When Seattle's Gus Williams made just five of his first-half shots today, teammate John Johnson was happy. He knew Washington was in trouble.
"I've seen Gus do that before," said Johnson. "He tried a lot of tough shots in the first half and they didn't go in.
"I know him. When he's off one half, he goes crazy in the second."
That's exactly what Williams did today. He turned the third quarter into his own showcase, running off 14 points, 12 of his team's last 14, to enable the Sonics to open an insurmountable 81-66 lead. The one basket he didn't score, he tossed a beautiful lob feed to Dennis Johnson.
"Gus goes in spurts," said John Johnson. "You know at one point he's going to break out, as long as he has room to maneuver. His shots killed them. They wanted to rally, but how can you when the other team won't miss?"
Williams said his first-half inaccuracy didn't bother him. Shooters, he said, can't fret about temporary slumps.
"My shooting comes and goes," said Williams, who was six of eight the second half. "I'm not a pure shooter, so when things are going badly, Lenny (Wilkens) will sit me down.
"I knew I was okay in the third. He left me in there. But we can't get overconfident about what happened today. We'll have to play much better than we did to win another game. The Bullets didn't play very well today, but they have the kind of confidence to come back in this series if we aren't careful."
With Williams scoring and the Bullets unable to shoot accurately, Seattle rarely had to use its trump card, a double-teaming defense. Even the Sonics were surprised at that turn to events.
"We went in expecting to have to trap them," said John Johnson. "We didn't want to do it the whole game, but we figured we had to use it to win.
"But they couldn't get untracked. They were looking for Elvin (Hayes), but we did a heck of a good job shutting him down. They couldn't get him the ball and things broke down.
"We just played man to man out there and they couldn't hit their open shots. Wes (Unseld) was keeping them in the game. If it hadn't been for him, we would have won a lot easier."
Hayes said Seattle "found a flaw and they milked it. Effort is what this game is all about. You work and if it doesn't go in, you still work hard. There are 20 other teams who aren't here. We are here because of effort and desire."
Wilkens said he was pleased the Sonics did not have to tra. Otherwise, the Seattle coach said, "sooner or later they will find a way to beat it. Now we can use it was a surprise. They'll be guessing about it."
The Bullets no longer are guessing about Fred Brown shooting. The Downtown Bomber, who had been playing so poorly that he got in for just seven minutes in Game 2 Thursday, found his touch today. He made six of nine shots and scored 16 points in just 18 minutes before being kicked in the eye by Washington guard Larry Wright in the second half.
"Fred was passing too much (in earlier games)," said Wilkens. "Now he is looking for his shots. He got out of his rhythm. But I thought he played well today until he got kicked in the head."
Wilkens also was pleased with Jack Sikma's fine play inside. Sikma, who has improved every game of the series, scored 21 points, had 17 rebounds and two blocks before fouling out.
"I've been shooting a little extra in practice," said Sikma, who, like Brown, was in a shooting slump earlier in the playoffs.
Wilkens said Sikma had been told to be "more patient. We knew he would come out of the slump because he is a good player."
Sikma also is involved in most of the round's physical play. He, Unseld and Hayes are in a constant shoving and elbowing match underneath the basket.
Asked if the Sonics were pushing Hayes too much, Wilkens angrily replied, "He's not getting any more than he gives out.
"But give credit where credit is due. We are denying him the ball or making him catch it in places where he doesn't want to catch it. That's what is stopping him." CAPTION: Picture, Larry Wright of Bullets apologizes after hitting Fred Brown in head while trying to stop a shot by the Sonic guard. By Richard Darcey-The Washington Post