Although the pros are down to two teams, the basketball season is far from over.
The National Basketball Association championship series opens Sunday in Philadelphia, the 76ers vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. But don't hold your breath for game No. 2 in the best-of-seven final set.
It will be Thursday, May 26. The four-day pause is not for travel; game two is also in Philadelphia. By stretching out the suspense, television moguls are apparently setting up as many weekend games as possible.
All the games in the series will be televised in Washington on WTOP-TV-9.
The Sixers have struggled to get this far. They needed seven games to eliminate the Boston Celtics and six to put away the Houston Rockets.
The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, dominated in three preliminary series, finally sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in four games. Both Denver and Los Angles had the home-court advantage against the Trail Blazers and it made little difference. The 76ers have the home-court advantage in the championship series.
Both teams like to run and how they do it, is the key to their respective styles. The Trail Blazers have the great dominating center in Bill Walton, and he gets all the help he needs on the boards from Maurice Lucas.
The Trail Blazers press full court and run the traditional outlet-pass, fill-the-lances fast break. They are not flashy. Balance is the name of their game.
The 76ers run a more individually oriented break. Whoever gets the ball off the defensive board usually takes off and anyone fast enough to keep up, takes off with him. Few teams are fast enough to run with the 76ers, but the Trail Blazers are one of the few.
The two split their four-game regular season series, each winning on its own court. All games were close except a 146-104 licking the Trail Blazers inflicted on the 76ers in November.
As in most series, the key is in the matchups and the advantage goes to the Trail Blazers.
They have better overall quickness, they are not dependent on one man and they seldom beat themselves.
The 76ers have trouble at times keeping their minds on the game. They blew a 17-point lead to the Rockets in game five of their playoff and needed a heroic effort from Julius Erving to win, 112-109, in the series clincher Tuesday night in Houston.
Coach Gene Shue says the 76ers have as many and perhaps more plays than any other team, but when their backs were against the wall Tuesday night, they can their two favorite plays, "Doc, come get it" and "Doc, go get it," both worked.
Bob Gross, the Trail Blazer who probably will get the assignment to guard Erving will be at a great disadvantage, as will whoever must guard 6-6 Doug Collins.
Gross will run Erving on offense, but will need help on defense.
The 76ers have no one to match up with Walton.
The key matchup will be Lucas-George McGinnis.
McGinnis is hobbled by a pulled groin muscle but as one NBA observer said, it won't matter, "George couldn't handle Maurice when they were in the ABA and he can't handle him now."