After the 76ers had defeated Washington Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five playoff series, Philadelphia center Moses Malone said the Bullets were on death row and the 76ers were their executioners.
Last night, Malone, staring at the huge ice pack wrapped around his right knee, glanced up long enough to grunt, "Ummph, they got an appeal, that's all. We'll just put them back in the chair next game."
Philadelphia's 6-foot-6, 270-pound rookie forward Charles Barkley, large and nasty enough to make billboard statements, backed up Malone's boast.
"Yeah, the Bullets are still on death row," he said.
Washington earned its appeal with a 118-100 victory to force a fourth game at Capital Centre Friday night.
But just to remind Washington that last night's win was only a temporary stay from elimination, the 6-10 Malone (17 points, six rebounds) -- who was outplayed by Bullets center Jeff Ruland (25 points, seven rebounds) -- strolled through the Washington locker room whispering unprintable remarks to any Bullet who would listen.
"Hey, Frank, get your foot out of that ice," a smirking Malone yelled to Frank Johnson, who played his first game since breaking a bone in his foot Feb. 7. "I can't say what I want to say to you, too many reporters in here. I made my statement a while ago. I got nothing else to say."
Like most of the 76ers, Malone finally admitted the Bullets played very, very well. "Hey, they played a great game," he said. "They won the game. That's it."
"Everything they did was right," Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham said, "and everything we did was wrong. Their rebounding was the difference in the game. I can't think of many times during the game they didn't outplay us."
The 76ers had faint memories of the first period, the only quarter in which they weren't embarrassed. Malone helped his team build a 10-point lead and it appeared the Bullets were making that final walk.
"Early on, the 76ers were killing us on the boards," Washington Coach Gene Shue said. "We started out rebounding very poorly. Then we picked up and did an excellent job."
Washington slowly progressed, cutting the 76ers' lead to 35-28 at the end of the first period.
Over the next two periods, an intense Bullets team bottled up the 76ers' fast break, forced turnovers, ran the break well, hit the open shots and kept Malone, Barkley and Julius Erving off the boards. By the fourth period's outset, the Bullets had turned that seven-point deficit into a surprising 22-point lead.
"It seemed every time we had a turnover, they scored points," said Philadelphia guard Andrew Toney, who was held to three-for-16 shooting and eight points after a 31-point game Sunday. "They seemed to score a lot of baskets in a row to take that big lead. We just didn't have a good game.
"Our defense wasn't aggressive enough and Gus (Williams) came out and had his good game (28 points). But we can't dwell on this loss, we have to study the films and correct our mistakes."
The films will show pretty good efforts by numerous Bullets, including Johnson. The guard, who said he was a step slow, played 21 minutes. He missed both his field goal tries but had two free throws, three rebounds, five assists and a steal. His minutes were even more valuable since Jeff Malone (six points) played only 29 minutes because of a sore lower back.
"Frank stepped right in and played fine," Toney said. "With him in there, they have a better back court. He helps them a lot."
"Williams was much more active in this game," Philadelphia point guard Maurice Cheeks said. "Washington got the ball out well on the break and also did a good job in their half-court offense. Nothing went right for us in the second half."