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HAVE THE SUNS RISEN IN THE WEST? YES
Curry Kirkpatrick
May 24, 1976
The mighty Warriors are gone, knocked out of the NBA playoffs by Phoenix, which ended Golden State's one-year dynasty
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May 24, 1976

Have The Suns Risen In The West? Yes

The mighty Warriors are gone, knocked out of the NBA playoffs by Phoenix, which ended Golden State's one-year dynasty

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As the sixth game began, Sobers scored eight quick points as the Suns burst to a 22-10 lead. Right away Charles Dudley raced off the bench to do his thing, which consists of igniting Golden State into a frenzied state. It took Dudley just 2:40 of his characteristic shakin' and bakin' to get the contest tied up at 22. In the process of hitting eight straight baskets, Barry moved to guard and the Warriors had a 57-54 halftime lead.

To begin the third quarter, Attles went to the more practical backcourt of Dudley and Smith. But Sobers kept burning—he had 21 points by the end of the period and the Suns led again 85-78—so the coach put Barry back at guard, enabling Smith to defend against Sobers.

It was a peculiar move for a championship team to make, especially one renowned for its backcourt depth, and it did not sit well. "I don't know why I was at guard; ask Attles," Barry was to snap later. "We won 59 with me at forward. I just do what I'm told."

The fact that Smith shut off Sobers did not make up for a weary Barry, who had a game-high 30 points, being unable to score more than one basket in the fourth quarter while being hounded by the tenacious Van Arsdale. Rick's new position also put him in unfamiliar territory when two final moments of reckoning arrived.

The first came with 15 seconds to go in the game, Phoenix behind 104-103. When Erickson spotted Adams cutting backdoor on Ray, he nailed a perfect pass which the rookie took and jammed in for a 105-104 Phoenix lead. Then it was Golden State's turn. With 11 seconds left, Smith got entangled with Barry at mid-court. The All-Star guard could not find dribbling or shooting room and he desperately passed to Wilkes in the right corner. Wilkes went high in the air, but his shot was not whirled round the Heard. As the buzzer sounded Heard thundered out of nowhere to knock the ball halfway to Gila Bend. Mr. Tooth Decay's move tied the series once more. After such a classic finish in which both teams had one play in which to show their mettle, it was noteworthy that the young upstart Suns had converted and the cool, poised Warriors had not.

Yet Phoenix' final victory one game later was no fluke. Westphal said his team had taken inspiration from the Golden State experience of last May, and the Warriors' Smith agreed. " Phoenix is ambitious, hungry and has great energy," he said. "They've had a coming together that reminds me of us."

In the end, everywhere the champions looked they saw the Suns. Even in the mirror.

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