Patience will be the name of the game when the Philadelphia 76ers and Houston Rockets square off tonight at the spectrum in the first game to the best-of-seven series for the Eastern Conference championship of the National Basketball Association.

The 76ers, blessed with the best individual talent of any team, often have a difficult time playing together and their defense has always been in question.

The Rockets are a little more organized. They have the shooters in Rudy Tomjanovich. Calvin Murphy and Mike Newlin and they have one of the best offensive rebounders in Moses Malone.

The biggest problem facing the Rockets is matching up with Julius (Dr. J) Erving.

"We are an experiment," Erving said of the favored 76ers. "There has never been a team like this team. No one was willing to pay the bucks to get a team like this. We are the outlaws. But we do have some good guys. They say we are overpaid and there is dissension. Well, the dissension will be quieted by the victories.

Erving feels the 76ers are unbeatable in a seven-game series.

"There are teams that can beat us in an individual game might be able to beat us twice, but I can't see anybody beating us four times out of a possible seven. It's beyond my comprehension."

The 76ers beat the Rockets three games out of four this season, but coach Gene Shue says the Rockets are different team now. "This is no time for a letdown," he said.

"We're going to take the ball inside to our strength," said George McGinnis. "More than ever, this is going to be a series truly won on the boards. They're got the greatest offensive rebounder in the league in Moses Malone."

Malone, the 6-10 former Petersburg (Va) High School star, averaged 16.7 rebounds in the Rockets semifinal series against the Washington Bullets that which Houston won, four games to two.

It took the 76ers seven games to get by the defending champion Boston Celtics in the other semifinal series.