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The defending champion Portland Trail Blazers started with a 50-10 record and looked poised to repeat, but Bill Walton broke his foot and was sidelined for the remainder of the season. The Blazers, hurt by Walton's absence and by other key injuries, faded to an 8-14 finish and lost to the Sonics in the Western Conference semifinals.
On December 9, 1977, Kermit Washington punched Houston Rockets player Rudy Tomjanovich in the face during an NBA game. Tomjanovich sustained serious injuries and missed the rest of the season. The NBA fined Washington $10,000 and suspended him for 26 games.
Throughout the 1977-78 season, CBS broadcast NBA games during the regular season and the playoffs. During halftime of those games, they showed a pre-taped H-O-R-S-E tournament pitting players from the NBA against each other. It featured, among others, Pete Maravich, Paul Westphal, Bob McAdoo, Kevin Grevey, and George Gervin. Maravich and Westphal made it to the final, and CBS originally planned to hold their match at halftime during an NBA Finals game. However, Maravich was injured and could not participate, so CBS decided to have Westphal compete against "Bag-Man" (who was actually analyst Rick Barry with a bag covering his head) by letting them both shoot a free throw. Westphal, blindfolded, went first and hit his. Barry missed, and Westphal was awarded the trophy. H-O-R-S-E featuring NBA players would not be re-instituted for 31 more years (until the 2009 All-Star Weekend).
This was the first season since the 1949-50 season that no Boston Celtics player was named to either the First or Second All-NBA Team.
With 8 minutes and 43 seconds of the final quarter remaining in the game between the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks on the 25th of November, the Hawks were leading by 29 points, and looked set for an easy win. The Bucks then outscored the Hawks 35-4 to win the game by two points, 117-115. The Bucks' victory is still the biggest fourth quarter comeback in NBA history.
Teams in bold advanced to the next round. The numbers to the left of each team indicate the team's seeding in its conference, and the numbers to the right indicate the number of games the team won in that round. The division champions are marked by an asterisk. Home court advantage does not necessarily belong to the higher-seeded team, but instead the team with the better regular season record; teams enjoying the home advantage are shown in italics.