The Magnificent Seven, Seven Samurai, The Seven Dwarfs and even the Seven Little Foys are all more famous, but the "Washington 7" is making its mark.
Playing with only seven players for the second straight game, the Washington Bullets surprised the Boston Celtics Sunday night, 113-103. In their most impressive showing of the season, they shot 51 percent from the field and committed a season low of 10 turnovers. They also forced the Celtics to crack under pressure, instead of cracking themselves, which they have been doing much of the season.
Going into tonight's game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks (WDCA-TV-20 at 7:35) the Bullets have won two in a row, four of their last five and five of their last seven games.
A victory would put them only one game below .500, which they could hit Wednesday at Capital Centre in a rematch with the Celtics.
The Bullet turnaround is a study in how a team that makes the right moves at the right time, and gets the maximum out of each player, can win with only seven players.
In the last two games Coach Gene Shue started Carlos Terry and Kevin Porter at gaurds. Rookie Wes Matthews had been starting, but when Kevin Grevey was stricken with bronchitis, Shue didn't want to start two rookie guards, so he went with Porter for Matthews. He didn't make a change in the first period against Boston.
His first move is usually Matthews for Terry. He then brings Terry back for Greg Ballard and Mitch Kupchak for either Elvin Hayes or Wes Unseld. If Kupchak replaces Hayes, then Hayes will come back for Unseld. u
Shue starts the second half with the same unit that started the game, follows the same substitution pattern until the fourth period and then goes with who is getting the job done.
"You can only get away with that for so long, though and then numbers will catch up with you," said center Wes Unseld, who played 48 minutes in Friday night's victory over Detroit and 32 in the victory over Boston.
"With only seven people, none of your main players can have an off game and you can't afford to get into foul trouble."
Fortunately for the Bullets, they have avoided those two pitfalls the last two games while playing without Bob Dandridge, Austin Carr, out with knee injuries, and Grevey.
They are hoping Grevey will be able to play tonight.
Terry has had trouble playing guard the last two games, making only six of 16 shots and struggling on defense at the unfamiliar position. That has forced Shue to go with a Matthews-Porter duo in the backcourt.
On the surface, a Porter-Matthews backcourt shouldn't work. Matthews is only 6-foot-1, inexperienced, erratic and not much of an outside shooter. Porter is 5-10, steadier than Matthews, but he, too, lacks an outside shot. And neither is a strong defensive player.
Yet they have done the job. They make up for their deficiencies with speed and quickness and on defense, and the inside people -- Hayes, Unseld, Kupchak and Ballard -- have covered for them.
When they play together, Porter is the playmaker and Matthews is the shooting guard. With more time to set himself before he shoots, Matthews has been more accurate with his jump shot and the Bullets are able to run with Porter and Matthews in the game together.
Shue has eight available players, but rookie Rick Mahorn didn't play against Detroit and was in only the last 28 seconds against the Celtics.
Shue said he is aware that a Porter-Matthews lineup can't work every night.
"Out of necessity, some things work that you might not think can," Shue said. "Normally you want K. P. with a great shooter because that's when he's most effective, but I'm not going to complain about anything now."
Porter played 46 minutes against the Celtics and had 18 points, 11 assists and three steals. He also showed that he can control the tempo, even when it isn't just run, run, run.
Matthews had 14 points and four assists against the Celtics, after getting 16 points and six assists the previous game.
The Bullets also had a big lift from Kupchak, who scored 15 points and had nine rebounds and two steals against the Celtics.