The 1979 finals were a repeat of the previous year’smatchup between the SeattleSuperSonics and Washington Bullets who were in their third final in the past fiveyears.
The SuperSonics 52-30 were coached by former Hall of Fame player Lenny Wilkins and featured Jack Sikma 15.6 ppg/12.4 RPG, Dennis Johnson 15.6 ppg/3.5 apg, and Gus Williams 19.2 ppg.
The Bullets 54-28were coached by Dick Motta andfeatured Elvin Hayes 21.8 ppg/12.1 rpg, Bob Dandridge 20.4 ppg, Wes Unseld 10.9 ppg/10.8 rpg and Kevin Grevey 15.5 ppg.
Washington had the best record and home field advantage and game one was at Landover, Maryland. In a close game the Bullets pulled out a 99-97 win behind Larry Wright contributing 26 points off the bench, Bob Dandridge with 23 points/11 rebounds and Wes Unseld 12 rebounds.
For the SonicsGus Williams had 32 points, Dennis Johnson added 23 points/ 7 assists and John Johnson contributed 14 points/11rebounds in a game which the Bullets were ahead at the three quarter mark by ten points but Seattle closed the gap in the fourth quarter.
Game two was still at the Capitol Centre in Landover, Marylandand in another tight game the Sonics pulled out a 92-82win behind Dennis Johnson’s 20 points /6 assists who played 46 minutes of the 48 minute game, Jack Sikma with 14 points/12 rebounds/ 4 blocks, Gus Williams with 23 points and another big game from John Johnson 17 points/11 rebounds.
Elvin Hayes 20 points/11 rebounds, Bob Dandridge 21 points and Wes Unseld 12 rebounds led the losing team as tied at one game each the series shifted to the Kingdom in Seattle.
The large crowd may have upset Washington’scomposure as they made only 33% of their field goal attempts and lost 105-95. The Sonics were led by JackSikma 21 points/ 17 rebounds, Dennis Johnson 17 points/9 rebounds/ 9 assists, and GusWilliams 31 points.
The losing Bullets were led by Bob Dandridge who played all 48 minutes and scored 28 points, Wes Unseld who played 47 minutes and had 32 points/ 14 rebounds and Elvin Hayes with 19 points/ 14 rebounds.
In the key game of the series and the closest the venue moved to the 14,000 seat Seattle Center Coliseum from the 35,000 seat Kingdome and Washington played much better.
Behind Wes Unseld with 16 points and 16 rebounds and Hayes, Charles Johnson and Kevin Grevey scoring 18 points each the game was tied after regulation 104-104.
The Sonics held on for a 114-112 victory with a key block by Dennis Johnson in the last four seconds of the game preserving the Seattle victory who were led by Johnson 32 points/ 10 rebounds/ 4 blocks, Jack Sikma 20 points/ 17 rebounds and Gus Williams with 36 points.
The Sonics were deeper as a team and hungry for victory.
Game five was back in Washington with the Bullets trying to stave off elimination. They took a first quarter lead but Seattle chipped away in the next three quarters and pulled out a 97-93 victory for the Sonics first and only NBA title.
Playing all 48 minutes Elvin Hayes scored 29 points and had 14 rebounds while Bob Dandridge contributed 20 points/ 9 rebounds.
For the winners Dennis Johnson whoalso played 48 minuteshad 21 points/ 5 assists, Jack Sikma 12 points/17 rebounds and Gus Williams added 23 points.
Dennis Johnson got series MVP and the Sonics returned to the NBA finals in 1996 against the Micheal Jordan led Chicago Bulls while Washington has not been in an NBA final since 1979.
It would be the last final for Unseld and Elvin Hayes while young Dennis Johnson would appear in five more finals in the 1980’s with the Celtics.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate