"Nothing unusual," said Philadelphia reserve Bobby Jones, referring to Julius Erving's critical fourth-quarter steal and layup in last night's 112-104 triumph over Washington. "Doc always makes the big plays when it counts. Always."
The one play Washington fans will remember at least until the Bullets return for training camp in September was Erving's steal from Bullet guard John Williamson that all but sealed the end of a long, frustrating year for Washington.
Williamson, whose deft fourth-quarter shooting (14 points) brought the Bullets back, had just hit a jump shot to cut the deficit to four points, 106-102, with 1:25 left. Following a 24-second violation, the second one of the period against Philly, the Bullets called time out and got the ball at midcourt.
"We didn't set up any special defense. At least, we didn't talk about one," said Erving, who finished with a game-high 31 points to help the 76ers clinch the best-of-three mini-series. "We just wanted to stop them from scoring again. We couldn't stop 'Supe' (Williamson) or (Elvin) Hayes in the last quarter. They were rolling right then."
Williamson had just taken the ball from Larry Wright near midcourt and had begun to move toward the basket. Erving suddenly joined 76er guard Lionel Hollins on a double team and Williamson was trapped.
Hollins forced Williamson to reverse his dribble and Erving reached in and batted the ball away. The quick-reacting 76er forward then picked up the ball and, with what seemed like one gigantic stride, was leaning over a Bullet defender for a finger roll layup. It gave his team an insurmountable 108-102 advantage with only 51 ticks on the clock.
"I think we surprised him (Williamson) a bit," Erving said. "When he began his move, we went after him. When the ball came loose, I tried to roll it up court but it went only about two inches.
"So right then, I decided I'd better pick it up. I didn't want to risk a pass, so I took it all the way."
When Erving's layup trickled through the net, the previously boisterous, hopeful Capital crowd headed for the aisles.
"His basket did it," said 76er Coach Billy Cunningham. "Julius is great in the fourth periods, when it usually counts the most. That's why we went to him a lot in the period."
Before the Doctor went to his bag of tricky layups (59 varieties) and 16-foot jumpers, in the crucial quarter, he was content to be just a part of the 76er express in the first three periods.
"We aren't just a one-man show. When a man is hot, we give him the ball," said Caldwell Jones, who scored only six points and collected four rebounds after destroying Washington with a 26-rebound, 18-point game Wednesday night. "Our reserves always come in and do a good job. The season is too long to count on just five guys. When I got in foul trouble, Bobby (Jones) came in and did the job. I knew it wouldn't be my night when the ball hit me in the nose during the warmups."
The 7-foot Jones, who wears a hideous mask to protect a broken nose, was listed as doubtful for last night's game after spraining his ankle Wednesday night. The veteran center wasn't missed much when he went to the bench with three fouls with the game not yet five minutes old.
In trotted another Jones -- Bobby -- who wasted no time giving the Bullets the blues. The 6-8 forward, who may have the quickest first step to the hoop in the league, scored eight of his 18 points in the first quarter to help Philadelphia go ahead, 31-20.
"I was just trying to get the team running," Jones said. "We felt we could run on this team and beat them down the floor. We created a lot of turnovers and turned them into easy baskets."
In the first half alone, Jones and two other key reserves, guard Henry Bibby and forward Steve Mix, hit 13 of 19 shots and accounted for 31 of the Sixers' 64 points. Washington got 17 points from its bench in the first two periods.
The 76er bench was not as productive in the second period, but most of the damage was done. When Cunningham finally told his bench they were finished for the evening, the 76ers still led by 10 points with six minutes to go.
"Everyone chipped in a little," Erving said. "Our bench came in and did a good job for us early and we got the big lead. At the end, we were just trying to protect it."
Philadelphia slowed down just enough to allow the Bullets to creep back into the game. But Erving, who played 47 minutes, still had a few tricks left. He scored two of his team's final three field goals, had one assist and one rebound in the final two minutes.
"I did my part," Erving said. "But Darryl (Dawkins) got those last few rebounds. Did you see those last two? No one could have gotten those but him. You got to give everyone a little credit for this win. We beat a good team."