Phoenix' 99-93 Game 5 win in the Kingdome served notice that the Suns could no longer be taken lightly. Phoenix hadn't won in Seattle in six tries, dating back to March 1977. Wilkens had locked the doors on the Sonics' practice in a vain attempt to restore the confidence that was so badly eroding.
Seattle had every chance to keep the home-court advantage by winning Game 5, especially when Davis picked up three fouls in the first 4� minutes and watched the rest of the half from the bench. Kramer soon joined him, and Seattle had the opportunity to set its own tempo—s-l-o-w—for the first time since Game 2. The Sonics moved ahead by as much as nine, but Alvin Scott (subbing for Davis) and Bayard Forrest (in for Kramer), along with Robinson, Heard, Westphal, Don Buse and Mike Bratz, showed they could bang away at Seattle's own game, and the Suns were trailing by only 46-41 at halftime.
Seattle had a 66-59 lead with 1:04 left in the third period when MacLeod signaled for an all-out press. After Scott had made a three-point play, Bratz stole an inbounds pass and put in two free throws. Forrest stole a pass from John Johnson and hit Westphal for a short jumper. Thirty-four seconds had passed and the score was tied.
From there it was all high-pressure basketball. Davis worked hard for 15 of his 17 points in the second half; Westphal scored 18 of his 27; Bratz eight of his 13. "We never deviated from our system," said MacLeod. "That was the key. We did just what we'd done all year."
But Seattle panicked. When Williams fouled out after scoring only 10 points, the Sonics went to Dennis Johnson (24) and poor Sikma. Jack did make three baskets (in 13 shots) after taking the collar in the first three quarters, but as in Game 2, the Sonics fouled heavily down the stretch, presumably hoping the Suns would miss. The difference this time was that Phoenix hit 15 straight in the final 6:48 to take the advantage back to Arizona on Sunday.
Seattle's locker room resembled nothing if not a sinking ship. All the Sonics were angry, at each other, at themselves; at their lockers, at their clothes. "This is hard to believe," said John Johnson. "This afternoon I said that the pressure was on them because they had to win one up here to take it. Well they took it and there was nothing we could do about it. If a team beats you three straight and you don't respect them, then you're a damn fool."
On Sunday the Sonics manned the pumps at the last possible instant and were afloat again.
"I wouldn't call what happened to us 'overconfidence,' " said Wilkens. "But we were second-guessing ourselves. Even the players. You know, we didn't win 52 games by some fluke."
Nor would it be a fluke if they won Game 7 in the Kingdome this week and headed into the finals for the second straight year. After all, they always believed they would.