld was called for his third foul -- against the game's hero, Caldwall Jones, the greatest masked man since Clayton Moore -- with nine minutes left in the second quarter.
This meant Dave Corzine joined Ron Behagen, who had replaced the already overworked Greg Ballard at the start of the period. Then John Williamson entered for Kevin Grevey 20 seconds later and Larry Wright came in 48 seconds after that.
And the Bullet Blanks were overwhelmed.
When the period began, Washington was behind by a point. When Unseld left, they were five down. When Elvin Hayes all of a sudden became the only regular on the court Washington doubled that deficit.
"The problem was Wes's foul," Motta said after a 15-point loss that seemed inevitable before the opening tap -- and for the reason emphasized in period two by the Bullets' lack of reserves.
"Williamson was in because of the normal (substitution) routine -- and so was Behagen," Motta said. There were two turnovers in that span of about four minutes, although the one that frustrated Motta most came later in the half.
"We've come back," Motta said, "We've gotten it (the Sixers' 10-point lead) down to four. And we can't get it over the 10-second line in the six seconds we had after the timeout.
"It could have happened to anyone (it happened to Wright). It's something we reminded everyone of during the timeout." Pointedly, Motta added: "It had nothing to do with substitutions."
As the Sixers showed so well, teams need at least eight competent players to do more than break even during the regular season and survive the first postseason round. They won going away tonight with Julius Erving missing 14 of 19 shots and Doug Collins not even in uniform.
"The Doctor's probably saving it for Landover," Motta cracked.
More than anyone, Motta realizes the pattern hardly will improve for the Bullets. The regulars rested about as much as is possible -- and Jones limiting Hayes to six for 16 from the floor lends an even more ominous air.
"Greg (Ballard) was awfully tired," Motta said of the forward who played quite well on the injury-hampered Erving but missed two of every three shots he tried. "I was subbing for him as much as I could. At times, I was begging for time."
With 7 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Motta's miseries reached the first-row ears. He replaced Kevin Grevey but yelled to him as he slumped onto a chair: "I can give you about a minute; then I've got to put you back in."
The numbers suggested Williamson played well -- and he did in relation to his recent performances. He was five for eight from the field, one for three from three-point territory and almost had an assist.
But Lionel Hollins would pay serious money for Supe to guard him regularly. With 10 field goals and four assists, he was the largely overlooked positive force for Philadephia. He was the acquisition that made the loss of Collins bearable.
For the Bullets, the lead-guard line was frustrated nearly the entire game. Kevin Porter, Wright and Jim Cleamons mustered just four field goals in 13 shots and a total of 10 assists. That assist number was anemic, in part, because Caldwell Jones did such splendid work on Hayes.
The stat sheet credited Jones with 18 points. But he actually was responsible for 26, the extra eight being the ones Hayes scored beneath his usual production. And when is the last time anyone has grabbed just two fewer rebounds himself than Hayes and Unseld gathered together?
Jones excited the fans. Hollins' name was first from Motta's mouth.
"Hollins was the key," Motta said, for the reason that so frustrates him -- depth. "He was an excellent pickup, insurance that paid off. There are some things he does even better than Collins."
When a Hollins marches onto the court Friday night in Capital Centre for the Sixers and a Mitch Kupchak and Bobby Dandridge do not for the Bullets, one can scarcely blame some Sixers' fans for arranging second-round travel plans before the late news tonight.