Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was his usual majestic, dominating self, but today the Los Angeles Lakers showed that what makes them so good goes beyond what their towering center does for them.
The Lakers outmuscled the Philadelphia 76ers inside and were too fast for them outside as they raced to a 111-101 victory at the Spectrum to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven National Basketball Association championship series.
The fourth game will be at the Spectrum Sunday at 3 p.m. (WDVM-TV-9).
On the rare occasions that the Lakers couldn't run past the 76ers, they gave the ball to Abdul-Jabbar. He responded with 33 points, 12 in the fourth period. But the Lakers dominated virtually from beginning to end. The 76ers never led and the score was tied only once. that at 2-2.
In rebounding, it was another Laker victory, 56-37.
"We played such an outstanding rebounding game that it's almost impossible to single out any individuals," Los Angeles Coach Paul Westhead said. "I'll be the first one to say that Kareem showed again that he is the greatest player ever, but we wouldn't have won today without Jim Chones and Magic (Johnson) and some others (rebounding). The beauty of the diamond is that it is surrounded by some mighty fine rubies."
Abdul-Jabbar had 14 rebounds, Jamaal Wilkes contributed 12 and Johnson 11, four of them offensive rebounds in the final quarter and all four resulting in Los Angeles baskets.
By going to the boards hard, limiting the 76ers to one shot and getting two and sometimes three themselves, the Lakers were able to control the tempo.
"No team can run with us," Wilkes said. "If we run and they run, we'll win."
Still the most impressive thing about this Lake victory was that they met the 76ers' strength -- rebounding -- head on and it was not contest.
"We've always been labeled a finesse team that just wants to go out and run and shoot," Westhead said. "but we showed today that we can bang in the lane, too."
To make it more of a running game, the Lakers applied full-court defensive pressure most the day.
"We wanted to make the game a 48-minute run and the full-court pressure helped do that," Westhead said.
The Lakers made one defensive change from their matchups in the first two games. They moved Abdul-Jabbar off Darryl Dawkins and put him to guarding Caldwell Jones.
In the second game of the series, won by the 76ers, Dawkins moved outside, taking Abdul-Jabbar with him, and scored consistently on jump shots from the top of the key.
The Lakers lost control of the middle when Abdul-Jabbar went outside, so Westhead put Chones on Dawkins. Jones does not have much of an outside game.
That enabled Abdul-Jabbar to stay inside. In addition to his rebounds, Abdul-Jabbar blocked four shots and forced about 10 other misses.
The Lakers sped to a 15-point lead in the first quarter. Then, with Julius Erving leading the way, the 76ers outscored the Lakers 12-2, early in the second quarter to get back into the contest.
Philadelphia got within two points of Los Angeles three times in the quarter, the last time at 42-40 on a jump shot from Lionel Hollins with five minutes left in the half.
So, the Lakers outscored the 76ers, 7-2, in the next minute, then ended the period with a 9-0 spurt to take a 58-44 lead at halftime.
Norm Nixon, who finished with 22 points, had five of those last nine of the half, four coming on fast breaks.
The Lakers had increased their lead to 19 points by the start of the fourth before Philadelphia made its final run.
Eight straight 76ers points, four by Erving and four by Maurice Creeks, cut the lead to 86-73.
The Lake offense then Became Johnson passes to Abdul-Jabbar for shots and the Lakers never were in real danger of losing their lead.
A most revealing statistic was the one that showed that 71 percent of the time Abdul-Jabbar handled the ball the Lakers scored.
Jones and Dawkins alternated guarding Abdul-Jabbar and both got into foul trouble. Dawkins scored 21 points, but fouled out after playing only 30 minutes.
Erving led the 76ers with 24 points and seven assists, but the Lakers' double-teaming defense on him, something they have done all series, kept Erving fairly well bottled.
"We have to keep double-teaming him," Westhead said."We'd be hurting our ability to win the series if we let him go."
In an attempt to get some of the defensive pressure off Erving, Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham moved him to guard for a while today. But that wasn't very successful, mainly because swing man Michael Cooper stayed on Erving and he was the size at 6 feet 6 and quickness to guard Erving.
"When he goes outside I just try to keep him there," Cooper said. "Where he kills you and where you need help on him is inside."
"Neither team can do much more adjusting now so both teams are just going to have to go out and play tomorrow," Abdul-Jabbar said.
"This was the game we felt we really had to win," added Wilkes," because it regained the home-court advantage for us. If we had lost this game we could have really been in trouble."
But how much trouble can a team including Abdul-Jabbar ever be in?