The defending NBA champion Seattle SuperSonics put on a dazzling display of their might last night and the Washington Bullets were no match for them.
The Sonics looked invincible as they never let up with the pressure from beginning to end and raced by the Bullets, 120-100, before 13,408 at Capital Centre.
It was the Sonics' fifth straight victory and 31st in their last 39 games.
"We just played a sound, fundamental game," said forward Paul Silas. "We just took the game right away from them."
The Sonics' main man last night was guard Dennis Johnson. Johnson, the most valuable player in last year's championship series, controlled the game in palms of his hands last night.
He scored 34 points on 11 of 19 shooting from the field and added 10 assists, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.
He scored on jump shots, lob passes, fast break solos and tip-ins. He also got the crowd buzzing with a couple of nifty behind-the-back passes for assists.
"When Dennis' concentration is on and he is determined, he is the best all-around guard in the league," said Seattle Coach Lenny Wilkens.
"There are only a select few who can dominate a game from the guard position and Dennis is one of them," Silas added. "I haven't seen anyone come along like him since Oscar Robertson."
Johnson had 22 of his points in the first half as the Sonics built a 61-46 lead.
His most impressive plays of the night came in the third quarter, however. He started with a fantastic 20-foot bounce pass behind his back to John Johnson for a fast break basket.
Later in the period, he faked right and cut toward the basket from the left side. He had a step on Jim Cleamons and Gus Williams lobbed a pass in his direction. The pass was a little too high and behind Johnson, but he somehow got to it and as he was twisting, tapped the ball in with his left hand before he came down out of bounds.
He then ended the period with an incredible three-point play against Bob Dandridge. Johnson had taken off on a breakaway and Dandridge, trying to prevent a cinch basket, grabbed Johnson, but as the Seattle guard was falling backwards and out of bounds, he flicked the ball up with his left hand and it fell through. His ensuing free throw gave the Sonics a 96-77 lead going into the final quarter.
"I think I can do whatever I want on the court," Johnson said, "but the important thing about this team is that we do everything we can to win. We don't have any flamboyant stars. We just go out and try to win, no matter what it takes."
The Sonics, normally a well-disciplined defensive-minded team, got a lot of their points off the fast break last night.
They controlled the boards, out-rebounding the Bullets, 51-38, and got inumberable uncontested baskets.
They also threw a full-court press at the Bullets that the home team had no idea how to handle. That forced eight turnovers in the first quarter and once the Bullets got down, they didn't have the tools to dig themselves out of the hole.
"Our full-court press got us going and we just never let up," said Silas. "We aren't a great fast-breaking team. Our strength is rebounding and defense, but when our running game is going we are almost impossible to beat."
Wilkens said last night was as well as the Sonics have played all season and Johnson said it was partly because they had a score to settle with the Bullets.
"There was a little vendetta for what they did to us in Seattle," Johnson said, referring to the Bullets' 139-134 double overtime victory at the Kingdome two weeks ago.
The Bullet problems started early as Greg Ballard, their hottest player and the NBA player of the week last week, picked up three fouls in the first five minutes and never could get going. Ballard, who had 48 points in his last three games, scored only four last night.
Larry Wright led the Bullets with 20 and Dandridge, coming off the bench, added 16.
The Sonics led 29-27 after the first period and the Bullets began the second quarter by missing their first four shots. Seattle, meanwhile, was getting baskets from Jack Sikma, Fred Brown and Dennis Johnson, and moved to a 35-27 lead. The Bullets never recovered.
The guard oriented Sonics got 69 points from their back court as Gus Williams added 19 points, Brown 12 and rookie Vinnie Johnson, four.
The defeat ruined another Bullet chance to reach the elusive .500 mark, as they dropped to 20-22.