You honestly expected something different from the Washington Bullets last night? They won the National Basketball Association championship last year without the home-court advantage and now have managed to keep the dubious streak alive for the third straight series this year.
The Seattle SuperSonics were in a generous mood much of the game. There was an early boom, then a swoon. But the Bullets refused to accept Sonic largesse again in the second half and again left town firing blanks.
A positive omen?
Well, the Bullets overcame Atlanta and San Antonio on the road, so the faithful who came early with such enthusiasm and left early with such disgust ought not fret too much. Still, there was one disturbing reality in addition to Bullet lethargy: moving Bobby Dandridge to guard might not work this time.
With the Sonics ahead by nine points early in the fourth quarter, Coach Dick Motta went with the lineup that had proved so effective in crucial moments against the Spurs: he sent Dandridge to guard and brought in reserve forward Greg Ballard.
Kevin Grevey's foul problems and injured right leg were among the reasons for the switch-and among the reasons that tactic might be ill-fated this time is that the splendid guard of this series can play defense.
That would be Dennis Johnson, who might not score the most points of the three fine Sonic guards but surely is the best - perhaps in all of basketball - at both ends of the court. He is just the sort to thwart perhaps the best natural forward at both ends of the court.
It is much too early to draw conclusions, about the entire series or the intriguing matchup of DJ and Bobby D. But one play with the Sonics up 11 points in the final three minutes offered evidence that DJ is special.
Dandridge moved him into the Bullet's favorite territory, the left baseline about 10 feet from the basket. Usually, Dandridge will manage some silky move or head twitch that leaves the defender off balance just enough for at least a field goal and often a three-point play.
DJ was not buying fakes. He made Dandridge throw up an awkward shot, which bounced off the rim and into Jack Sikma's hands. Round one went to DJ. And there might not be a round two.
Still, Dandridge hardly was where one begins in findings fault with the bullets. His 15 points in the second quarter and general all-court excellence is the reason the entire Cap Centre did not empty before halfime.
This was a game that began with so much promise for the Bullets and ended on as sour a note as any fat lady could imagine.
Both teams started as though the game would be high scoring and near even the entire 48 minutes. Seattle hit five of its first six shots and led by just two points. Surely, this would be so tense at the end that both the winners and losers could recall seemingly inconsequencial plays that in fact added up to the difference.
What would these small but pivotal plays be? Would it be the awful call against Dandridge when he drove for a basket against Joe Hasset in the second quarter? Or Grevey being called for stepping from front court to back court after retrieving a loose ball.
There even was an odd-play symmetry of sorts. The Bullets lost a seemingly obvious goaltend by Skima and later benefitted from the same non-call. Elvin Hayes was caught for an extremely mindless foul, then DJ committed an even worse one on Grevey with two seconds left before half-time.
The familiar sellout crowd went from sorrow to joy, and to indecision as the third quarter ended with the Bullets somehow down by just two points. This was the time for the usual end-game inspiration, the one burst that would assure victory and a rare 2-0 lead in a series.
That spurt came rather quickly. It came from the Sonics.
Seattle's guards ran away from their Bullet counterparts, as they are supposed to, and Bullet blanks earlier from the free-throw line became significant.
So when DJ had the audacity to post Grevey 15 feet from the basket-and made the shot and the free-throw after being fouled-the Sonics had the Bullets on the ropes. Down by five points, they went to two heroes of late, Dandridge and Larry Wright.
Dandridge missed after a fine defensive effort by John Johnson and Wright, the 12-for-18 shooter in the first game, missed an open jumper from the right baseline. The next possession, Dandridge missed an open jumper from the left baseline.
Then John Johnson scored on a layup off a wonderful feed from Paul Silas and Seattle was up by nine with 8:13 left. That was when Motta played his final ace: Dandridge to guard. And Lenny Wilkens showed a full house of shooters.
So the thought of leaving at that moment went away. But when Sikma kept scoring and once blocked Hayes' layup-and especially when Dandridge's magic failed to fool DJ-a traffic jam began before the final buzzer.
"That's just the way we do things," Wes Unseld said.
Had this been a key game? Unseld rolled his eyes and said: "I'm sure you'll be hearing the same thing next week." CAPTION: Picture, Kevin Grevey penetrates massed Sonics Dennis Johnson (24), John Johnson (27), Shelton and Sikma for successful layup. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post