Frustrated by Seattle's better play in the NBA championship series, the Bullets now have decided to take on a second foe: The NBA refereeing corps.
Coach Dick Motta, who criticized San Antonio's Doug Moe for knocking the referees and demeaning the quality of their conference title round, blasted the officials Tuesday night after falling to the SuperSonics, 114-112.
"In our last San Antonio game, the referees were accused of favoring the cahmpions," said Mota in measured tones. "The Muhammad Ali privilege has been extended to the Washington Bullets. I believe that tonight we were the victim of Doug Moe's outburst.
"Seattle played the last 14 minutes without committing a foul. I honestly believe in an NBA game that an opponent cannot play 14 minutes without committing a foul."
Motta was referring to Moe's statement that the refs are protecting the Bullets and possibly that Game 7 of the San Antonio series has been fixed. Moe was fined $3,000 for his charges, the largest coaching penalty in league history.
Yesterday, Motta admitted his arithmetic was a bit shoddy. The Sonics were not called for a foul in the final 8:47 of the overtime game, starting with the last 3:47 of regulation. Seattle had only three team fouls in the fourth quarter and none in the extra period.
"Eight minutes is still too long without a foul," said Motta, whose team picked up 34 personals to 25 for Seattle, including 22 to nine in the second half.
In Game 3 Sunday, the Bullets had four fewer fouls than Seattle and not one of their players came close to picking up six. In the first half, Bob Dandridge, Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld didn't have a personal among them. Washington still lost, 105-95.
All three front-court stars fouled out Tuesday night, Hayes in regulation and Dandridge and Unseld in the final two minutes of overtime.
"It's just a shame," said Hayes, "that these teams can't decide the game on their own instead of having the officials figure in. We are still feeling the effects of what Doug Moe said and that isn't right. Someone has to pay the price (for criticizing the refs) and I guess the weight has shifted to us."
Motta's outburst probably came in part out of frustration. He admitted the loss Tuesday left him feeling "as bad as I have after any game in all my years as a coach.
"We played well enough to win. I told my team after the game if we played like this we'll win it (the series).
Despite Motta's charges, the officiating did not appear to be one-sided, although two of the three members of the referee crew - Lee Jones and Bob Rakel - are not normally considered among the top eight in the league. Of the three, only Darell Garretson is a lead official.
Seattle did not benefit from the calls at the foul line, missing 13 of 39 free throws. Washington actually scored two more points on foul shooting.
The only Sonic to foul out was forward Lonnie Shelton. Dennis Johnson had five and Jack Sikma and Paul Silas four fouls each. Tom Henderson and Charles Johnson had five for Washington.