The Washington Bullets haven't defeated Philadelphia this season, and if they don't do it at Capital Centre tonight, they could have to try again next week in the playoffs.
Despite a recent five-game winning streak, the Bullets are in danger of finishing in the last playoff spot and thus meeting the 76ers in a best-of-three series. They are 0-5 against their fast-breaking visitors (WTOP-1500, 8:05).
The return of Kevin Grevey, even as a part-time performer, should bolster the back court scoring, which drops off drastically when starters Frank Johnson and Don Collins go to the bench.
Since missing a game at Indiana nine days ago, John Lucas has been extremely reluctant to shoot. The veteran guard with a 12.3 career scoring average has taken only 13 shots--making four--in the last four games.
Garry Witts, a hard-working defensive player, rarely looks for a shot and has scored nine points in the last four games. The reserves' lack of productivity was particularly counterproductive in Wednesday night's 98-94 loss at New Jersey because Johnson and Collins were in early foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
Grevey pulled a groin muscle in last Friday night's 114-98 victory at Chicago and has missed the last two games. The team didn't practice yesterday, so he won't be able to test his injury until pregame warmups. He wants to try to play.
Rebounding is another area in which the Bullets must improve if they are to beat Philadelphia or Atlanta in Sunday's regular-season finale at Capital Centre. They have been outrebounded in the last three games.
"We just haven't been aggressive enough," said Greg Ballard. "This is the time of year when games get very physical. We've got to work harder and make sure we come up with the loose balls.
"If the 76ers control the boards, they will be able to run, and that's their game. To play the game at our pace, we've got to keep them off the boards and slow things down."
The only time the Bullets came close to beating Philadelphia was at Capital Centre Jan. 12, when the 76ers came from behind to earn a 95-92 victory. The Bullets dominated the rebounding, 49-38, and limited Philadelphia to only 10 fast-break points.
"The Washington game is very important to us," Assistant Coach Jack McMahon said while scouting the Bullets in New Jersey. "If we win, that will make our game Sunday with Milwaukee meaningless. We don't want to go down to the last day with the Bucks."
Milwaukee has beaten Philadelphia four of five times this season in their battle for the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and the home court advantage if they meet in the semifinals. After losing three in a row, the Bucks trail Philadelphia by two games with two to play. However, if they finish tied, the advantage goes to Milwaukee.
Philadelphia has been having rebounding problems, too, mainly because of the ineffectiveness of Darryl Dawkins. Since returning March 28 after sitting out 28 games with a fractured leg, the 6-foot-11 center has been in foul trouble in 13 of 14 games.
"Darryl's just not playing the way he was before he was hurt," McMahon said. "He says his leg is still bothering him, but he's got to get ready for the playoffs."
A tentative playoff schedule for the Bullets has been established. If they play Philadelphia, the 76ers will have the home court advantage. The first game will be in Philadelphia Wednesday, the second in Washington Friday and a third, if necessary, Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia.
If the Bullets do not have the home court advantage against either New Jersey or Atlanta, the games will be away Tuesday and Sunday and here Friday. If the Bullets have the home court edge against New Jersey, the games will be Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Against Atlanta they will be Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.