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1979 NBA Season – Underrated Rematch

June 21, 2013

1979-nba-finals-game-5-sonics-vs-bullets-aaa-classic-e2e2d_display_image

Dennis Johnson rebounded in 1979 from his 0-for-14 in Game 7 of the 1978 Finals with a Finals MVP *photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

The 1978 and 1979 NBA Seasons are considered the dark ages in the NBA.  Reasons for this was that most of the league was black and a lot of the country was still racist, a lot of the players were on drugs and getting too much money and mailing games in as a result, and in back-to-back years the Washington Bullets faced the Seattle Supersonics in the NBA Finals.

I understand not wanting to watch players mail in games, but to a certain extent that still happens (actually they just sit out games now).  We, as a country, have become more accepting of the fact that the NBA is mostly black.  But the thing I can’t get over, and maybe that’s because I’m more than a casual basketball fan, is that if two non-sexy teams face off in a championship that it isn’t as good.  In 1978, the Bullets and the Sonics may not have been the best teams but they were the only two teams not falling apart in the playoffs.  In 1979, they were the two best teams.  But because neither had that ‘superstar’ that draws attention those series are known in history as duds.  That doesn’t sit well with me because these were two good teams, they weren’t the one or two-man shows, they actually were teams that worked together to score and did have some good players like Dennis Johnson, Gus Williams, Jack Sikma, Fred Brown, Elvin Hayes, Bob Dandridge and Wes Unseld.  But yet history remembers Magic and Bird ‘saving the NBA’ in the 80’s.

And now because the public doesn’t want to see two ‘boring’ teams in a big series, there’s the perception that NBA series’ get fixed so that popular teams or teams with superstars move on.

Anyways, the Bullets won the East with 54 victories in 1979 and had home-court throughout the playoffs.  They survived a tough 7-game series with the young and free-basing Atlanta Hawks in the Semifinals (Hawks stars John Drew and Eddie Johnson later got suspended by the NBA for drug use and reserve Terry Furlow was killed in an auto-accident in 1980 and there were drugs found in his system).

At one point, Game 4 and Game 7 of the Hawks-Bullets series was on Youtube, hopefully it’ll return.

The San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers faced off in the other Eastern Semifinal.  The Spurs had George Gervin, Larry Kenon and Billy Paultz and also had James Silas returning after missing a huge part of the 1978 season.  The Spurs were the prototypical all-offense no-defense former ABA team of the time.  Philadelphia had Julius Erving, Caldwell Jones, Darryl Dawkins, Henry Bibby and Doug Collins back.  They had traded George McGinnis to Denver for Bobby Jones and had traded World B. Free to the San Diego Clippers for a future draft pick (which turned into Charles Barkley in 1984).  Collins started experiencing his foot injuries that eventually forced him to retire and was out for the playoffs.

In the West, the Sonics had won 52 games for the top seed.  The Phoenix Suns had returned with a better roster then their 1976 Finals team.  They still had Paul Westphal and Alvan Adams, with Garfield Heard coming off the bench.  But to add to it, they had drafted Walter Davis in 1977 and had acquired defensive specialist Don Buse from Indiana for Ricky Sobers.  They also acquired Truck Robinson in the middle of this season.

The Suns and Sonics had easy 5-game Semifinal victories over the Midwest Division-winning Kansas City Kings and Los Angeles Lakers, respectively.  The Kings had a young roster that would make a little noise in a few years.  This roster featured gaurds Phil Ford and Otis Birdsong.  The veterans were forward Scott Wedman and center Sam Lacey.  The Lakers were starting to surround Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with the roster that would make lots of noise in the early 1980’s (they were just missing a little Magic).  In 1977, the Lakers signed free agent Jamaal Wilkes and drafted guard Norm Nixon.  They drafted Michael Cooper in 1978 but he only played in 3 games his first season.

As to try and dis-count the perception of a struggling NBA at the time, the 1979 All-Star Game at the Pontiac Silverdome featured the largest All-Star crowd in history to that point.

February 4, 1979 – NBA All-Star Game at Detroit: West 134, East 129

The game, as expected, got off to a fast start.  Detroit native George Gervin hit a jumper for the East.  David Thompson countered for the West with a banker in the lane.  The East’s Pete Maravich hit a runner.  Then the West’s Paul Westphal found second-year man Marques Johnson for a slam and then George McGinnis got a steal and a slam.  A little later, Maravich found Moses Malone with an overhead pass for a layup.  Then Thompson got a steal and a slam.  Everyone seemed to contribute for both teams.  Calvin Murphy came into the game and hit a jumper for the East.  Maurice Lucas and Elvin Hayes did the same for their respective sides.  Seattle’s Dennis Johnson gave the West a 30-23 lead when he hit a jumper and then tipped in a miss.  The East’s Bob Dandridge hit a pull-up.  The West’s Walter Davis put back a miss.  Julius Erving hit two free throws for his 9th point of the 1st quarter to match David Thompson for game lead.  Jack Sikma hit a jumper and Otis Birdsong stole the ball from Maravich and got a layup.  The West ended the first quarter up 36-27.

If you thought the first period was high scoring, the second period was worse.  Defense could not be spelled in this game.  The Pistons’ Bob Lanier hit back-to-back field goals early in the period to get the crowd going but then Davis, Westphal and Artis Gilmore hit field goals for the West and Otis Birdsong’s back-to-back jumpers gave the West a 50-35 lead.  The East cut it back to 11 but Thompson got an up-and-under shot to go on the break (while hanging in the air) and then Westphal got a layup off a McGinnis steal.  The West took a 66-47 lead on two McGinnis free throws.  Gervin responded with a three-point play on an underhand scoop.  But then Marques Johnson hit two free throws and Thompson got a steal and slam.  The West took their biggest lead at halftime, 80-58, when Johnson found Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for a layup and one.

One thing that East Coach Dick Motta probably realized is that if the East was going to come back he probably couldn’t take Julius Erving out of the game.  The Doctor started the 2nd half with 6 quick points as the East went on an 8-2 run.  After a Lanier runner cut the lead to 85-68, the West went on a 6-0 run for their biggest lead.  Westphal got a fast break layup, Johnson hit a shot in the lane and the 6’4″ Thompson got an offensive rebound stick-back.  The East countered with a 6-0 run as Hayes, Erving and Gervin had field goals and then a Dandridge basket in the lane cut the lead to 94-78.  After Davis found McGinnis for a slam, the East kept rolling as Michigan graduate Rudy Tomjanovich hit a jumper and a hook shot in the lane.  Then Erving got out on the break for a reverse finger roll that only the Doctor could pull off.  The East had cut it to 96-86.  After McGinnis got a break-away layup, Erving hit two free throws for his 23rd point.  Then Tomjanovich hit a jumper and Dandridge went coast-to-coast.  The lead was 6.  The teams matched baskets for the rest of the third and the West was up 104-98 going into the 4th.

After a Malone tip-in cut the lead to 105-100, the West went on a run with Dr. J on the bench.  Birdsong hit a shot in the lane, Lucas tipped in a miss, then Davis and Sikma hit jumpers and it was 113-100 West.  The teams matched points for awhile and Thompson hit a jumper for his 19th point to give the West a 123-110 lead.  Gervin got the pro-East crowd back going with a two-handed slam over somebody on the break and then Tomjanovich hit a jumper.  Thompson responded with a slam in the lane and then countered a Hayes fadeaway with still another jumper.  Erving drove, jump-stopped and laid the ball in and then Gervin hit a free throw then found Hayes for a slam and it was 127-121.  But then Thompson countered again with 1:24 on the clock with an elbow jumper.  Thompson led the West with 25 and this late effort cemented his MVP award.  It was probably the last (or one of the last) great moment in David Thompson’s much to short career.  The East got no closer than 5, which was the margin of the final score.

West starters (teams) and point totals

Marques Johnson (Milwaukee Bucks) 10 – Small Forward

George McGinnis (Denver Nuggets) 16 – Power Forward

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Los Angeles Lakers) 11 – Center

Paul Westphal (Phoenix Suns) 17 – Point Guard

David Thompson (Denver Nuggets) 25 – Shooting Guard

West bench (teams) and point totals

Dennis Johnson (Seattle Sonics) 12

Maurice Lucas (Portland Blazers) 10

Walter Davis (Phoenix Suns) 8

Jack Sikma (Seattle Sonics) 8

Artis Gilmore (Chicago Bulls) 8

Otis Birdsong (Kansas City Kings) 9

West Coach: Lenny Wilkens (Seattle Sonics)

East starters (teams) and point totals

Julius Erving (Philadelphia 76ers) 29 – Small Forward

Rudy Tomjanovich (Houston Rockets) 12 – Power Forward

Moses Malone (Houston Rockets) 8 – Center

Pete Maravich (New Orleans Jazz) 10 – Point Guard

George Gervin (San Antonio Spurs) 26 – Shooting Guard

East bench (teams) and point totals

Bob Lanier (Detroit Pistons) 10

Elvin Hayes (Washington Bullets) 13

Bob Dandridge (Washington Bullets) 8

Calvin Murphy (Houston Rockets) 6

Campy Russell (Cleveland Cavaliers) 4

Larry Kenon (San Antonio Spurs) 3

East Coach: Dick Motta (Washington Bullets)

1979-all-star-game

The 1979 West All-Star team: front row (left to right) – George McGinnis, Jack Sikma, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Head Coach Lenny Wilkens, Artis Gilmore, Maurice Lucas, Marques Johnson.  back row (left to right) – trainer, Otis Birdsong, Walter Davis, Dennis Johnson, MVP David Thompson, Paul Westphal, Assistant Coach Les Habegger *photo courtesy of nba.com

April 22, 1979 – East Semifinals, Game 4: San Antonio Spurs 115 @Philadelphia 76ers 112

Perhaps the two most popular players in the NBA that season were facing off in this series.  Iceman, George Gervin and Dr. J, Julius Erving.  For this game, however, Erving would be a non-factor until what turned out to be too late.  For the 76ers, this game turned out to be the coming out party of rookie point guard Maurice Cheeks.  The Spurs won the first two games in San Antonio and now Philly was trying to win the next two games at the Spectrum.  The game itself got off slowly as almost two minutes went by (and Philadelphia center Caldwell Jones already had two fouls) before the first points were put up on the board.

Gervin hit two free throws on Jones’ 2nd foul and then a finger roll in the lane.  But then Caldwell hit on an offensive rebound and Cheeks hit Bobby Jones in the corner for a jumper and the 76ers were on.  Cheeks’ coast-to-coast layup put Philadelphia up 9-6.  Philly took a five-point lead when ball movement found Bobby Jones for another jumper.  Then Gervin and San Antonio reserve Mark Olberding got going.  Olberding hit a bank shot and then found Iceman with a touch pass for a slam.  Then Larry Kenon’s back-to-back field goals (sandwiching Caldwell Jones committing his 3rd foul and being replaced by Darryl Dawkins, who would be starting along with Jones the next season) put the Spurs up 20-19.  After each team split a pair of free throws, Cheeks hit in the lane to give Philly a one-point lead.  But then the Spurs spurted (get it!?).  Olberding finished a three-point play with a strong move against Dawkins.  Then Kenon hit on a banker and reserve point guard Mike Gale found Gervin on the break after a Dr. J miss.  Erving hit 1-for his first-8 from the field after 39 points in Game 3.  Gale followed this up by getting a breakaway layup and then two free throws after pick-pocketing 76ers reserve guard Eric Money.  The Spurs had finished the first quarter with an 11-0 run and led 32-22.

Money would recover in the 2nd quarter.  He along with Cheeks and 76ers reserves Dawkins and Steve Mix got the 76ers back into the game.  The Spurs maintained a 37-29 lead after a James Silas runner in the lane.  But then Mix scored on an offensive rebound, Money got a fast break layup, Cheeks hit a free throw after a Silas field goal, Mix went coast-to-coast and then Cheeks got his 5th steal and slammed one down.  After a Spurs free throw, Dawkins hit a banker and two free throws and Philly was back to within one.  Mix found Money and Cheeks for layups to give the 76ers a 46-42 lead.  But then after a Mix free throw, Gervin scored on an offensive rebound for his 12th point and Olberding hit a jumper for his 11th point.  Olberding then finished the half by driving baseline, spinning and hitting a layup to tie the game at 52.

The 76ers got off fast in the 2nd half as Cheeks went coast-to-coast for a layup for his 19th point.  Bobby and Caldwell Jones hit field goals and then Erving got a layup.  The Spurs only answer was Larry Kenon starting to get hot after a 4-for-13 first half.  Kenon hit his first three shots and then Gervin’s banker plus the foul put the Spurs back up 61-60.  The teams went back-and-forth for the rest of the quarter.  This including Kenon making his first 5 shots of the half and scoring 12 points in the quarter for 23 in the game and Dawkins, Cheeks and Mix continuing to spark the 76ers while Erving sat on the bench.  A Dawkins follow up at the buzzer cut the Spurs lead to 82-80 going into the fourth.

After two Gervin free throws, the 76ers went on a 6-0 run with Cheeks dishing to Caldwell for a slam and Dawkins for a layup.  Mark Olberding continued his spark as he tied the game at 86 with a fadeaway in the lane for his 17th point.  The teams went back-and-forth finished by a Mike Green putback to give the Spurs a 92-90 lead.  Doctor J finally came back in and hit a free throw but now the Spurs reserves got involved as Coby Dietrick hit Green for a layup, and then Dietrick hit his 2nd jumper of the quarter getting a high bounce off the rim.  A Gervin follow-up gave the Spurs a 98-92 lead.  Cheeks kept the 76ers around as his double-pump follow-up gave him 33 points and cut the Spurs lead to 104-100.  But a Gervin steal and slam put the Spurs up 110-104 for his 28th point.  With just over a minute left, Erving hit in the lane but Gervin responded at 48 seconds with a baseline jumper over the Doctor.  Erving responded with a baseline jumper at 40 seconds and then a bank shot after Silas split a pair of free throws.  But then San Antonio turned the ball over in the back court and Erving found Bobby Jones for a jumper with 12 seconds left and it was 113-112.  But then the Spurs ran out the clock as the 76ers stupidly didn’t foul until the final buzzer went off, when they fouled Gervin with officially no time left.  Gervin hit a pair to put the final margin at three.

The 76ers rebounded to win the next two games but San Antonio won Game 7 111-108 and went on to face the Washington Bullets in the Eastern Conference Finals.

San Antonio starters (points scored)

Larry Kenon (23) – Small Forward

Allan Bristow (2) – Power Forward

Billy Paultz (1) – Center

James Silas (19) – Point Guard

George Gervin (32) – Shooting Guard

San Antonio bench (points scored)

Mark Olberding (17)

Mike Gale (10)

Mike Green (6)

Coby Dietrick (5)

San Antonio Coach: Doug Moe

Philadelphia starters (points scored)

Julius Erving (15) – Small Forward

Bobby Jones (12) – Power Forward

Caldwell Jones (8) – Center

Maurice Cheeks (33) – Point Guard

Henry Bibby (7) – Shooting Guard

Philadelphia bench (points scored)

Darryl Dawkins (13)

Eric Money (13)

Steve Mix (11)

Joe Bryant (0)

Philadelphia Coach: Billy Cunningham

y2b-george-gervin-1979-file

George Gervin’s trademark finger roll *photo courtesy of Spurs Nation blog

May 17, 1979 – Western Finals, Game 7: Phoenix Suns 110 @Seattle Sonics 114

Seattle had won the first two games of this series at home before Phoenix took the next two at home and Game 5 in Seattle.  The Suns had an 8-point lead in the 4th quarter of Game 6 at home.  But Seattle came back and won it 106-105 on a Gus Williams jumper.  So Game 7 was back at the Kingdome in Seattle where 37,552 fans were intent on cheering on the Sonics.

Alvan Adams had missed the last three games of that series but was back for Game 7 and hit his first few shots.  Adams, Truck Robinson and Walter Davis got the scoring done for Phoenix early as Westphal only had two free throws in the first quarter.  Meanwhile, Sikma, Williams and Dennis Johnson were leading Seattle’s attack.  Phoenix led 29-28 after the first quarter but Seattle’s triplets led the Sonics to a 40-32 lead in the 2nd quarter.  Then Westphal got his first field goal on a driving layup.  Then a few minutes later Adams hit a cutting Westphal for a three-point play and the lead was down to 3.  Seattle held for a 57-53 halftime lead.

Dennis Johnson and Gus Williams traded baskets with Walter Davis and Don Buse to start the 2nd half.  Then Phoenix tied it at 61 when Adams hit a jumper and a penetrating Westphal found Adams for a layup.  The story for the next few minutes became Seattle scoring and Phoenix responding.  Robinson field goals matched baskets by Seattle’s Sikma and Dennis Johnson.  Two more field goals from Johnson and Sikma gave Seattle a four-point lead but that was answered by Westphal hitting a jumper and Buse finding Davis on the break.  Lonnie Shelton hit on an offensive rebound for Seattle, Davis hit on a double pump, D.J. (Dennis Johnson) hit a leaning banker and Adams got a field goal on a Shelton goaltend.  Finally when Seattle took a 75-73 lead on D.J.’s 10th point of the quarter and 19th of the game, the Sonics lead held for the rest of the game.  Silas hit a left-handed shot in the paint and then Williams hit a driving layup for a five-point Sonics lead.  At the buzzer, Sikma hit a jumper from the free throw line and Seattle led 82-75.

Phoenix started the 4th quarter with Adams and Davis hitting jumpers.  Williams responded with a three-point play on a driving layup down the middle.  Williams then tipped in a Sikma miss and later hit a runner in the lane for his 25th point and a ten point Seattle lead.  With Seattle up 13, Shelton knocked the ball away from Truck Robinson.  D.J. picked up the ball, led the 3-on-1 fast break, and threw a behind-the-back pass to Williams for a layup and a 100-85 lead.  The Kingdome went crazy and the game looked over.  But Seattle slowed it down and Phoenix went into scramble mode, pressing all over the court and moving around quickly on offense for shots.  Westphal hit a step-back jumper in the lane and Davis hit two free throws.  But after Davis split a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 101-90, he missed a big layup.  Sikma hit two free throws for his 30th and 31st points.  Suns reserve Alvin Scott hit a jumper before Robinson split a pair of free throws.  Phoenix had missed two free throws and a layup in their comeback bid and this would come back to bite.  Williams hit two free throws for a 105-93 lead.  But Mike Bratz hit a jumper over Sikma and Davis hit from the right wing.  Sikma then got his 5th foul trying to get an offensive rebound with 2:18 left and Robinson hit two free throws and it was 105-99.

Bratz then stole the ball, was fouled and hit two more free throws.  D.J. split a pair of free throws at 2:04 and Phoenix had a chance to cut it to three.  But Buse missed from the wing at 1:48 and Seattle got the rebound and ran down the shot clock.  Sikma got an offensive rebound at 1:16 but Phoenix got the ball 13 seconds later on a steal.  Robinson hit Westphal for what looked to be an open layup.  Westphal double pumped around a John Johnson charge attempt but Williams blocked the shot and Seattle recovered the ball.  With 43 seconds left, D.J. hit two free throws for a 108-101 Sonics lead and the game looked to be over.  D.J. hit two more free throws nine seconds later after Davis split a pair.  Westphal hit a free throw line jumper at 25 seconds but D.J. hit two more free throws five seconds later and it was 112-104.  During D.J.’s free throws, Williams and Sikma were taken out for standing ovations.

Davis drove the lane for a score with 15 seconds left.  Seattle got it in to Joe Hassett (who almost never plays) and he dribbled down court before Davis stole it from behind and went down for a layup and it was 112-108 with 7 seconds left.  Then Wally Walker was trying to inbound against Phoenix pressure.  With the 5-count about to go off, Walker threw it right to Westphal who drove it for a layup as Walker fouled him.  There were 4 seconds left and it was 112-110 with Westphal about to shoot a free throw and everyone in the Kingdome (including the announcers) were going nuts as Seattle was gagging the game away.  After Phoenix’s last timeout, Westphal missed the free throw intentionally but Sikma (who came back into the game with Williams) got the rebound, was fouled and hit the two clinching free throws.

An interesting story, Seattle assistant coach Les Habegger had told coach Lenny Wilkens with Seattle up 8 and D.J. at the line that he should take out his stars so the crowd could give them an ovation.  Wilkens did so but when Phoenix came back and Westphal was at the line, Wilkens told Habegger that he was fired.  After the game, Wilkens told him “O.K. we won, so you’re re-hired.”  This story was told by Brent Musburger during Game 1 of the Finals and as Musburger told it, he said, “right now, it’s funny.. it wasn’t then.”

Phoenix starters (points scored)

Walter Davis (26) – Small Forward

Truck Robinson (16) – Power Forward

Alvan Adams (15) – Center

Paul Westphal (25) – Point Guard

Don Buse (6) – Shooting Guard

Phoenix bench (points scored)

Mike Bratz (8)

Alvin Scott (2)

Garfield Heard (4)

Joel Kramer (2)

Ted McClain (2)

Bayard Forrest (4)

Phoenix Coach: John MacLeod

Seattle starters (points scored)

John Johnson (3) – Small Forward

Lonnie Shelton (8) – Power Forward

Jack Sikma (33) – Center

Gus Williams (29) – Point Guard

Dennis Johnson (26) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Fred Brown (4)

Wally Walker (7)

Paul Silas (4)

Dennis Awtrey (0)

Joe Hassett (0)

Seattle Coach: Lenny Wilkens

dennis johnson

Dennis Johnson leaps high in the air to block a shot in Game 7 versus the Suns.  From left to right, Lonnie Shelton (#8), Alvan Adams (#33 in blue), Gus Williams (with bald spot), Jack Sikma, John Johnson (#27), Walter Davis *photo courtesy of Flickr

May 18, 1979 – Eastern Finals, Game 7: San Antonio Spurs 105 @Washington Bullets 107

Believe it or not, this Game 7 to go to the NBA Finals against Seattle was not televised nationally.  That’s just how dire the NBA was at that point, they couldn’t even get a Friday evening spot on CBS (not even tape delay).  So what I have is a Bullets local broadcast of most of the last quarter and a half of this game that was shown on NBA’s Greatest Games feature from the ’90’s hosted by Dan Patrick.

San Antonio had grabbed a 3-1 lead in this series but the Bullets had won Game 5 at home 107-103 and Game 6 in San Antonio 108-100.  But unlike Games 5 and 6, it was the Spurs who grabbed the advantage through most of this game.  They led 21-18 after a quarter before Washington came back and grabbed a 50-49 halftime lead.  But the Spurs were back up 75-70 in the 3rd and Gervin was rolling.  Gervin hit a turnaround three-point play for his 32nd point to give the Spurs a 78-70 lead.  Bullet reserve Greg Ballard hit a banker after a spin move but Gervin responded with a jumper in the middle of the lane.  Larry Wright came back with a jumper before Billy Paultz hit a turnaround shot from the post and San Antonio was up 82-74.  Charles Johnson hit from the middle of the lane to cut the Spurs lead to 82-76 after three.

The Spurs increased their lead to 90-81 with 8:45 left.  Bob Dandridge hit a baseline jumper for his 28th point and Gervin responded with a banker for his 36th point.  The Bullets kept coming and when Wes Unseld hit Ballard for a layup it was 94-89 Spurs.  Dandridge then hit from the post and it looked like the Bullets were coming back.  But then James Silas hit a jumper from the free throw line and Gervin hit from the top of the key for a seven point lead.  The Spurs maintained a 103-97 lead with 2:05 left.  But just as the Bullets announcers were saying that the Bullets were barely alive, Ballard tipped in a Dandridge miss.  Then Kenon was short on a shot in the lane and Paultz committed a loose ball foul.  Unseld made two free throws for his 4th and 5th points of the game.  Then as the Spurs were running a play, Paultz got called for an illegal screen with 1:24 left.  14 seconds later, Ballard hit Dandridge for a banker to tie the game.  Gervin came back and missed a double-pump banker in the lane and Ballard hit two free throws with 36 seconds left for a 105-103 Bullets lead.  Silas responded with a turnaround jumper from the right elbow and Washington called a timeout.

The play was to clear out for Dandridge.  Bobby had the ball at the wing against Kenon with time running out.  He drove baseline where he was cut off by a second defender, but Dandridge rose up and hit a shot with 7 seconds left.  The Spurs called time and Silas got the inbounds pass and drove.  Hayes blocked his shot.  Kenon recovered the ball but Dandridge knocked it away and the buzzer went off.  The Bullets and Sonics by the skin of their teeth were matching up in the Finals for the 2nd straight year.

Gervin and the Spurs would never get closer to the Finals until the Spurs actually made it and won the Championship in 1999.

San Antonio starters (points scored)

Larry Kenon (23) – Small Forward

Mark Olberding (7) – Power Forward

Mike Green (4) – Center

James Silas (17) – Point Guard

George Gervin (42) – Shooting Guard

San Antonio bench (points scored)

Billy Paultz (8)

Mike Gale (2)

Coby Dietrick (2)

Allan Bristow (0)

San Antonio Coach: Doug Moe

Washington starters (points scored)

Bob Dandridge (37) – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (25) – Power Forward

Wes Unseld (5) – Center

Tom Henderson (0) – Point Guard

Kevin Grevey (12) – Shooting Guard

Washington bench (points scored)

Larry Wright (10)

Charles Johnson (6)

Greg Ballard (12)

Dave Corzine (0)

Washington Coach: Dick Motta

gervin

George Gervin averaged 31 ppg vs the Bullets, including 42 in Game 7 but he would never get closer to the NBA Finals *photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

May 20, 1979 – NBA Finals, Game 1: Seattle Sonics 97 @Washington Bullets 99

The Bullets got off to a flying start on their home court in the NBA Finals rematch.  Wes Unseld hit a cutting Tom Henderson for a layup and then Henderson hit Elvin Hayes for a pull-up jumper.  After Gus Williams scored on an offensive rebound for the Sonics, Hayes found Unseld for a layup on a second shot situation.

The action went back-and-forth for the rest of the quarter.  Sikma hit a turnaround jumper and then hit Shelton for a layup.  The Bullets backcourt of Henderson and Kevin Grevey responded as Grevey hit a corner jumper and Henderson went coast-to-coast.  Grevey and Henderson were supposed to be no match for Williams and Dennis Johnson.  The Bullets took a 20-14 lead when Henderson hit Grevey for a layup on a 3-on-1 break.  But then it was Seattle that got out and ran.  Williams finished one break on a tough runner against Bob Dandridge.  Williams then hit John Johnson for a layup to finish a 3-on-1 break and then Dennis Johnson blocked a shot and Williams finished with on the break again.  Williams gave Seattle a 23-22 lead after another breakaway slam versus Grevey.  But Washington came back with Hayes hitting a banker from the post and Dandridge hitting a pull-up jumper after a pump fake.  Williams finished the quarter with a jumper for his 12th point and it was 26-25 Washington after one.

The 2nd quarter started back-and-forth as well.  But then with the Bullets up 30-28, Hayes hit a banker over Paul Silas in the post while Silas fouled him.  Seattle’s John Johnson responded to the three-point play with a jumper from the post.  But then Dandridge hit back-to-back field goals.  And then after a J.J. (John Johnson) running hook in the lane, Bullet reserve Larry Wright hit a pull-up jumper.  If you’re a Larry Wright fan, this is the game for you.  Wright’s steal and layup put the Bullets up 43-34.  Then Larry hit another jumper from the free throw line and then hit Charles Johnson for a jumper.  After four straight Seattle points, Wright hit another jumper from the wing and then from the baseline.  Washington maintained its lead for the rest of the half as Seattle was hurt by missed free throws.  They finished the first half 4-for-11.  But Williams was having a good half from the field as he finished 8-for-14 for 16 first half points.  Seattle trailed 59-50 at halftime.

The 2nd half started back-and-forth before a drought hit both teams, but especially the Sonics.  Dennis Johnson had hit two field goals and Williams had started the half with a pull-up jumper.  But Hayes and Grevey, who was 7-for his first-11 from the field, had responded and three Henderson free throws put the Bullets up 68-58.  Then there was a 2:46 drought in which Hayes committed his 4th foul.  The Bullets broke the drought with two Unseld free throws and a Grevey breakaway slam for their biggest lead.  But then Seattle responded. Fred Brown hit a jumper off a screen, Sikma hit from the post, D.J. hit a double-pump banker from the post and Brown hit another jumper and just like that it was 72-66.  Then came back Mister Wright.  Larry hit a jumper from the left corner and then another after three Sonics points.  Dandridge then ended the third on a flurry.  He hit a baseline jumper and then came back with a shot in the lane after a Sikma field goal.  With Seattle going for the last shot of the quarter, Sikma lost the ball out of bounds with 4 seconds left.  The Bullets got it ahead to Dandridge.  Bobby hit a double-pump jumper from just left of the top of the key with two defenders on him at the buzzer.  Washington led 82-71.

After Silas started the 4th on the right foot for the Sonics with a layup.  Hayes hit a tough turnaround banker while being fouled.  He completed the three-point play.  Mister Wright (who was being called Lonnie, I assume accidentally but consistently, by analyst Rick Barry) came back with a jumper from the deep corner and then from the top of the key.  Hayes then committed his 5th foul on a phantom call but Williams missed two free throws and was 0-for-5 at that point.  Wright then hit another wing jumper after a pump fake.  Larry, or Lonnie, was now 10-for-11 from the field and had 20 points and the Bullets were up 91-73.

After Williams finally made two free throws, D.J. got a steal and a layup.  Then Sikma scored on a put-back and Williams hit a jumper.  Then D.J. blocked a shot and Williams scored a fast break layup and suddenly it was 91-83 Bullets.  But then Mister Wright hit another jumper at the end of the shot clock.  Although he hit that one, he was starting to miss.  He did however give the Bullets a 96-85 with a driving layup off a screen.  That was the Bullets last field goal.  Williams missed two more free throws but responded with a baseline runner on the break.  Gus then hit two free throws to finish the game at 4-for-11.  With 1:52 left, Dandridge committed his 5th foul and John Johnson hit two more free throws and it was 96-91.  50 seconds later, Williams hit a pull-up for his 32nd point.  Then John Johnson stole the ball and got it to Dennis Johnson for a layup with 52 seconds left.  But Grevey was fouled at 43 seconds.  He hit 1-of-2 and the Bullets led 97-95.  With 25 seconds left, D.J. tied it with a shot in the lane.

Washington ran down the clock with the ball once again in Dandridge’s hands.  He was double-teamed and passed off to Henderson who missed a running banker at 8 seconds.  Lonnie Shelton got the rebound but fumbled it out of bounds.  The Bullets inbounded to Wright but his shot was blocked out of bounds by Williams with 2 seconds left.  Once again the Bullets inbounded and Dandridge found Wright cutting the lane wide open.  Wright got the ball and missed the shot while being challenged by Dennis Johnson.  The foul was called on D.J. with no time left.  While D.J. did hit Wright (and admitted to it later after arguing vehemently on the court) but its tough to say whether or not that foul would be called in most end-of-game situations.  Wright had a three-to-make-two situation and Barry was confident that the Bullets had won and Lonnie Wright wouldn’t miss three free throws.  He did miss the first but made the next two to finish off Game 1.  This was the game to remember if you’re a Larry Wright fan, or Lonnie Wright fan.

Seattle starters (points scored)

John Johnson (14) – Small Forward

Lonnie Shelton (8) – Power Forward

Jack Sikma (12) – Center

Gus Williams (32) – Point Guard

Dennis Johnson (23) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Fred Brown (6)

Wally Walker (0)

Paul Silas (2)

Dennis Awtrey (0)

Seattle Coach: Lenny Wilkens

Washington starters (points scored)

Bob Dandridge (23) – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (14) – Power Forward

Wes Unseld (4) – Center

Tom Henderson (7) – Point Guard

Kevin Grevey (19) – Shooting Guard

Washington bench (points scored)

Larry Wright (26)

Charles Johnson (4)

Greg Ballard (2)

Dave Corzine (0)

Washington Coach: Dick Motta

wilkens_lenny_display_image

Sonics coach Lenny Wilkens with Gus Williams *photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

May 29, 1979 – NBA Finals, Game 4: Washington Bullets 112 @Seattle Sonics 114 (ot)

In more failed to download Youtube games, the full Game 4 and Game 5 I had for awhile but not anymore.  I only have a partial portion of Game 4 from Dennis Johnson’s Vintage NBA.  The Sonics had taken the next two games after their heart-breaking Game 1 loss.

It picked up with 9:57 left in the 3rd and Seattle up 59-57 at the Seattle Coliseum.  So naturally the first highlight is D.J. getting a breakaway slam and hitting his head on the bottom of the backboard.  John Johnson then found Dennis backdoor for a reverse layup.  The Bullets stayed in it as Grevey hit a jumper, Dandridge found Unseld for a layup and Henderson tipped in an Unseld miss.  The Bullets took a 68-67 lead on two Hayes free throws but then Dennis Johnson blocked a Grevey layup and Williams finished with a short jumper in the lane after a behind-the-back dribble.  D.J.’s two free throws put Seattle up 79-75 and then he got his 22nd point on a driving layup from halfcourt to the basket.  Seattle led 84-81 after three.

It then picked up with the start of overtime and the game tied at 104.  Hayes had already fouled out for the Bullets.  D.J. got his 30th point on an offensive rebound and then he found Williams on the break for Gus’ 34th point and a 108-104 lead.  Charles Johnson hit a jumper for his 18th point and D.J. responded with a fade-away in the lane.  Williams then hit two free throws for a six-point lead.  Henderson came back with a driving layup in the lane.  But on the next Bullets possession, Dandridge drove baseline and right into Sikma for an offensive foul, his 6th.  But Washington got the ball back and Grevey hit a pull-up on a Henderson assist with 51 seconds left and it was 112-110.  But then Unseld committed his 6th foul and Sikma hit two free throws.  With 30 seconds left, forgotten man Phil Chenier hit a jumper from the corner.  Seattle ran down the shot clock but Sikma air-balled and Dave Corzine rebounded and called time.

With Dandridge, Hayes and even Unseld out, the Bullets went to Kevin Grevey against the greatest defensive guard at the time Dennis Johnson.  D.J. blocked Grevey’s long shot and the Sonics held on 114-112.

Seattle won Game 5 in Washington 97-93 for the championship.  The Bullets had the lead for most of the game but a 12-0 Sonics run in the third gave them the lead for good.  D.J. got the Finals MVP.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you about that game as well as all of Game 4 sometime.

Washington starters (points scored)

Bob Dandridge (16) – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (18) – Power Forward

Wes Unseld (16) – Center

Tom Henderson (9) – Point Guard

Kevin Grevey (18) – Shooting Guard

Washington bench (points scored)

Larry Wright (4)

Charles Johnson (18)

Greg Ballard (11)

Phil Chenier (2)

Dave Corzine (0)

Washington Coach: Dick Motta

Seattle starters (points scored)

John Johnson (6) – Small Forward

Lonnie Shelton (6) – Power Forward

Jack Sikma (20) – Center

Gus Williams (36) – Point Guard

Dennis Johnson (32) – Shooting Guard

Seattle bench (points scored)

Fred Brown (6)

Wally Walker (0)

Paul Silas (8)

Dennis Awtrey (0)

Seattle Coach: Lenny Wilkens

Basketball Pro Game 1979   NBA Championship

The Sonics celebrate their only championship with Seattle.  Sadly, Seattle doesn’t have a basketball team at the moment *photo courtesy of ESPN

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