SI Vault
Curry Kirkpatrick
June 05, 1978
As they headed back home, the SuperSonics (state) held a 2-1 lead over the Bullets (district) in their playoff for the NBA title
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June 05, 1978

Whatever Happens, It'll Be Washington

As they headed back home, the SuperSonics (state) held a 2-1 lead over the Bullets (district) in their playoff for the NBA title

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In Game 1, after blowing a 19-point lead and watching Fred Brown score 16 points in the final 9� minutes in the process of losing to Seattle, the Bullets arrived home to be greeted by a press and public that had not forgotten the team's 0-4 performances in the 1971 and 1975 NBA finals.

Hayes, who reinforced his reputation as basketball's quintessential choker in Game 1 by hiding in the fourth quarter while being terrorized by Silas, accepted media criticism with E-quanimity. "I ain't talkin' to no press," he said. "All that stuff is history. You want history, you can go to the library."

None of the reference books, however, explained why Dandridge scored only six points in the opener when, as he likes to tell his coach, Dick Motta, while skipping practice, "I'm an artist, not a house painter."

Motta, who had witnessed Hayes and Dandridge destroy the flashy Sixers and bring his team what he termed "a victory for the work ethic over earrings," must have wondered how his high-scoring forwards could turn into Marian the Librarian and Sherwin Williams with the NBA title on the line.

Hayes' and Dandridge's response was to blast Unseld. "It's the same old story," said Dandridge. "The other team just leaves Wes alone and double-teams us inside. If Wes were capable of making those 15-footers, we'd be O.K."

And Hayes said, "Our guards get criticized for not playing defense, our forwards for not scoring, but I never hear a word about our center. Mitch Kupchak can shoot. He ought to play more."

Though Unseld referred to these remarks as the work of "a prostitute sports-writer," the quotes were accurate. So, as it turned out, were Hayes' and Dandridge's shots in Game 2.

In the first quarter, the two men out-scored the entire Seattle team 17-16, and the Bullets raced to a 39-23 lead before Guards Gus Williams and Johnson brought the Sonics back to within four points at halftime, 56-52.

The visitors kept zeroing in on the lead in the second half, but each time Hayes—plagued with four fouls—did something to avert disaster: at 68-63, a savage block of a Jack Sikma shot high over the rim; at 70-65, three straight baskets; at 94-88 (now with five fouls), good defense, forcing Sikma into an air-ball; then on offense, drawing two men into the lane and passing to Unseld for an open layup.

More significantly, Hayes and Unseld kept crossing the key laterally to pick off Silas, thus freeing Hayes for 25 points. In fact, Sikma, Silas, Webster and John Johnson—the Sonics' renowned Goldilocks and the Three Bears frontliners—were bounced around so violently underneath that they only scored a combined 36 points.

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