The 1992 playoffs marked the dawn of a special era in Sonics history. While a young Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton had made their first playoffs the year before, Seattle had lost to Portland in the first round. 1992 marked the first year in which the duo advanced in the playoffs (with the help of a core of hardened veteran players).
The 6th-seeded Sonics were met by the heavily-favored 3rd-seed Golden State Warriors in the first round of the ’92 playoffs. Coach Don Nelson’s Warriors played a fast-paced, exciting brand of basketball and were led by a duo of elite scorers in Tim Hardaway and Chris Mullin.
The Sonics were able to steal Game 1 in Oakland, while the Warriors evened the series in Game 2. At 1-1, the best of 5 series was up for grabs as the teams headed north. Game 3 would turn out to be one of the most exciting games in SuperSonics history.
The embedded video is the most complete version available online but is unfortunately missing the beginning of the first and second quarters. It’s also dubbed over in a foreign language but you can still hear Kevin Calabro’s amazing call of the game. I’ve added timestamps to help navigate if you’re not watching all the way through. Whatever you do, make sure to watch the final 3:40 of the game (1:43:35 and on).
1st Quarter: 0:00
0:00: The feed picks up midway through the first quarter after a Benoit Benjamin foul on Alton Lister, who makes 1 of 2 from the line to put Golden State up 9-6. Benjamin makes up for the foul with a couple nice moments throughout the game, including fadeaway jumpers on the next possession (0:55) and early in the second quarter (10:25), a putback and an and-1 at 43:50 and 45:18.
After a slashing alley-oop from Lister to Mullin (1:05) increases Golden State’s lead to 11-8, Kemp hits a layup off a nice assist from Derrick McKey (1:30). McKey is excellent in this game, dropping 27 points on 12/14 from the field along with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals. Several possessions later, McKey overwhelms Mullin on a post-up (2:22) to cut the lead to 13-12.
Much of the first quarter is played at a breakneck pace that suits everyone – playing to both the youth and athleticism of the Sonics and Don Nelson’s run-and-gun offense. It’s admittedly fun to watch Mullin play – he clearly has the greenest of green lights and does not hesitate to pull the trigger early in possessions (see 15:14, 28:28 31:55, . Check 7:40 for a sweet give-and-go move you can’t help but tip your hat at.
If you’re watching carefully, you’ll notice former Sonic Alton Lister getting a number of post touches in the first quarter. Lister will feature prominently in Game 4 of this series 😉
The feed skips ahead again to the end of the first quarter with the score tied at 28.
2nd Quarter: 6:32
The second quarter belongs to Sonics sharpshooter Dana Barros. After starting the second quarter on the floor, Barros drills a three at 8:45 to break the tie and put Seattle up 33-30. The following possession he draws much of Golden State’s defensive attention and bangs in another triple off an offensive rebound by Shawn Kemp. Barros connects from deep a third time (12:07) to stretch the Sonics’ lead to 43-36 with 8:29 left in the second quarter. At 18:25 he strips Tim Hardaway.
As great as Barros was for the Sonics in the second quarter, Mullin was even better for the Warriors, scoring 13 in the quarter. Hardaway finally gets on track as well, burying a triple at the halftime buzzer to bring the Warriors within 5.
Other highlights from the second quarter include:
7:28 Fun attacking move from Eddie Johnson
17:26: Nate McMillan triple
24:12: Kemp reenters the game and buries a tough jumper
25:35: Nifty layup from Payton puts the Sonics up 56-50
29:26 Amazing steal/save sequence, Nate fights for rebound and is fouled
31:01 McKey strip steal, fast break Ricky Pierce layup. McKey immeadiatley pokes the ball out again.
3rd Quarter: 34:01
The game loses some of its flow during the third quarter and gets pretty choppy at points with turnovers and misses. Major highlights time-stamped below.
35:29 Huge tomahawk dunk from Kemp
36:55 Kemp finds McKey off an offensive rebound
37:45: Payton signature layup, Sonics up by 9
39:40 McKey continues his white-hot shooting with a three
48:07: Ricky Pierce 3 puts the Sonics up 6 with 5:32 left in the 3rd. Immediately followed by a steal and Kevin Calabro goes crazy on the broadcast.
58:00: Ricky Pierce hits a tough layup to put the Sonics up 7 with 2:44 left in the third
1:03:38: Golden State has cut it to 4. Barros makes a great pass to an open McMillan who misses the three but Eddie Johnson is there to clean it up.
Due to a glitch in the video, part of the third quarter repeats itself. Skip ahead to the start of the fourth.
4th Quarter: 118:51
1:22:45: Derrick McKey continues his fantastic game, hitting a layup at to put the Sonics up 7, 102-95. After trading buckets with the Warriors the next two possessions, Kemp tosses up a beautiful floater. A Hardaway dunk cuts it to 5, and George Karl calls a timeout with 7:54 remaining in the game.
Following the timeout, a crucial Seattle run ensues. Immediately following the break, Nate drills a three (1:30:10) to put the Sonics up 8. Next Sonics possession, Shawn Kemp comes within a hair of throwing down a nasty alley-oop off an absolute dime from Nate. He’s fouled hard and eventually the Sonics push the lead to 11.
1:34:52: With 5:47 left, a Hardaway three cuts Seattl’s lead to 8. After the Sonics are called for a technical, the Warriors close the gap to 5 with 5:05 left in the game after the Sonics are called for a technical. Seattle can’t stop Sarunas Marciulionis from getting to the line.
1:42:15: Marciulionis buries 2 free throws, 3-point game.
1:42:45: Marciulionis layup, 1-point Sonics lead.
1:43:35: Hardaway hits a driving layup and the Warriors take a 1-point lead with 3:40 left.
You’ll have to watch the rest, the final 3:40 is nothing short of thrilling.