The entire game had been a grind, a bruise on the hip and a blot on the shooting percentage of both teams.
And when the visiting Seattle SuperSonics saw Bobby Dandridge's corner shot take flight with two seconds left ' a shot that would have brought Washington a 94-93 win instead of the 93-92 Seattle verdict - it was almost too much to bear.
"I thought something freaky was going to happen," said center Marvin Webster.
Freaky enough had been the previous play that turned over the ball to the Bullets for a last-gasp attempt after trailing the entire fourth period. Fourteen-year veteran Paul Silas was in-bounding the ball to Fred Brown with three seconds left in the game and was called by Earl Strom for stepping over the line.
"I felt like the dumbest player in the history of the game," said Silas. "After 14 years in the league that ain't suppoosed to happen."
A CBS spokesman claimed reruns show Strom's call incorrect.
"I don't really know if I did or not," said Silas. "And it doesn't matter, because we won. I can't recall ever seeing that call in a crucial situation like that."
"You didn't want to look at that shot," said forward, Jack Sikma. "But you had to.
"I'm just glad it didn't go in. We worked hard and we deserved to win this game."
The victory gives the Sonics a 2-1 lead with the next two games in Seattle, beginning tomorrow in the spacious but unfamiliar Kingdome.
"There is no way possible that we're coming back here," said Webster, predicting that the Sonics would sweep the next two games for the championship. "There's no question that we're in very good shape.
"I thought we could have played a little better defensively down the stretch. It shouldn't have come down to that last shot."
It was mentioned to Webster that the Bullets' offense had sputtered badly.
"You know why?" said Webster. "They tried to beat us up. They played physically Thursday, but not like this. You can't just go out and beat guys up, and that's what they were doing.
"That ain't the way the game is played. They tried to force everything and overpower people.
"We played real tough defense, put pressure on their front line, and took them out of what they were trying to run."
Guard Gus WIlliams, who fired the SOnics off to a good start with nine points in the first six minutes, feels the Sonics enjoy an advantage because their offense isn't as concentrated in one area.
"The Bullets go to two people - Elvin (Hayes) and (Bobby) Dandridge said WIlliams. "With us, anyone can get hot. We geared our defense to stop their guards from getting the ball inside. They still have a great ball club. But if we play our game, we won't be coming back here."
Although Hayes scored 29 points for the Bullets, he collected only five points in the final quarter. In the first two games he scored two points in each of the last quarters.
Silas explained, "I front him and three-quarter him, and I'm getting help from the guards. It's very tough to get the ball in to him.
"It was a hard-fought game, grinding it out all the way. I think the whole series will be like that. No one will dominate. We're too good inside and both teams are physical."
A play that particularly helped the Sonics came with 1:23 left when Fred Brown stole a perimeter pass from Charles Johnson and streaked down-court for a layup and a 90-84 lead. Had the Bullets been able to score, they would have pulled to within two with plenty of time left.
"I played him for that pass," said Brown. "He telegraphed it. I glanced at his eyes and anticipated it."