Golden State's first victim will be a fugitive from the NBA Midwest, or dodo division—either Milwaukee or Detroit. These two nonachievers first must battle each other for the right to, as Fonzie might say, "sit on it."
Milwaukee is 0-5 against Golden State, having blown one 31-point lead. Detroit likewise is 0-5 versus the champions, having become nothing so much as an answer in a trivia quiz. Namely, what team fired a black head coach, hired the Jewish brother of an ABA white head coach and became the only Western team to make the playoffs three years in a row? Zzzzzzzzzz. The Pistons and Bucks finished a combined eight games below .500 and have about as much right in this tournament as Walter Matthau's Bad News Bears.
On the other hand, Phoenix and Seattle earned their spurs in a tense final month in which they both outlasted Los Angeles. The teams' offenses are built around pivotmen Alvan Adams, the Suns' Rookie of the Year, and Tom Burleson of the Sonics. But for scoring Phoenix and Seattle depend mainly on Paul Westphal and Fred Brown, respectively, shooting from outside.
This series features Sun strength at forward against Sonic speed at guard. But a Seattle plus (steals) happens to fit very neatly with a Phoenix minus (turnovers).
"Slick Watts unsettles our defense," says Phoenix Coach John MacLeod, "and all the Sonics have learned to move at his pace." Basketball's answer to Kojak, the bald Watts concluded a season in which he became the first man to lead the league in steals and assists; he could be the difference against Phoenix.
With powerful Leonard Gray healthy, Seattle might have a chance against Golden State. But Gray was lost in late March (another knee), leaving Burleson and Mike Bantom to battle the two Warrior centers, Clifford Ray and George Johnson.
Golden State beat Seattle in the playoffs last year as Jamaal Wilkes throttled Spencer Haywood. Without Haywood, the Sonics are better. "We're the team who can beat Golden State," says Slick. "We can really cook 'em." But with Barry, Smith, Wilkes and all the rest, the Warriors are better still, though Seattle Assistant Coach Bob Hopkins can still dream. "We can create more problems for the Warriors," he says. "It's just the way we match up. We'd be kind of like Michigan in the NCAA finals against Indiana. It was no disgrace for Michigan to lose to Indiana."
Right. By 18 points. It should not be a disgrace for Seattle to lose to Golden State. Or for Boston. Or for Cleveland. Or for Washington again. Unwittingly, Hopkins may have given the champion Warriors something finally to aim for in the season that is about to begin.
Golden State was truly devastating during the regular season. But, after all, Indiana went undefeated.