The Philadelphia 76ers have "the Doctor" and a big, intimidating team to back him up. They're talented, deep, confident and good -- afraid of nothing.
But, nevertheless, the 76ers are more than a bit concerned. Standing between them and the National Basketball Association championship they've had within their grasp the last four years lurks the indomitable Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
While the 76ers used a battery of weapons to eliminate the Boston Celtics in five games in the Eastern Conference finals, the Los Angeles Lakers simply followed Abdul-Jabbar, who carried them past the defending NBA champion Seattle SuperSonics in five games in the Western Conference finals.
The Sonics were ousted Wednesday night at the Forum when Abdul-Jabbar scored 38 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked seven shots in leading the Lakers to a 111-105 victory.
That set the stage for the championship showdown that will begin Sunday at the Forum (WDVM-9, 3:30 p.m.)
The second game of the best-of-seven series will also be in Los Angeles Wednesday, before play shifts to the Spectrum in Philadelphia for the third and fourth games.
"From the beginning, Kareem decided this was the Lakers' season, and he was singlehandedly led us that way," said Laker Coach Paul Westhead. "If you're a fast-breaking team, falling behind is not a threat. And if we can get it close, the man (Abdul-Jabbar) takes over."
Abdul-Jabbar took over the entire playoffs. In 10 games of the eliminations (five against Seattle and five against Phoenix), he has averaged 31.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots.
"This has been a great season so far and we will be ready for Philadelphia," said Laker rookie Earvin (Magic) Johnson. "You can go a long way with a great player like Kareem -- like all the way to the championship."
Neither the Suns nor the Sonics had anyone who could handle Abdul-Jabbar. Alvan Adams of Phoenix is both small and timid and his backup, 7-foot Rich Kelley, is not in Abdul-Jabbar's class.
Seattle's Jack Sikma has the size and muscle to duel with Abdul-Jabbar, but not the quickness or the variety in his game. Abdul-Jabbar ran circles around him.
In the five-game series, Sikma shot 26 percent and averaged 10 points and 7.8 rebounds a game, while Abdul-Jabbar shot 60 percent and averaged 30.5 points and 12 rebounds.
That probably won't happen against Philadelphia. The 76ers have 6-11, 260-pound Darryl Dawkins to battle Abdul-Jabbar and 7-1 Caldwell Jones ready to help out.
The 76ers also have played outstanding team defense in the playoffs.
"Our conscientiousness now is probably the key factor," said Julius (Dr. J) Erving. "We know how to adapt and adjust to the problems and hurdles we'll be crossing."
The biggest hurdle obviously will be Abdul-Jabbar.
"I'll just play my same game and bump and bang with him," said Dawkins. "You can't stop him. You can just slow him down."
The Laker strengths, other than Abdul-Jabbar, are overall quickness and their fast break.
The 76ers can offset the quickness. The transition game is also one of Philadelphia's strengths, as the Boston Celtics learned in the semifinal series.
"All season long, our strengths were our quickness and outside shooting," said Celtic General Manager Red Auerbach. "They took those away from us. If they don't shoot well fromoutside, you won't beat Philly inside. fThey are awesome inside defensively. They'll give the Laker big guy fits."
Jamaal Wilkes is no match for Erving at one forward while Caldwell Jones and Jim Chones should offset each other at the other forward on the boards.
The edge in the backcourt goes to the Lakers because the 76ers have no one to match the 6-9 Johnson and Norm Nixon's quickness could cause problems.
Lionel Hollins has stabilized the 76er backcourt, but when Johnson posts him up, he is in trouble.
Bobby Jones is probably the best sixth man in basketball and Henry Bibby and Steve Mix give the 76ers more bench depth.
The Laker bench is suspect. Michael Cooper is good, but at 6-6 and 170, he is not very strong and not much of a scoring threat.
Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham said he could use Jones or Erving on Johnson if the Laker rookie starts running wild.
Johnson, despite an arm injury that has bothered him throughout the playoffs, scored 20 points plus 10 rebounds and 10 assists Wednesday night.
The Sonics, behind Dennis Johnson's 29 points, led for most of the game's final 21 points as Abdul-Jabbar took over.
The Sonics didn't have the inside game to deal with the Lakers. Their offense depended on jump shots by Dennis Johnson, Gus Williams and Fred Brown.
At one point in the series, some other Sonics questioned that strategy, but Coach Lenny Wilkens said the pressure of trying to repeat as champions and a lack of concentration at times is what led to the Sonics' downfall.
"The Lakers have a real fine team, too," he said, "and with a real fine team, Kareem is unbelievable."