Seattle concentrated on defense last night - the phase of the game it believes it must dominate to beat the Bullets in the championship series.
"We were the No. 1 team in the league in defense this year," said guard Gus Williams. "If we keep proving it this series, we'll keep having good results."
The Sonics planned to mix up defenses, pressing sometimes, collapsing inside to double-team Bullet inside men and generally forcing Washington shooters out of their favorite spots.
Sonic guard Dennis Johnson, a first-team ALL-NBA defensive selection, explained his modus operandi.
"I wanted to force their players a couple of feet further out than they are used to shooting from," Johnson said. "If a guy shoots well from 15 feet, then I want him to take it from 18 or 19. I gamble a lot, try to steal a pass or two, but generally I want to keep my man off balance."
Johnson had the job of guarding Bullet forward Bob Dandridge in the late stages of the game and performed well. Dandrige, who normally takes charge in the crunch of a tight game, got off only four shots in the final nine minutes - missed them all.
Fifteen-year veteran Paul Silas did a good job on Elvin Hayes, holding the big forward scoreless on his only two fourth-quarter attempts. Hayes attempted only six of his 17 shots after halftime.
"When Elvin hasn't shot much, he has a reluctance to give the ball up when he gets it," said Silas. "In the fourth period, he hadn't had it for awhile, so when he got it he was standing around with it and not giving it up. That slowed down their offensive flow."
Silas explained how he denied Hayes the ball.
"I fronted him sometimes," Silas said. "I was trying to beat him to his favorite spots. If he got there, a guard would come over to help out."
How did the guard know when to give aid?
"When he got to that one spot he likes, I'd holler for the nearest guard to come quick," Silas said.
Williams said that, except for selected instances, the Sonic guards did not sag inside to help out as much as in Game 1. The Sonics also pressed slightly more often than in the first game.
"We had no rhyme or reason for pressing," Williams said. "Somebody on the bench or one of the players on the floor would signal for the press when the urge hit.We just wanted to keep them off balance, not knowing what to expect."
Sonic Coach Lenny Wilkens assessed the reason for Seattle going scoreless in the final 4-minutes-plus of the first half, while Washington was running off 12 straight points to take a three-point halftime lead.
"We lost our movement," Wilkens said. "In the second half, we began going inside better. That gave us more options when it opened up the court. We came into the game wanting to mix it up both outside and inside on offense, but particularly to work it into our big men more."
Jack Sikma, who scored several crucial Fourth-quarter baskets to help the Sonics hold the lead, added that when the Bullets started collapsing to help out inside, it opended up easier shots for the Sonic guards.
"We just played our usual game," Sikma said. "We're much more disciplined this year. Last year, we depended more on emotion. This year, we rely on what got us here."