Washington had gambled on the playoff schedule, but even that didn't seem to matter. The original setup called for the first two games to be played in Washington, the next two in Oakland and the remaining games to be alternated. Then it was discovered that the Ice Follies had first call in the Oakland Coliseum and that the Warriors couldn't play the fourth game in the Cow Palace, their alternate site, because of a karate championship.
Because it had the better season record, Washington had two options: play the first game at home and the next two in San Francisco, or open away and then play the next three at home. "Three straight at home sounded good," said K.C. Jones, the Bullets coach, "but I didn't want them to win that first game." He opted for opening at home.
But the Warriors won anyway, and the action shifted to San Francisco. "Things will be different," said Unseld, Washington's massive center.
With Barry scoring 36 points, Golden State came from 13 back to win the second game 92-91, Washington missing two shots in the last six seconds. Then the Warriors made it 3-0 by winning 109-101. Toward the end of that game, the Bullets had looked bad—flagging and disorganized—as they were being manhandled by Barry, who got 38 points, and other unheralded bench warmers like George Johnson, who put in 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds after taking over from Ray at center.
At that point the Bullets realized that things might never be different, that no team in the NBA's 28-year history had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in a championship final. And before the fourth game they began to think in losers' terms. "It's very important that we get a couple of victories, even if we lose the series," said Unseld. "We need it for the future. For next year, for our state of mind. If we don't, there's so much humiliation all summer."
The Warriors had murdered the Bullets on the boards, thereby choking off Washington's running game. Someone finally remembered that the Warriors had led the league in rebounding.
"We don't have that one big rebounder," Attles said. "What we have is eight guys getting eight each. Everybody is involved. Sometimes I think when you have that one big rebounder, everyone else has a tendency to stand around."
No Warrior stood around in the series. Attles sent in his troops in waves, and they came scrambling and scraping and swarming at the Bullets. "We go at you 12 different ways," said one of the Warriors. "The Bullets don't know which way to bite. They don't know who is going to do it to them, they just know it's going to happen." By the end of three games, Golden State's reserves had scored 115 points. The Bullet bench had scored only 53.
"They're plain outhustling us," said Mike Riordan, the Bullets' master of the hustle. "No, that's not quite it. We're hustling as much as ever, but we're doing it in spurts. They are sustaining theirs longer. And they are getting to the loose balls, to the rebounds, cutting off the easy baskets."
The hustle factor is an appropriate introduction to the catfish which animated the Warriors. At the end of last season, when the Warriors lost six of their last seven games and a place in the playoffs, Mieuli decided someone else ought to run the club, which he had personally directed with little success since 1963.