- 1978 NBA Finals
NBA Finals summary
year = 1978
runnerup_games = 3
champion_games = 4
May 21- June 7
television = CBS (U.S.)
Brent Musberger, Rick Barry, and John Havlicek
Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld
referees_5 = Game 5:
referees_6 = Game 6:
referees_7 = Game 7: Jack Madden and
ECF result = Bullets defeat 76ers, 4-2
WCF result = SuperSonics defeat Nuggets, 4-2
"Bullets win series 4-3"
The Bullets, behind
Kevin Grevey's 27 and Elvin Hayes's 21 points, held a 19-point lead in the fourth quarter at the Seattle Center Coliseum. But, the Sonics staged a comeback in front of the home crowd, led by "instant offense" guard Fred Brown. Brown scored 16 points in the last nine minutes to finish with 32 and give the SuperSonics the win.
In an unusual scheduling format, the next two games were played at the
Capital Centre, the Bullets' home floor. Wes Unselddefended inside on Marvin Websterand Jack Sikma, pulled down 15 rebounds, and handed out five assists. This work enabled Bob Dandridgeto score 34 points and Elvin Hayes25 as the Bullets evened the series.
Dennis Johnsonwas superb on defense, blocking seven shots and holding Kevin Greveyto 1-for-14 shooting. Paul Silas, the SuperSonics' veteran leader off the bench, helped shut down the Bullets' big men.
With 10 seconds remaining and the SuperSonics leading 93-90, Johnson's inbounds pass was stolen by
Tom Henderson, who scored to make it 93-92 with five seconds left. Silas then stepped on the baseline trying to make the subsequent inbounds pass, turning the ball over to the Bullets. Bob Dandridgemissed at the buzzer, however, and the SuperSonics picked up a victory on the road.
Game 4 was held in the
Seattle Kingdomebecause the Seattle Center Coliseumwas tied up with a mobile-home show. As a result, the Bullets had to contend with a then-record playoff crowd of over 39,000 fans.
The SuperSonics led by 15 with two minutes left in the third quarter. At this point, the Bullet guards, who had been victimized all series by
Gus Williamsand emerging star Dennis Johnson, started to assert themselves, especially reserves Charles Johnson and Larry Wright.
At the start of the final period,
Dennis Johnsonwas elbowed hard in the ribs and left the game for a short time. With Charles Johnson, Wright, Mitch Kupchakand Bob Dandridgein the lineup, the Bullets stormed back and took a 103-101 lead with about 3½ minutes left in the game. Dennis Johnsonthen returned and went on a barrage, scoring first to tie the game, blocking a Dandridge shot, getting an offensive rebound, and pushing the Sonics to a 104-103 lead with a foul shot. Johnson would finish with 33 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Dandridge answered with a three-point play that returned the lead to Washington, 106-104. Seattle got the ball back and tied it with "instant offense" Fred Brown's jumper from "downtown". With two seconds left, Dandridge got a good shot in the lane, only to have Johnson block it, forcing overtime. But then, Charles Johnson became an instant hero by hitting three quick shots in overtime to give the Bullets a 120-116 win. The Bullets had tied the series at two wins apiece.
The SuperSonics returned to the
Seattle Center Coliseumand eked out a close win. "Downtown" Freddie Brown had 26 points and Dennis Johnson24 to carry Seattle to a 98-94 win and the series lead. The Bullets lost it at the line, making only 9 of 20 free throws in the second half. Even so, they cut Seattle's 11-point lead to two with less than two minutes to go before Jack Sikmahit three free throws down the stretch.
Game 6, in Washington, was all Bullets, 117-82. With the Washington backcourt continuing to struggle, Bullets coach
Dick Mottainserted Greg Ballard at forward and moved Bob Dandridgeto guard, a risky move considering Dandridge had played very little guard. Ballard and Dandridge produced a run that gave the Bullets a 12-point lead at the half. Washington scored 70 points in the second half, and the SuperSonics weren't up to that pace. Mitch Kupchakadded 19 points, and Ballard had 12 points and 12 rebounds. The 35 point margin of victory was an NBA Finals record.
Dennis Johnson, who before the 1977-78 playoffs was a relatively unknown guard from Pepperdine University, had grown into a star in this series in front of a national TV audience. However, DJ would miss every one of his 14 shots in this game. Fellow guard Gus Williamswas a bit more accurate, shooting 4-for-12. SuperSonics big men Marvin Websterscored 27 points and Jack Sikma21 to take up the slack, and that kept it close.
With 90 seconds left, Seattle whittled the lead from 11 points down to four, but
Mitch Kupchakcame up with a three-point play. Fred Brown, who finished with 21 points off the bench, hit a short jumper, then Paul Silasgot a tip-in to cut it to 101-99. Silas then fouled Wes Unseld, a 55-percent shooter from the line during the playoffs. He hit two free throws, and moments later Washington sealed it with a Bob Dandridgedunk, 105-99.
Charles Johnson and Dandridge each scored 19 points for the Bullets, while
Elvin Hayesfouled out with 12 points, a development that brought a couple of needling questions from the writers about his past failures in the playoffs. Unseld would be named Finals MVP.
1978 NBA Playoffs
* [http://www.nba.com/history/finals/19771978.html NBA History]
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