The Bullets have not beaten the Boston Celtics the six times they have played this season. Yet they are extremely confident going into the first game of their best-of-seven National Basketball Association Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Celtics today at Boston Garden (WDVM-TV-9 at 1 p.m.).
"We're a good team; we're playing at the top of our game and they (the Celtics) are going to have to come with it," said forward Spencer Haywood after the Bullets' 103-92 victory Friday night completed a two-game sweep of the New Jersey Nets.
"I know they've beaten us six times in six tries this season, but they aren't going to just walk all over us. We're going to win at least one of those first two games up there. I know that sounds a little cocky, but if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you're still up there with the stars."
The second game of the series will also be in Boston Wednesday night at 8:10 and will be televised by WDCA-TV-20. Games 3 and 4 will be at Capital Centre next Saturday and Sunday afternoons. If more than four games are necessary, they will be played Wednesday, May 5, at Boston; Friday, May 7, at Capital Centre and Sunday, May 9, in Boston.
The Celtics, champions of the Atlantic Division, earned a first-round bye. They won 26 of their last 30 games and had the NBA's best record, 63-19. They are the defending NBA champions.
"We're the team to beat," said center Robert Parish. "We're playing very well and we've been winning all of the close games, making all of the big plays and getting the help from the bench. It's a matter of everyone knowing his role. No one here wants this team to be a one-man show. It's been a team effort from No. 1 to No. 12 and I think that's been the key to our success."
A back injury to Chris Ford made M.L. Carr a starter, and that did nothing but step up the Celtics' already rapid pace.
"Last year we were the hunter, now we're the huntee," Carr said. "There's a lot more pressure on the hunter than the rabbit. We can just run and play our games and it's up to the other teams to try and catch us."
The Bullets will try to slow the Celtics in order to catch them. They won't try to outrun them.
"For some reason, we've been able to control the tempo well with Boston," said Bernie Bickerstaff, assistant coach of the Bullets. "Some of the games were close, but they still won every time."
The Celtics and Bullets opened the season at Boston Garden in a game the Celtics won, 124-100. The Celtics won the other two games in Boston by 13 and 19 points. At Capital Centre the Celtics had two one-point victories and a 90-84 decision.
"We've got to get Boston to play a half-court game," said Bickerstaff. "That's the key to the whole thing. We also have to make our players understand we have to rebound and get after every loose ball."
As if anyone needed convincing, the Celtics showed their overall strength late in the season when Ford, Larry Bird and Tiny Archibald were all injured and out of the lineup. The Celtics merely started an 18-game winning streak without them. All three became reserves when they returned.
Bird and Archibald are expected to start today, but Ford has apparently lost his job to Carr. The other starters are Cedric Maxwell and Parish.
The Bullets will go with the same lineup that started the last five regular-season games and against the Nets in the miniseries--Rick Mahorn at center, Haywood and Greg Ballard at forwards and Frank Johnson and Don Collins at guards.
Collins became a starter after a pulled abdominal muscle sidelined Kevin Grevey. Still, Grevey had one of his best games all season as a reserve Friday, scoring 16 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. He made four of four three-point shots.
Collins, whose main contribution in the New Jersey series was his defense against Ray Williams, is still the starter, Coach Gene Shue said. "Don's the starter because he's been doing the job," said Shue. "Kevin will come in off the bench."
Shue put the team through a workout yesterday before flying to Boston. Because they weren't sure until late Friday night where they would be playing today, the players and coaches had to take separate flights to Boston.
"We're ready to play," Shue said. "I realize Boston is a talented team with the best record in basketball, but I like the idea of playing them now, right after a tough series with the Nets. We're as good as we can be right now and now we'll find out just how good that is."