Last night we took a trip down memory lane to revisit the classic Mavs-Sonics series from 1987, back when 120-115 scores were commonplace events in the NBA.
It’s only fitting, then, that we recall the great Sonics-Rockets series which that Mavs series preceeded. After taking the first two games of the series, the Sonics split the next two to make the series 3-2 Seattle, setting up the classic Game 6 finale on a Thursday night in Seattle.
“[Game 6] has to be our best game,” Tom Chambers said after the Sonics lost Game 5 in Houston. ''Because we'd have no chance if we have to come back here for a game seven.”
The subplot for Chambers’ comments was obvious to someone following the series back then, but not to people reading the boxscores now. In addition to the fact the Sonics would be on the road for a game seven, they would also be carrying the baggage provided by Dale Ellis and Kevin Williams, who had mixed it up with off-duty Houston police officers at a local nightclub on a Sunday night following Seattle’s game one win in Texas.
After spending the night in jail, Ellis and Williams returned to the court for game two. Williams was the main cause of the problem (according to bar patrons, he refused to leave his area) but it was Ellis who endured the taunts, including one sign with “Free Drinks at the Ocean Club” written on it. The greatest shooter in Seattle history managed to keep it together enough to continue his torrid outside shooting that had begun in the Dallas series a week earlier (and, yes, I see you raising your hand over there, Ray Allen, but, no, Dale was better) .
With the series on the line, then, game six promised to be a classic, and it was. [Side note: Paul will fondly recall, as I do, that we were let out of band practice early that night so that we could take in the game on television. Back then, teachers had their priorities right.] The magnificent trio of Chambers, Ellis, and Xavier McDaniel put 97 points on the board, but it would take double overtime for the Sonics to overcome Hakeem Olajuwon’s 49 points (!), 25 rebounds (!!), and six blocked shots.
There will be little if any of that excitement tonight, though, and what little excitement to be found will be coming solely from the Rockets, who are in the midst of a dogfight for playoff seeding. Gametime for the matchup is 5:30 Seattle time.
Last Friday, the Sonics dropped a miserable game 79-66 to the Rockets, one of their worst offensive showings in an offensive season. Houston is desperate to gain an edge in the playoff matchups to come, as well as to get their ship a little bit more aligned properly. The line started with the Rockets as 17-point favorites, but that has dropped to 15.
Considering how well the Sonics have played in the past two games, I’d be inclined to take Seattle and the points. But when you factor in this being the second in a back-to-back, well, I think the smart wager is to take the Rockets and give up 15. Final score: Houston 99-Seattle 81.