Mammoth Darry Dawkins scored on a power move to the basket with 14 seconds to play and then skied two feet above the rim to grab a missed Greg Ballard shot with five seconds left, carrying the Philadelphia 76ers to a heart-stopping 93-92 victory over the Washington Bullets in the NBA season opener for both teams last night.
A Capital Centre throng of 19,035, the 11th straight Bullet sellout, was treated to playoff-like tension in the final minutes as the lead see-sawed.
The 6-foot-11 Dawkins proved to be too much, however, grabbing 18 rebounds in addition to scoring 24 points.
Julius (Dr. J.) Erving put on a magical show himself as he scored 27 points and had six steals and three assists.
The 76ers were on the verge of blowing the Bullets out on more than one occasion, but the home team always came up with a way to stay close at least.
The 76ers were ahead, 89-88, and had the ball when Doug Collins tried to dribble near the top of the key and Elving Hayes swiped the ball.
Ballard scored on the ensuing fast break to give Washington a 90-89 lead with 59 seconds left.
Collins answered with a 15-footer to out the Sixers back on top by one, 44 seconds to go.
Twnety seconds later, Ballard grabbed a missed Keving Grevey jumper and muscled in the rebound for a 92-91 Bullet advantage.
The 76ers called a timeout and set a play for Erving.
"The play is designed for me, but I have my choice." Erving said. "I drew four people to me, so I passed the ball to Darryl and he went up strong with it."
Erving drove toward the base line and then passed the ball out to the free throw line to Dawkins.
Dawkins looked at the basket, then took one dribble and laid the ball down into the basket.
"I was going to shoot the jump shot but everyone backed off, so I took it on in," Dawkins said.
The Bullets called a timeout and set a play for Ballard, who was their hottest second-half shooter.
Ballard got the shot he wanted, a 17-footer along the baseline, but it hit the rim and bounded off to Dawkins with five seconds left.
"It was a good shot. It just didn't go in," Ballard said. "It never did feel right when I let it go."
Ballard scored 16 points as a reserve, mainly because Bob Dandridge had an off night offensively, scoring only eight points and also had his problems defensively trying to contain Erving.
Erving, with a shorter haircut and without his customary knee braces, played like the Doctor of old.
In open court situations such as fast breaks, he brought the crowd to its feet time after time with his swooping ball-waving drives.
When he wasn't racing down court on the break, Erving was setting up low and getting practically whatever shots he wanted.
That left Dawkins to roam outside and he made five of his first seven shots, most of them from 17 feet away.
"I didn't want to shoot from that far out, but they kept giving it to me," Dawkins said.
"I know this was only the first game of the season, but it was a much-needed win for us because we have to prove we can beat the Bullets down here."
Elvin Hayes led the Bullets with 25 points and Grevey, who made the Bullets' first three-point field goal of the season, added 16.
Grevey sustained a painful thigh bruise when he was kneed in practice Wednesday, but showed no ill effects last night as he made seven of 16 shots and had six assists.
KevinPorter had 11 assists, but made only three of 11 shots from the field.
The Bullets didn't look particularly sharp, nor did they play badly. The 76ers were just on their game.
"They were sharp tonight; that's for sure," said Hayes." They ran the break well and when they didn't have it, they set up and ran their patterns. They played about as well as they can and we just weren't sharp."
The Bullets will have a chance to sharpen their game tonight as they face the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden (WDCA-TY, Channel 20 at 8 p.m.)