The Washington Bullets, their starting front line having fouled out of the game, lost their chance to tie the NBA championship series at two wins apiece tonight when Seattle pulled out to a 114-112 overtime triumph.
The Bullets rallied from a seven-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to send the contest into the extra period on a rebound by Wes Unseld with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
But Seattle guards Dennis Johnson and Gus Williams combined for the Sonics' first eight points of overtime and a 112-105 lead.
Washington, which lost Elvin Hayes on fouls in the fourth period, had Bod Dandridge and Unseld pick up their sixth personals within 38 seconds of overtime.
Yet with 3 makeshift lineup that had Devin Grivey at small forward, Dave Corzine at center, and Phil Chenier at guard, the Bullets scored six of the game's last eight points and had a final chance in the last six seconds to force another extra period.
Grevey's attempt from 20 feet to the right of the basket was short, however, and Jack Sikma hugged the rebound until the buzzer went off, sending the clubs back to Washington for Game 5 Friday night with Seattle ahead in the series, 3-1.
This night belonged to Williams and Johnson. Williams scored 36 points and Johnson 32 while Sikma added 20, including the Sonics' last two points on a pair of free throws with 39 seconds to go.
It was also a night when the Bullets' Charles Johnson made a comeback after a dismal playoff. He had 18 points, including eight in the fourth period.
Yet he also contributed to Washington's downfall in overtime. He missed two bad shots and could not handle Dennis Johnson, who put in a rebound and a jumper over him. And he fouled Williams, who made two free throws, on a fast break before leaving the game.
This was the best-balanced Bullet offense of the series. Dandridge scored 16, Hayes 18, Unseld 16 and Grevey 18, but it was not enough against the Sonics' sensational back court and the steady play of Sikma, whose five blocked shots were a career high.
This was the Bullets' first game in the Coliseum since their upset triumph last season in the final contest of the title round.
Unlike the massive Kingdome, this facility holds noise much better and is a far more difficult place to play, one reason the Sonics were not that unhappy to have the game here despite the great loss in attendance.
Kevin Grevey, under a lot of pressure after subpar performances in the series, changed his earlier pattern by driving to the basket successfully twice early in the first quarter instead of taking his usual outside jumpers.
But he also missed two perimeter attempts and Seattle opened a quick 8-4 lead with Dennis Johnson scoring four and Gus William two of the points.
The Bullet starting guards took 15 of Washington's first 19 shots. Grevey made three but also missed a layup and had a drive blocked by Dennis Johnson. And to compound Washington's difficulties, Hayes picked up two fouls before the quarter was four minutes old.
A Jack Sikma jumper off a fine Williams feed, then a Paul Silas layup off a goal-tending call on Hayes had Seattle up, 16-10. Silas earlier had connected on a rare outside one-hander that brought a roar from the crowd.
With the Bullets continuing their cold shooting, Seattle finally pulled out to a 26-16 quarter lead when Williams popped a jumper just before the buzzer. It was his eighth point of the period, two more than teammate Johnson.
With almost 15 minutes gone in the half, Dandridge and Hayes had combined for just four points. That lack of output, combined with 25 percent marksmanship in the opening period, when Henderson was one for nine and Grevey three of eight, was throttling any chance of offensive consistency.
Four points early in the second period by Larry Wright and a foul shot by Greg Ballard reduced the deficit to four.
Seattle was having no part, however, of a Bullet comeback, at least at this juncture. The Sonics increased the pace, which immeditately led to a Dennis Johnson layup and a fast-break dunk by Lonnie Shelton off a fine Williams feed. When Fred Brown added a jumper and John Johnson two foul shots off Hayes' third personal, the margin had increased to 10.
It hadn't been a good half for Hayes, who also was smacked with a technical while sitting on the bench midway through the second. But once the returned to the game, he took over.
He scored eight of the Bullets' next 12 points against the smaller Silas while also patrolling the defensive lane. His play also seemed to pick up his teammates, who suddenly began shooting with improved accuracy.
They also discovered their fast break, ripping off two in a row during the comeback. When Greg Ballard finally swished an 18-footer, Washington was within 42-41.
On almost every possession, the referees were calling fouls, putting the crowd in a uproar, since most of the whistles were going against Seattle. Silas, in particular, was having trouble with Hayes and finally went to the bench with his fourth personal.
Washington never did get ahead in the closing stages until the last four seconds, when Wes Unseld couldn't find an open teammate and decided to shoot instead from the top of the key. When his basket went in, the Bullets took a 53-52 advantage to the locker room.
Hayes finished with 12 points in the period and 14 for the half. Unlike the last game, when he was reluctant to put up the ball from the perimeter, he was turning and shooting on every opportunity tonight. And Seattle was hacking him almost every time.
For the quarter, Washington shot a blistering 58 percent, by far their best display for a period since the opener at Capital Centre. One reason for the improvement was a quicker tempo. The Bullets were not relying solely on their set offense, but also getting points off quicker attempts.
Seattle was not doing badly itself. The Sonics made 54 percent of their 22 attempts in the period, yet were outscored by nine points thanks to a 13-5 margin at the foul line during those 12 minutes. Hayes popped in six free throws.
The Bullets still were not able to do much against either Williams or Dennis Johnson, who combined for 28 points before half, making half their 20 shots.
Williams' court-long dashes accounted for 16 points while Johnson, mostly off jumpers, added 212. Sikma scored four of his six near the end of the half.
Every time the Sonics need a big basket, they went to Sikma, whose strange-looking, fall-away jumper is just about impossible to block. At one stage tonight, he had made 10 straight attempts over two games despite heavy defensive pressure from Unseld.
Sikma also had 10 rebounds, the only reason the Sonics were to stay with Washington on the boards. Hayes pulled in seven and Unseld five for the Bullets, who had eight of their nine offensive boards in the second period.
Seattle, for the first time in the round, was doing a worse job than Washington in protecting the ball. The Sonics committed 10 turnovers in the half compared to four by the Bullets.Yet Washington couldn't convert one mistake into points.
A fast-break layup by Grevey to open the third gave his club its biggest lead of the game, 55-52. Then the Bullet guard had a shot blocked, threw away a pass and had a back-court foul to allow Seattle to knot it at 57.
Grevey had another layup blocked and was called for a back-court foul against Sikma, whose free throw made it 59-57, Seattle.
Dandridge was strangely silent through the initial 28 minutes of the game. His four points were far below his normal output, especially during the playoffs. But he was letting the guards take the shots.
That might have been a mistake. While Grevey and Henderson tossed up erratic attempts, Seattle was running off an 11-2 spurt that opened a 65-59 lead.
Williams and Johnson had all but one of those points. Johnson put in one splendid baskets, a reverse layup that avoided block attempts by Hayes and Unseld.
Coach Dick Motta quickly called time out with 8:02 left before the game got out of hand. The tactic worked. Grevey banged in an 18-footer off a set play, Unseld put in a layup and Henderson a tip-in of an Unseld miss to bring the deficit to 67-65.
Hayes made two free throws to tie it at 67 all, on Shelton's fourth foul. The Sonic forward picked up No. 5 moments later and was replaced by Silas. But Henderson likewise had to leave with five.
Seattle tried to make another run to break open the contest. Led by the flashy Williams, who had five points in a row, the Sonics broke to a 72-67 advantage before a Hayes jumper two Grevey free throws again evened off the game.
Yet Washington still had no solution to stopping either Sonic starting guard. Almost anytime they wanted, Johnson or Williams scored.By the end of three quarters, they had combined for 48 of Seattle's 84 points, the major reason the Sonics were ahead, 84-81.
The Bullets suffered a damaging blow when Unseld was caught elbowing Sikma just before the end of the third. It was his fifth foul; Hayes had four.
Hayes was slapped with his fifth in the opening seconds of the fourth and Sikma answered with a jumper over the Bullet forward. Hayes missed at the other end and Dennis Johnson got off a jumper over the smaller Charles Johnson for an 88-81 margin.
Seattle was playing smartly, going to the players who had mismatches.
Now the Sonics wanted to lock up the game. They kept going to Sikma, and he kept answering with jumpers to keep Washington at bay. Then a rebound by John Johnson had Seattle in front 92-87, with 8:02 left.
The Bullets were hurst as Charles Johnson decided to toss up a horrible left-handed hook on a fast break, when he was the only Washington player at that end of the court against three Sonics.
However, Charles Johnson, enjoying by far his best effort of the round if not the playoff, put in two baskets, one off a rare Bullet fast break, and Dandridge and Ballard added field goals and Washington was within 96-95.
Then Brown missed a jumper and Shelton fouled out trying to rebound. Charles Johnson added a jumper over Silas and Dennis Johnson and the Bullets were ahead, 97-96.
The Bullets moved ahead, 97-96, on Charles Johnson's 20-footer from the corner but the Sonics went back ahead, 100-97, on baskets by Dennis Johnson and Gus Williams.
Washington tied the game at 100 with 3:20 to play when Henderson made one of two free throws after a Charles Johnson jumper.
Gus Williams and Sikma put Seattle up, 104-100, at 2:02, but the Sonics were not to score again in regulation play.Greg Ballard's follow narrowed the gap to 104-102 at 2:02 and Unseld's rebound with 18 seconds tied the score at 1:04.
Seattle played for the last shot. Gus Williams missed from outside and Sikma grabbed the rebound and missed at the buzzer. CAPTION: Picture 1, Bullet forward Elvin Hayes stretches to block shot by Lonnie Shelton of SuperSonics in first quarter of Game 4. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post Picture 2, Dennis Johnson beats Bullet guard Kevin Grevey to score for Sonics in opening period. Lonnie Shelton watches. By richard Darcey - The Washington Post.