Through two years of dominating the league, the Warriors had convinced everybody that their excellence enabled them to play only as hard as they had to. In their 59-23 regular season they were usually 35 points behind with the final seconds ticking down before rallying to outscore the opposition by nearly seven points a game. Attles said he "preached" the importance of respect for the enemy, but in the wake of the amazing flight of the Phoenixes, the champions seemed to have forgotten humility.
After the Suns deadlocked the series 2-all with their pulsating double-overtime 133-129 victory at home, Guard Charles Johnson said, " Phoenix is tough but we're making them tougher," and Barry credited "our own stupidity" with keeping the Suns alive.
All of this failed to take into account the indisputable fact that Coach John MacLeod's intelligent, well-drilled team, having lost the first game 128-103, had out-patiented Golden State in Game 2, 108-101. Though the Suns lost the third game 99-91, they beat the champions at their own running attack in Game 4.
Then, too, the Warriors' reputed grace under fire collapsed in the fourth game, in which they had a two-point lead and the ball with eight seconds left in regulation only to mess up, a two-point lead and the ball with 10 seconds left in the first overtime only to mess up, and a four-point lead in the second overtime only to be washed away by 14 straight Phoenix points. Was this stupidity or was this er, uh, the malady known as tight throat?
"The attitude that they give games away is inevitable for a team with such success," said Westphal, the former Celtic. "We had it in Boston. But it's irritating to beat the Warriors, and then hear this nonsense that they blew it."
The rising Suns also were upset about remarks reputedly made by CBS' Sonny Hill to Golden State's Clifford Ray that "These turkeys [ Phoenix] don't belong on the court with you guys." Whether Hill uttered the slur was moot; the Suns believed he had and they were mad.
Nevertheless, in Game 5 in Oakland, Charles Johnson burst out with 10 first-quarter points and helped the Warriors put together their biggest period of the series and a 40-24 margin about which Phoenix could do nothing the rest of the evening.
"I'm tired of hearing that we don't give them credit," sneered Ray after the 111-95 Warrior victory. "Any team that gets this far has busted their humps. But if we don't think we're the best, we lose the whole idea."
As the teams departed the Bay Area for Phoenix, the Suns were most concerned about Adams, who had a slight ankle sprain, and Heard, who had an abscessed tooth.
Attles meanwhile contemplated the continued use of Barry in backcourt—a switch he had made in Game 5—for defensive reasons. "This thing is far from over," the coach said. "My guys are like horses chomping at the bit. They just won't let us run."