Tuesday, January 14, 2014

San Francisco vs. Seattle in the Postseason

The Seahawks and 49ers have developed quite the rivalry over the last few years, and it will hit a new peak on Sunday when the two NFC West foes square off in the NFC Championship Game.

Sunday marks just the fourth time in the last two decades that both conference title game participants hail from the same division. The others were:

1999 AFC - Titans d. Jaguars 33-14
2008 AFC - Steelers d. Ravens 23-14
2010 NFC - Packers d. Bears 21-14

These two franchises have never met in the postseason. Looking at the rest of the Big Four pro sports, we haven't seen a Mariners-Giants World Series yet, but we have had two Seattle-San Francisco series in basketball*.

* For the purposes of these city playoff history articles, I split the Giants/49ers and A's/Raiders to S.F. and Oakland, but the two cities share the Warriors and Sharks.

1975 West Semis

Led by Rick Barry, the Golden State Warriors went 48-34 and secured the Western Conference's top seed. The Seattle SuperSonics, coached by the legendary Bill Russell, reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history. The rookie-laden squad finished five games behind the Warriors in the Pacific Division. As the four seed in a five-team bracket, they played a best-of-three first-round series against Detroit, winning 2-1.

Barry scored 39 points (including a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line) in a series-opening blowout win. Seattle stole a road win in the second game, thanks to 28 points from Spencer Haywood, 12 fourth-quarter points from Downtown Freddie Brown and 20 Golden State turnovers.

With the series tied and heading to the Emerald City, Barry scored 33 to push the Warriors ahead again with a 105-96 win. Needing a win in Game Four, Brown poured in 37 in a 111-94 victory that evened the series. Part of the second half of that contest is in the video below.

Back in Oakland, the Warriors took control of the series with a 24-point win in Game Five before going back to Seattle to close it out in Game Six, 105-96. Barry scored 31 in the finale, averaging 27 per game in the series.

The Warriors took down the Bulls 4-2 in the next round to earn a trip to the NBA Finals. The 60-win Washington Bullets were heavy favorites, but Golden State stunned them in a four-game sweep. That remains the club's only title since moving to the Bay Area from Philadelphia before the 1962-63 season.

1992 First Round

The two teams played one more time in the playoffs in a best-of-five set. Golden State's high-flying "Run TMC" trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin was broken up at the start of the season, with Richmond's trade to Sacramento. Still, they won 55 games and held home-court advantage in the 3-vs-6 first round series against a 47-35 Seattle team.

Rookie Gary Payton scored 14 points and doled out 12 assists to support Shawn Kemp's 28-point, 16-rebound effort in a Game One victory. Golden State tied the series two nights later with a 115-101 win.

The pivotal third game in Seattle came down to the wire.

Payton's beautiful alley-oop to Kemp put the Sonics in front by two in the final minute. Later, with the Warriors down 127-126, Billy Owens flipped in a layup to push the visitors ahead (1:36:20 in the above video). Kemp answered with a drive to the basket that drew a foul (1:37:45). With the pressure on, the Reign Man drained both free throws and Seattle took a 2-1 lead in the series.

Game Four belonged to Seattle as well as the Sonics edged the Warriors 119-116 to clinch. The highlight of the game was when Kemp threw down this famous dunk, eviscerating poor Alton Lister.

In the West Semis, Seattle was dispatched in five games by the Utah Jazz. Now that the SuperSonics (RIP) are now the Oklahoma City Thunder, we wait for basketball to return to the Evergreen State.

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