The Philadelphia 76ers completed their remarkable destruction of the Boston Celtics today with a convincing 105-94 victory at Boston Garden to win the Eastern Conference championship in the National Basketball Association playoffs in five games.
The 76ers, who last won the NBA title in 1967, now await the outcome of the Western Conference final between Los Angeles Lakers and Seattle SuperSonics to play for the championship. Philadelphia last played for the title in 1977, when it lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
"When you've got a team like Philadelphia who beat us as badly as they did you know you've got a damn good team, because I know we're a good team," said Celtic Coach Bill Fitch.
Today's game was close for one quarter and then the 76ers called on their reserves and pulled away, following the script of their previous victories in the series.
The 76ers proved they are more than just a supporting cast to the Dr. J show. Julius Erving wasn't much of a factor offensively, but the 76ers still ran circles around the Celtics.
Lionel Hollins scored 24 points, Darryl Dawkins added 18 Bobby Jones came up with another of his outstanding sixth-man performances, adding 19 points.
"We don't have the explosiveness of our teams of the past," said Erving "but we are more versatile. We're a working man's team now."
Defense is where the 76ers won this series.
They held the Celtics under 100 points in all five games and were ready for every move Boston made.
"Our quickness really made a difference, too," said Hollins. "It really dominated the play in this entire series. We just outquicked them at every position.
"Today, they came out as hard as they could and we came out as hard as we could and our quickness took over."
"We played like a team in this series," said Dawkins. "We moved the ball on offense and helped each other on defense. Boston didn't give this to us, we took it."
Hollins scored 11 points in the first quarter as the 76ers moved to a 30-28 lead, but the game still was up for grabs early in the second quarter. But then along came Jones, Bobby that is, and he brought Steve Mix with him.
That duo led the 76ers on a 10-2 scoring spurt midway through the quarter that moved the visitors to a 48-38 lead.
Mix had six of the points and Jones four.
Gerald Henderson sparked the Celtics to an 8-0 run near the end of the period that got them to within two points, but Dawkins made a pair of free throws and then Jones scored on a baseline jumper as the half ended to give Philadelphia a 58-52 lead at intermission.
Jones' skills are subtle. He blocks out well, sets sneaky picks, comes up with loose balls and is responsible for a tough overplaying defense.
As the 76ers were working for the last shot of the half, Jones came up with a loose ball and then got open in the corner for the jumper, knocking it down as the horn sounded.
In one stretch of the third quarter, Dawkins scored 12 of 17 Philadelphia points to get the 76er lead to 12. Dawkins was outmuscling Boston's Dave Cowens, who could only watch him shoot free throws.
"I ask no quarter and I give none," Dawkins said. "I just come to play."
The Celtics looked fatigued in the final quarter, but the 76ers kept running and pressing. They eventually moved to a 19-point lead and then played with the clock.
"Their whole defense was adjusted to stop Doc, so we went to other people," said Coach Billy Cunningham.
Erving played 37 minutes, but took only 10 shots. However, with the Celtics looking for him, that opened up things for the other 76ers.
The Celtics looked like a beaten team. Not much they tried worked and with Larry Bird having an off day, then never really got untracked.
Bird averaged 25 points in the first four games of the series, but Caldwell Jones and Bobby Jones forced him into one of his worst games of the season.
Bird made only five of 19 shots, scoring 12 points, and he had six turnovers.
"He wasn't going to the basket as hard or often as he did in the other games," said Bobby Jones. "I think he was just worn out."
"Things just weren't going my way," Bird said. "I gave it all I had and it wasn't good enough."
Bird's day hit the pits halfway through the final quarter. He had missed six of his previous seven shots, three of them layups, and the Celtics were down, 94-78.
Dawkins was short with a turnaround jumper from the side and Bird was all alone under the basket waiting for the rebound. But as he went up to grab it, the ball clanged off his hands and back up and into the basket for two points for Dawkins.
Bird just lowered his head and sauntered up court.
"We didn't exploit any of their weaknesses," said Cowens, who, along with Tiny Aarchibald, led the Celtics with 22 points. "Whenever we found something that worked we didn't stay with it. We just kept running our regular offense. It wasn't the coach's fault, it was the fault of us out on the floor."
Most of the 76ers pointed to Hollins as the key in the series. He was acquired for cash and a No.1 draft choice from Portland Feb.8, to fill in for Doug Collins, out for the season with a knee injury.
"If we didn't have Lionel Hollins, I wouldn't be sitting here now," said Cunningham. "He came in and blended with our personnel so well. All of the things about his style have gone to improve our team.
"We had trouble with Boston's pressure in the back court in the regular season, but now with Lionel back there, we have another guard who can handle the ball and beat that."
"Lionel gives us a dimension we didn't have before," added Erving. "He's a ball-handler and a scorer who can play defense."