Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The *1979* NBA Finals Start Tonight

Tonight's 1979 NBA Finals start the same way last year's did--with the Western Conference champion Seattle SuperSonics facing the Eastern Conference champion Washington Bullets.

Both teams barely made it back, each surviving a conference championship series that went down to the last seconds of Game 7. The Bullets overcame a 3-1 series deficit and a 42-point Game 7 from George Gervin to get past San Antonio in the Eastern Conference finals.  The Sonics seemed to have their Game 7 against Phoenix won, leading by 6 with eight seconds to go, but two late turnovers nearly cost them the game, and the Sonics needed two Jack Sikma free throws to clinch their trip back to the Finals.

Coach Lenny Wilkens likes his team's momentum. "When we were down three games to two, I told the players we were at an upswing, and I think winning the series proved it," says Wilkens.

This Finals truly is a rematch. Nine of the 10 starters from 1978's Game 1 are expected start again tonight. "There are no secrets between these two teams," says Sonics forward Paul Silas. "We both know what we can do. It should be a good, tough series."

The one difference in the starting lineups points out a key weakness for Seattle--interior defense. Center Marvin Webster, the Sonics' leading shot-blocker in 1978, left in free agency for the New York Knicks. The Sonics then lost Webster's replacement, Tom LaGarde, to a season-ending knee injury. Will the Sonics' young frontcourt tandem of Lonnie Shelton and Jack Sikma be able to contend with Bullets veterans Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld? Possibly Shelton and Sikma can't do any worse, considering that Unseld was the Finals MVP in '78.

Bullets coach Dick Motta claims that the Sonics are better off with the youngsters: "Compared to last year, Seattle is more physical. They don't have the shot blocker they had last year in Webster, but they're more muscular."

The Bullets have home-court advantage in the 2-2-1-1-1 series, having finished the regular season with 54 wins to the Sonics' 52.One impartial observer gives the edge to the Sonics anyway. "Seattle is playing well now, they're healthy and they have the playoff experience," said Spurs forward Allen Bristow. "And I'd have to give them the talent advantage too." Game 1 is tonight at the Capital Centre in Landover. No YouTube is available.

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