The smart money says Philadelphia will win the NBA championship.
"We closed with the 76ers 7-5, Portland 8-5," Joey Boston declared yesterday from the Stardust Sportroom in Las Vegas. "San Antonio was 5-1, Phoenix 6, Denver 6, Los Angeles and Washington 8."
Oh, how I wish the bright boys were wrong. A dollar invested on Philly is a dollar spent in support of playground basketball, of one-on-one times five, of the Big I, for Individuality. There was the hope that Portland has blazed a new trail last year, or were they merely in the Celtic and the old Knick tradition?
But Portland is hurting, Phoenix bit the dust quickly and unexpectedly against Milwaukee, and Seattle is a year or two away from challenging the heavy heads with its team concept. It is always heartwarming to vote for teamwork, cohesion, character and finesse, as Sports Illustrated did recently by picking Phoenix - but this year it would be costly.
Philadelphia, unfortunately, is going to win. The teams the 76ers are going to play en route to the title are perfect for them. First, the New York Knicks, or "McAdoo About Nothing." Then, San Antonio, which means more run and gun and extra time in the Texas sun. And, in the final round, Denver, probably.
There is a chance, although one that is slimmer than George Gervin, that Washington can upset San Antonio, but don't bet on it. The way "The Ice Man" is talking, the Spurs intend to run the Bullets "beef" into shape for next season, if nothing else. Sounds like Slaughterhouse Five.
The Sixers are too strong on the inside for the Spurs, and quick enough not to be hurt on transition. The cliche is that Gervin and Larry Kenon can be muscled into doing less than their best. If true, Philadelphia has the muscle to provide a test.
Denver, meanwhile, was fortunate in that Milwaukee defeated Phoenix two straight. The Suns probably would have eliminated the Nuggets from the playoffs. Now Denver figures to get past Milwaukee fairly easily and then meet the survivor of Portland-Seattle.
I love the Blazers. Unabashedly. They provided the highlight of the 1977 season by capturing the championship at 6-1. They would have repeated, too, if Bob Gross, Bill Walton and Lloyd Neal were healthy.
Gross' value to Portland is underestimated and he definitely is through for the year because of a fractured ankle. Walton estimates he will be at 60 percent efficiency after not having played for nearly two months. Big Bill has tender tootsies and not even Maurice Lucas can overcome those aches and pains, although Lucas would be a sure thing to intimidate Philadelphia's George McGinnis should those teams meet for the title again.
Portland is no better than even money in my book to get by Seattle. Denver should be favored to beat them; Philadelphia would be. At 7-5, I reached in and took the Sixers, a team I abhor. It's awful what a bettor will do in an attempt to make a little filthy money. Hopefully, next year, a return can be made to backing team-work, cohesion, character and finesse in pro basketball. Those four attributes need a center.
I attempted yesterday to get down a small wager on the Montreal Canadiens in theNHL playoffs.
"You have to be kidding," the bookmaker replied. "The price I would have to quote on the Canadiens would be so short it would kill your interest."
The bookie was as good as his word. He made Montreal 1-10. So I took Boston, Philadelphia and the New York Islanders in the quarterfinals, with Boston to beat New york for the right to lose to Montreal.
The only action available on the Canadiens boiled down to how many games they would lose agains Detroit, Philadelphia and Boston.
"Even money says they'll lose four or more," the book said.
I took it. Three, maybe.Four, never. Not with the troublesome Islanders out of their way.