The Philadelphia 76ers didn't need any heroics from the Doctor tonight. Two unlikely stars, Caldwell Jones and Lionel Hollins, provided most of the punch as the 76ers downed the Bullets, 111-96, at the Spectrum for a 1-0 lead in the their best-of-three NBA Eastern Conference first-round play-off.
The 7-foot-1 Jones, playing with a mask to protect a broken nose, scored 18 points and seized a season-high 26 rebounds before spraining an ankle, late in the game. Hollins made 10 of 16 shots and scored 21 points.
Jones also took Elvin Hayes completely out of his game, forcing the Bullet veteran into six-for-16 shooting.
"They showed tonight that they are a damn good team, even without the Doctor (Julius Erving) playing well," commented Dick Motta, the Bullet coach.
"Caldwell was tough, but I think thekey to the game was Hollins. He was a great pickup for them. They got him almost as an afterthought, too, because they really wanted Pete Maravich."
After Utah's Maravich signed with the Boston Celtics as a free agent just before the Feb. 15 trading deadline, the 76ers acquired Hollins from Portland.
Kevin Grevey more than offset Hollins with an impressive 34-point night, including four of seven three-point shots, but to no avail.
"We aren't going to beat them from outside," Grevey said. "Our game is inside. But we broke down underneath tonight. We didn't get the inside game going. E tried hard, but he just didn't have a good game."
Greg Ballard, although he did a good job defensively on Erving, was not very productive on offense, either, as he made five of 15 shots.
"They're entitled to bad games, but when 90 percent of our offense is going to the forwards and they aren't getting the points . . ." said center Wes Unseld.
"Our forwards are our bread and butter," Motta said. "We have to keep going there."
Erving has been bothered by a sore knee and he played with it heavily bandaged tonight. He was not moving very freely and never really got involved in the Sixer offense. He missed 14 of 19 shots and scored only 13 points. As a result, the 76ers were not their usual wide-open, running and-gunning, crowd-pleasing selves. Tonight they were methodical, running a crisp half-court offense and forcing the Bullets into making mistakes.
"They were very serious tonight," Grevey said. "Usually they jive around during warmups, but not this time. I knew it was going to be a rough game before it even started."
The Bullets were the ones who started fast, though, bursting to an 8-0 lead as they made their first four shots. But the 76ers came right back with an 8-0 counterattack -- and eventually led, 25-24, after one quarter.
The Bullets caved in late in the second quarter. They were down by only 43-41 with 3:07 left in the half when Motta took Unseld out for a rest. With Unseld on the bench, the 76ers outscored the Bullets, 14-4 to take charge with a 56-45 halftime lead.
Reserve Steve Mix furnished five of those 13 points, Caldwell Jones and Hollins three each and Maurice Cheeks two.
In that span, the Bullets committed three turnovers and missed three of four shots.
Seven points was the closest the Bullets could get to the 76ers in the third period and that came right at the outset on back-to-back breakaway baskets by Kevin Porter and Grevey.
A 17-footer by Hollins and a pair of free throws by Erving got those points back and the Philadelphia lead was restored to 10 points, at 79-69, going into the final 12 minutes.
The Bullets never came closer than nine points, the last time at 85-76, after a baseline jumper by Grevey with 8:41 to play.
The trouble was that Grevey was the only Bullet to score in the first 6 minutes 12 seconds of the quarter, making a three-point shot and two jumpers.
After Grevey's third basket, the 76ers ran off eight points, four by Henry Bibby, and led by 93-76.
The 76ers didn't vary from their conservative play until the final four minutes when the game was sewn up. Then they put on a fast-breaking, slam-dunking, shot-blocking show that had the 12,567 at the Spectrum up and screaming.
In one stretch, the 76ers threw down five straight dunks, two by Erving and one each by Bobby each by Bobby Jones, Clint Richardson and Darryl Dawkins. "They 76ers are so talented that it's almost impossible for us to establish control of the game," Grevey said. "We're talented, but not as talented as the 76ers. We have to really get after it to have a chance and we just didn't do it tonight."
The second game of the series will be Friday night at Capital Centre at 8:35. A Bullet victory would force a deciding third game Sunday afternoon at the Spectrum.
A Bullet loss would end Washington's season.
"It's going to be awfully tough to beat them, now," Grevey said. "Our best chance was probably tonight."
As an indication of how haphazard the Bullet offense was, they tried 12 three-point shots. Five were good, the other one by John Williamson.
Williamson, a dreadful performer the last part of the season, perked and scored 13 points, making five of eight shots.
"We didn't put much together tonight," added Unseld. "I don't think they were that good, we just didn't seem to play very inspired. I don't know why. This was typical, though. I haven't been pleased with the overall intensity of the Bullets all year."