"I thought we were going into overtime, but then I saw him (official Ed Rush) pointing at me and giving the three-for-two sign," said Seattle guard Dennis Johnson. "I couldn't believe he was calling a foul on me."
Rush did call a foul on Johnson, sending Bullet guard Larry Wright to the foul line with no time left. Wright missed his first shot, then made two to win the game for the Bullets, 99-97.
Johnson, Sonic Coach Lenny Wilkens and most of the other Sonics stormed at Rush, screaming that no foul should have been called.
"I thought I hit the ball, but the ref said I fouled him," Johnson said. "I'm not going to say anything about the ref because you pay dearly if you do. It really doesn't matter if it was a block or not. It's what the ref calls. He called a foul so all I can say is that it was a foul. I have to accept it. It's over and we're down one game."
Johnson's man on the play actually was Kevin Grevey. "Grevey shot out to the corner and I started to go with him," Johnson said, "and I saw Wright just spin into the middle. My main thought was to cut off the passing lane to Grevey and help in the middle. When I saw Wright was going all the way, I reacted. I thought I hit the ball, but the ref said I fouled."
Paul Silas did not take the outcome as graciously as Johnson. "If there are six or seven seconds left in the game, that's one thing, but you can't make a call like that with no time left," he said. "It's just a bad way to lose a ball game. In the regular season is one things, but the world championship is something else.
"I had a very good view of the play - about as good as the referee had - and I didn't see a foul," Silas added.
"Even if someone had touched him it was after the clock ran out. It's a judgment call and it's wrong to maybe decide the world championship on a call like that. I've never been in a championship game with no time left and a referee making a call like that," the 15-year NBA veteran said.
There were other late-game calls that bothered Silas. He was upset over a ruling that gave the ball to the Bullets with 1:37 left after the Sonics say Elvin Hayes knocked the ball out of bounds. He also questioned a call with five seconds left when Lonnie Shelton lost a rebound out of bounds.
"Lonnie clearly gained possession at one point and we were calling time out and they don't give it to us," Silas said. "To take the game away from us like that is horrible. To struggle so hard and come back and have the game end like that . . ."
Gus Williams, who led the Sonics' comeback from 18 points down in the final 9:32 by scoring 14 of his game-high 32 points in the fourth quarter, also turned out to be the goat of sorts. He missed seven of 11 free throws and Wright was his man when the drove for the basket reusulting in Johnson's foul.
"Wright just beat me, down the lane." Williams said. "He got that first step on me and was by. He played a great overall game."
As bitter as the Sonics were about the game's final play, they admitted they never should have gotten into that position in the first place.
Rebounding is Seattle's strength, yet the Bullets beat the Sonics on the backboards, 55-41. Seattle also made only 11 of 23 free throws.
"Missing those 12 free throws didn't help," Wilkens said. "If we had made them, the game wouldn't have gone down to that one play.
"We started the game out standing around too much. We can't afford to stand around. It makes it too easy for a team like the Bullets."
"We didn't apply enough pressure on them in the first three quarters and that made things too easy for them," Williams said. "A team like the Bullet rises to the occasion.
"On my free throws . . . I just missed. That happens sometimes."
"If we played our game it really wouldn't have come down to that one play," Silas added.
Johnson said the Sonics were not clicking until the fourth quarter. "We just weren't playing well together," he said. "We started coming when we went to the press, but we waited too long to do it."