The Washington Bullets and Atlanta Hawks already have playoff spots assured, but the loser of their regular season-ending game at Capital Centre this afternoon is still in for big trouble--the Philadelphia 76ers.
The New Jersey Nets clinched a fourth-place finish by defeating the Detroit Pistons last night, 147-132, and will have the home-court advantage against the fifth-place team--the winner of today's game. The third-place team (Philadelphia), will have the home-court advantage against the sixth-place team in the best-of-three first-round playoff series.
The Sixers beat the Bullets for the sixth straight time this season, 100-96, Friday night at Capital Centre. The loss ended any chance of the Bullets having the home-court advantage in any series.
If the Bullets face the Nets in the first round, the games will be at Meadowlands Arena Tuesday and Sunday and at Capital Centre Friday. If the Bullets finish sixth, they will play the 76ers Wednesday in Philadelphia, come home to Capital Centre Friday and return to Philadelphia for the third game, if necessary, Sunday.
"Not having to face Philadelphia in the first round is a lot of incentive right there," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue. "Of course, we wanted to get fourth, but, since we can't, it's very important to us to get fifth. We feel we can beat New Jersey, but we sure haven't been able to do much against Philadelphia."
Washington and Atlanta have 42-39 records. The Hawks lead the season series against the Bullets, 3-2, winning the last two times they played, both in Atlanta.
"We have to play the same way we played Philadelphia," said Shue. "It's going to be a defensive game."
The Hawks are the NBA's top defensive team, yielding 100.4 points a game; the Bullets are tied for second with Phoenix, giving up 102.8 points. The Hawks beat Indiana, 109-91, Friday night.
Coach Kevin Loughery said he will start Rory Sparrow and Eddie Johnson at guards, Dan Roundfield and John Drew at forwards and Wayne (Tree) Rollins at center.
The Bullets are healthy except for Kevin Grevey. He suffered a groin muscle pull April 9 in Chicago and missed the next three games. He played 14 minutes as a reserve against the 76ers, but missed all three of the shots he took and aggravated the injury. His condition for today's 1:05 p.m. game is uncertain.
Don Collins, starting in Grevey's place, has averaged 21.5 points in four games and shot 74 percent.
Grevey is primarily an outside shooter. Collins gets most of his points in a transition game or by setting up in a low post.
Collins made six of eight shots and had 14 points against the 76ers and his driving layup around Lionel Hollins tied the score at 96 with 35 seconds left.
The Sixers won when Hollins made a 19-foot jump shot with 20 seconds left and Darryl Dawkins made two free throws with two seconds to go. Frank Johnson had missed a shot and Dawkins got the rebound.
The last time the Bullets and Hawks played, April 3 in Atlanta, the Hawks took a 30-16 lead and held on for a 106-101 victory. Jeff Ruland scored a career-high 28 points, making 11 of 16 shots and also had seven rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots.
"This team has come an awfully long way this season and now we have a great chance to go a lot further," said Shue. "We want to end this thing the right way."