Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The *1979* Finals Game 4: Sonics Win "Ali-Frazier Fight"

The Seattle Supersonics are one win away from an NBA championship after winning a wild foulfest at Seattle Center Coliseum last night, 114-112 in overtime.

The Sonics led for much of the game, but never by more than 10 points (and that was at the end of the first quarter). And they were only able to pull away from the Bullets after Washington's three top players fouled out.

"This is like an Ali-Frazier fight," said John Johnson after the game. "There's a lot of contact going on out there. It's a knockdown, drag-out fight."

The teams were called for 59 fouls in Game 4, and four players fouled out. Foul trouble for Sonics forwards Paul Silas and Lonnie Shelton forced Jack Sikma to play 51 minutes.

"I'm tired," Sikma said after the game. "It's a battle all the way."

Gus Williams led the Sonics in scoring--just as he has in all four Finals games--scoring 36 points. Dennis Johnson had 32, and Jack Sikma had 20 to go along with 17 rebounds.

After 53 minutes of seesawing, the game came down to one final shot--and it was the shot the Sonics were expecting. Down two points with six seconds left in overtime, the Bullets inbounded the ball to guard Kevin Grevey, just as the Sonics thought. As they'd talked about in their huddle, Paul Silas flashed out to help.

Grevey, surrounded by three Sonics, forced up a desperation heave. Dennis Johnson partially blocked it, and the ball floated through the air, well short of the basket. While most of the Bullets turned toward the rim for the expected rebound, Sikma perceived the ball's true trajectory, and plucked it from the air.

"When I got the ball, I was just waiting for the buzzer to sound," said Sikma. "I thought it was forever."

The moods of the two coaches couldn't have been different.

"I'm still up there," said Lenny Wilkens. "I think it was one of the great spectator games. It was a super win."

Bullets coach Dick Motta refused interview requests after the game, though he did angrily denounce the officials for calling no fouls on the Sonics in the last 14 minutes of the game. (In fact, the count during that time was 9 against Washington, 2 against the Sonics.)

The series moves back to Washington for Game 5. The Sonics will have three chances to win one game. No team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in NBA Finals history...but the Bullets did it just last week, in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Spurs. Can they do it again?

"We're going to win it now," says John Johnson. "If we don't, we certainly don't deserve it."

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