This may not seem like much to some, but the last time they did so was in 1979, when the then-Bullets won 54 games, clinched the number one seed in the East and played the Seattle SuperSonics in a rematch of the 1978 Finals that they won. Ultimately, the Sonics won the 1979 Finals, four games to one.
1979 was a long time ago. 36 years to be exact. Let's take a look at how things were then vs. how they are now.
Before Sunday's win over Atlanta, who did the Bullets play to win their 46th game?
On March 17, 1979, the Bullets traveled to the Coliseum at Richfield to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Elvin Hayes scored 31 points, and Bob Dandridge added 24 more to lead D.C. to a close 117-114 win over Cleveland, who fell to 28-42 on the season. Campy Russell, Austin Carr, and Bingo Smith combined for 73 of the Cavs' points in the loss.
From the box score, there were three players who received technical fouls: Wes Unseld and Phil Chenier for the Bullets and Jim Chones of the Cavs was ejected after receiving two T's that night. It appears that this game was pretty intense, and the Wizards/Bullets-Cavaliers rivalry goes back much farther back than my lifetime.
Speaking about the rivalry, the Bullets and Cavaliers played at Capital Centre the very next day. The final result was a 126-112 win over the wine and gold.
How do the 2014-15 Wizards stack up against the 1978-79 Bullets?
To find out, let's pull out some pertinent stats for the two teams:
|BASIC STATS||OFFENSE FOUR FACTORS||DEFENSE FOUR FACTORS||RATING & PACE|
|PPG Scored||PPG Allowed||eFG%||TOV%||ORB%||FT/FGA||eFG%||TOV%||DRB%||FT/FGA||O RTG||D RTG||PACE|
|2014-15 Wizards||98.5 (18)||97.6 (9)||50.1% (10)||14.1% (24)||24.8% (15)||19.4% (22)||48.1% (5)||13.0 (19)||77.4% (3)||21.3% (19)||103.9 (21)||103.0 (5)||93.8 (18)|
|1978-79 Bullets||114.9 (3)||109.9 (9)||48.5% (11)||13.7% (1)||34.0% (7)||22.7% (16)||47.5% (3)||13.1% (22)||70.1% (1)||17.6% (1)||107.4 (2)||102.7 (8)||106.5 (9)|
Stats from Basketball-Reference. The Wizards' stats are for games played through Sunday, April 12, 2015. Numbers in parentheses are the team's rank in that statistic among all NBA teams.
Before I get to any comparison analysis, it's important that the current-day Wizards play in a 30-team league, and the 1978-79 Bullets played in a 22-team league. Therefore being 11th in a stat like offensive effective field goal percentage in today's NBA is above average, but in the 1978-79 season, being 11th is right in the middle.
In a nutshell, the stats indicate that the Wizards are a team that prefers to play at a deliberate tempo where they would prefer to speed up or slow down the pace depending on the opposition. Their strength is on the defensive end, where they're good at defensive rebounding and keeping most teams from having above average shooting nights. But for whatever reason, the Wizards are turnover-prone.
The 1978-79 Bullets team played at a slightly above average pace and were very good at offensive execution (they had the lowest turnover rate) while they were just above average in defensive efficiency. This group was a high-scoring bunch!
Who is the franchise player today vs. back in 1979?
The Wizards' franchise player today is John Wall, who went to the University of Kentucky before being drafted number one overall in 2010. He is at the very least, a Point God in the making.
In 1978-79, the Bullets' franchise players were Hall of Fame center Wes Unseld and power forward Elvin Hayes. Unseld went to the University of Louisville -- Kentucky's arch rival -- before being drafted number two overall in the 1968 Draft. Hayes played at the University of Houston before being the number one overall pick in 1968, right before Unseld, where he played for the San Diego/Houston Rockets for four seasons before he was traded to the Bullets in 1972.
How many #WIZ50 wins do the current Wizards have vs. the 1978-79 Bullets?
For control purposes, we will define #WIZ50 wins as a game where the Wizards/Bullets win and score 100 or more points.
The Wizards currently have 29 #WIZ50 wins, and today's as good of a day as any to buy some discounted Papa John's Pizza for yourself, co-workers, or family. Last season, the Wizards gave fans a #WIZ50 31 times. Therefore, the best this season's team can do is match last season's #WIZ50 win total with two regular season games left.
The 1978-79 Bullets averaged 114.9 points a game and won 54 games in the regular season. As you might expect, they would have more wins with 100 or more points than this year's team. But here's the mind boggling stat:
THOSE BULLETS HAD 52 #WIZ50 WINS!
I don't know if the Bullets offered pizza at 50% off or half off a Big Mac in 1978-79 if they won and scored 100, 105, or 110 points. But either way, Papa John's didn't exist in 1979, so thank God the #WIZ50 promotion in its current form didn't exist back in those days for the sake of profit margins. You gotta leave a little money for the franchisees. :)
Which Wizards players were born in 1979?
Paul Pierce was born on October 13, 1977 and was learning to speak words as an infant when the Bullets beat the Cavs on March 17, 1979.
Rasual Butler was born soon after that game on May 23, 1979. This was one day before the Bullets played Game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Seattle SuperSonics with a 1-0 series lead.
What was the Wizards brass doing in 1979?
Wizards head coach Randy Wittman graduated from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis in 1979 where he was a three-year starter. He would later start his freshman year at Indiana University playing for Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight and win a national title in 1981. Sometime after that, Wittman learned how to fart really well and start a long career as an NBA player and coach. Yes, I just HAD to add that link.
Ernie Grunfeld, the Wizards' Team President of Basketball Operations, was playing for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1978-79 season. Though Milwaukee wasn't playing on March 17, they played the previous day when Grunfeld scored six points in a 134-126 double-overtime win against ... the Bullets at Capital Centre.
I'd like to think that those six points Grunfeld scored were what sparked the Bullets to win their 46th and 47th games against the Cavaliers in 1979. With that in mind, it must be destiny that Grunfeld be the principal architect of the first Wizards team to get a 46-win season since then.
Monumental Sports Founder and CEO Ted Leonsis was a recent college graduate and was working for Wang Laboratories, a computer company based in his hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts. While at Wang Labs, Leonsis worked in a technical call center and eventually became an advertising and PR manager for their word processing machines. Check out this interview he gave to the Computerworld Honors Program in 2001 which focuses on his early life and influences. Great read.
What is the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 today vs. March 17, 1979?
For the Week of April 18, 2015, the number one song on Billboard's Hot 100 is "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson, featuring Bruno Mars. It has been number one for 14 consecutive weeks! In fact, "Uptown Funk" tied Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" in 2005 for most consecutive weeks at the number one spot. Here's the music video of what people listen to today (PG-13 lyrics):
Note that the current Billboard week is on a future date, so that makes interesting when determining what song was number one on March 17. 1979.
On Billboard's Week of March 17, 1979 -- which was probably released before that date -- the number one song on the Hot 100 was "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor.
This is also a fitting tune because the NBA Playoffs over the next several weeks will be just about survival.
On the following week of March 24, 1979, the Hot 100's number one song was "Tragedy" by the Bee Gees. I am leaning toward "Tragedy" being the number one song when the Bullets won their 46th game of the season.
I'll leave it to you to determine or speculate what songs the 1978-79 Bullets, Wittman, Grunfeld, and Leonsis were jammin' to back then.
Was any member of the Bullets Forever staff born in the year 1979 or earlier?
Just Nick Bilka. That's why a 46-win regular season means so damn much to us.