Bullets top Sonics, capture 1978 title
In the spring of 1978, the Washington Bullets defeated the Seattle Super Sonics in seven games to win the NBA championship, the first and only title in franchise history.
The following is a fictional blog based on real events, written as if it were posted by a Bullets fan living in the D.C. area at that time. Each entry is written as if it took place after the game.
Game 1 – May 21, 1978Bullets 102 – Sonics 106
When will we ever win a game in the NBA Finals? I was sure this was it. We had a 19-point lead in the second half and it seemed like everything was going our way. But, the Sonics went on a 19-2 run, erased our lead, and then it seemed like Downtown Freddie Brown just couldn’t miss in the fourth quarter. I thought I’d finally get to see us win a Finals game and steal home court in the series, but just like in ’75, we couldn’t get the job done and my Sunday was ruined. The Sonics beat us, 106-102 and now lead the series 1-0. What may be more concerning was watching Kevin Grevey sprain his ankle near the end of the game and we don’t know what his status will be for Game 2. Luckily we have four days until the next game, which will be back at home at the Capital Centre thanks to this strange 1-2-2-1-1 series.
I lived through the sweep in ’71, lived through the sweep in ’75, and after last night’s game that’s nine straight Finals losses for our Bullets! I was sure it was our year in ’75, but each game came down to the fourth quarter, and it never went our way.
I think we have a better team than Seattle and I know we can take them, we just need to be better on the glass. We lost the battle on the boards by almost 20 and gave up 21 offensive rebounds. Way too many! Grevey was great for us, leading the way with 27 points, but as I mentioned above, he seemed to hurt his ankle and we’ll have to hope he can play again on Thursday.
I’ll probably go watch ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ at the drive-in theatre this week, since I’ll have a few nights to wait until Game 2. It just came out recently and I’ve read good things about it, with this young actor, Gary Busey, playing the lead Holly.
Game 2 – May 25, 1978
Sonics 98 – Bullets 106
We did it! We finally won an NBA Finals game! I had to blast ‘With a Little Luck’ from my Wings London Town album all night after that one. Thanks to a mobile home show in Seattle, we got to play Game 2 in our place, and we needed it! After struggling in Game 1, Bobby D was the best player out there tonight, leading the charge with 34 points on 14/22 shooting. Elvin was Elvin adding 25 and hats off to Tom Henderson, who stepped up and gave us 20 with Kevin Grevey obviously bothered by his ankle injury. I commend him for lacing them up and getting out there, but he wasn’t himself and had just five points in 22 minutes. Wes may have only scored once, but he was huge on the glass, pulling down 15 boards and was great on defense, as we outrebounded Seattle 48-39.
I feel like the momentum has shifted back in our favor and now that we won one, we don’t have to read all of the headlines about how the Bullets can’t win an NBA Finals game. Not only did our Bullets win, but the Boston Bruins were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals. With all the success they seem to have in Boston, seeing them lose in any sport never hurts.
Game 3 – May 28, 1978
Sonics 93 – Bullets 92
Why??? Why do I do this to myself? Why do I always get my hopes up only to see it end in such heartbreak. It was in! It was halfway down! Bobby D’s shot from the left corner spun around and looked to go down, but then popped out and that was that. The difference between being up 2-1 or down 2-1 was as little as that ball popping out. A crushing blow as now we have to go on the road and play Game 4 and Game 5 in Seattle.
It seemed like the perfect ending. After all, we were fortunate to even have a chance in this one as we couldn’t seem to shoot the ball well all game. We were down five, 93-88, when the Big E scored down low to cut it to three with 12 seconds left. Then Henderson stole the ball and raced down court for a layup to cut it to one (93-92). Then we got the biggest break of the game when the ref called Paul Silas for stepping over the baseline when inbounding, which gave us the ball back with three seconds left, trailing by one. We got a good look from the corner from Bobby D, but the ball went in and out and the game ended. Man, did that one hurt.
It was close throughout, back and forth the entire game. We couldn’t seem to get any of our perimeter shots to go down, but Elvin was a beast inside and had 29p-20r. Our guards were just 9/45 from the floor and Grevey still looked to be hampered by his ankle injury and went 1/14 shooting. We shot just 34% from the field for the game and we came so close to stealing one.
That was our first home loss of the playoffs and Seattle still hasn’t lost at home this postseason, so if we’re to keep this season alive, we’ll have to change that as we head there for the next two.
Game 4 – May 30, 1978
Bullets 120 – Sonics 116 (OT)
We’re back! We are still alive! We just handed Seattle their first home playoff loss of this postseason and wow was it a wild one. A 120-116 overtime win, with an incredible rally in the second half as we overcame a 15-point deficit to steal one back and even the series 2-2. We played this one at the brand new Kingdome, a massive new stadium in Seattle that houses their new baseball team; the Mariners. We won in front of the largest crowd in NBA playoff history, 39,457, and maybe the change of venue was just what we needed to get a vital road win.
Charles Johnson scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including the first two in OT to put us up four. Bobby D played 50 minutes and led the team with 23 points, while we had seven different guys score in double figures. The offense was clicking and we got big buckets from Tom Henderson and Larry Wright down the stretch, who had to step up with Grevey leaving the game with a hip pointer. I loved seeing some of the reserves step up to contribute to a win like this, really made it feel like a team win. Mitch Kupchak, who could be a starter on a lot of teams, had 12p-10r off the bench to go along with his six assists.
Now we’re tied at 2-2 and have a best of three to determine a champion.
Game 5 – June 2, 1978
Bullets 94 – Sonics 98
After we won Game 4, I started to get greedy and wanted to take both in Seattle. The venue moved back to the Seattle Coliseum and we got off to a pretty decent start. The Sonics then outscored us by 12 in the second quarter to take an 11-point lead into the half. We then did ourselves no favors by leaving so many points at the free-throw line and it came back to bite us. We missed 13 free-throws, including eight in the third quarter, which really hurt in a 98-94 loss.
It was good to see Kevin Grevey play well, even though he’s dealing with a few injuries. He played 40 minutes and led the team with 22 points. We didn’t get the bench production like we did in Game 4, but our starters all finished in double figures and Dandridge gave us 21p-10r from his SF spot.
Seattle now takes a 3-2 lead back to D.C. where I know an anxious Bullets crowd awaits to see this team one last time on Sunday.
I’m so excited I’ll probably just play my Video Pinball for the rest of the weekend, no one has beaten my high score in Breakout.
Game 6 – June 4, 1978
Sonics 82 – Bullets 117
A sellout crowd welcomed the Bullets back to the Capital Centre for Game 6, where after an evenly played first quarter, we jumped on the Sonics and played our best ball of the whole Finals. We beat the Sonics by 35, 117-82, the largest margin of victory in NBA Finals history and fewest points a losing team has scored since 1955. It’s hard to say what was better, our offense or our defense, as we held them to just 34% shooting and outrebounded them by 20. We had 26 assists and it was great to see our bench explode again and play such a big role. The reserves scored 63 points, including 12p-12r from Greg Ballard, who played 27 minutes and allowed Coach Motta to play Bobby D at guard in place of Kevin Grevey, who hurt his wrist in Game 5 and can’t seem to catch a break this series with injuries.
It’s now on to Game 7 in Seattle for all the marbles. I don’t know how I’ll wait until Wednesday but I’m glad we have a couple of days to try and get healthy and get prepared for the biggest game in franchise history.
Game 7 – June 7, 1978
Bullets 105 – Sonics 99
WE WON! WASHINGTON D.C. HAS DONE IT! A WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP!
I’m out of words. I can’t believe it. The Bullets are the champions of the world!
How fitting it was to watch Wes, our leader, and who played on those teams in ’71 and in ’75, sink two clutch free-throws in the final seconds to seal the win. Watching our guys run off the court and into the locker room with such joy was probably the greatest sports moment of my life. I still am in shock and don’t know how to express all my feelings.
We played a great game, controlling the tempo for the first three quarters. Seattle made a late run, but Mitch Kupchak’s 3-point play with 1:30 left may have been the biggest moment of the game. A 105-99 final, with CJ once again coming off the bench to give us a big boost, pouring in 19 points to tie Bobby D for a team-high.
Now it’s time to wait for the team to return home and then take part in the greatest celebration this town has seen in a long time. I’m planning to head to Dulles Airport and welcome them back when they land! And I can’t wait to attend the parade and show these guys what this meant for the city. I’ll have my Fat Lady t-shirt on and I’ll be ready to party!