Reprinted from yesterday's late editions The Philadelphia 76ers played as a team tonight, something they have seldom been accused of, and raced through the Houston Rockets in the first game of the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference championship playoff, 128-117.
Six 76ers, led by Julius Erving's 24 points, scored in double figures as the 76ers shot 59 per cent from the field.
Most of their points came at the end of scintillating fast breaks. They had only 13 turnovers, most the result of bad passes after a 76er passed up an open shot.
"This is one of the first times this season we had that many guys play good," Doug Collins said. "Usually it's only one or two."
Collins scored 23 points and added eight assists.
The crowd pleaser was not Dr. J. Erving, nor George McGinnis with his 21 points, nor Collins.
It was the massive Darryl Dawkins, the 76er answer to the Moses Malone of the Rockets.
Like Malone, Dawkins knew he was too good for college, so he went from high school to the NBA. He's bigger and stronger than Malone.
With starting center Caldwell Jones in foul trouble much of the game. Philadelphia coach Gene Shue called on Dawkins early and he didn't disappoint Shue or the 17,507 at the Sectrum.
Dawkins, who used to wear basketball shoes with "Cool" written on them, was that after the game. Asked how his sudden rise to fame was going to affect his head, he said, "My head's always going to be the same. It's big enough now. It can't get any bigger."
The 76ers run their special fast break. There aren't any Wes Unseld-type outlet passes. Whoever gets the ball off the board puts in it on the floor and takes off.
The 76ers shot 63 per cent in the first period with Erving getting 12 and McGinnis 11, but led only 35-30. The Rockets were in the game. because Malone was beating McGinnis for 15 first-quarter points, including their last 11.
Philadelphia was up by five midway through the second quarter. Dawkins then went deep into his bag of tricks.
John Lucas had stolen the ball from Lloyd Free and was leading a three-on-two Houston fast break. He tried to take the ball all the way with Dawkins standing there. It did not work.
The 6-foot-11. 260-pound Dawkins swatted Lucas' layup effor 40 feet, ran it down and dribbled up the right sideline. He finally passed off to McGinnis and continued toward the basket.
McGinnis' return pass was behind Dawkins, but Dawkins reached back and snatched it in the style of a first baseman, ducked his head under the rim and cashed a one-handed reverse slam dunk.
Philadelphia took a 64-57 lead at the half and broke loose for a 36-point third period, once again shooting 63 per cent.
The 76ers simply ran and ran and ran in the third period and the Rockets tried in vain to keep up.
"We got into the game they wanted to get us in," Houston coach Tom Nissalke said, "a run-and-shot game and in a game like that, the team with the best talent will win, and they have the better talent."
As they demonstrated in their semifinal series against Washington, the Rockets always keep plugging away.
The 76ers went into a fouth-quarter lull and behind Goo Kennedy and Mike Newlin, the Rockets cut the lead to seven points at 120-113 with 3 Kunnert with 2:50 play. giving the Rockets a chance to cut the lead to five.
Kunnert missed both free throws, and Erving scored two free throws. After Newlin walked, Drving drilled a 18-footer to pad the 76ers' lead to 11 with 2:14 left.
The second game will be Sunday in Philadelphia.