Darryl Dawkins brought back memories of Wilt Chamberlain to Philadelphians today, leading the 76ers to a 105-102 decision over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Spectrum.
The victory evened the best-of-seven National Basketball Association championship series at 2-2. Game 5 will be played Wednesday at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
Dawkins scored a game-high 26 points. In one incredible two-minute stretch in the third period, he brought the 76ers from a 67-61 deficit to a 71-70 lead. iThey never trailed again.
Dawkins used sheer power in that stretch to go over the through Jim Chones for two layups and a crunching dunk. He also blocked a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar turnaround jumper to set up a Maurice Cheeks fast break.
By that time, Abdul-Jabbar was pleading with Laker Coach Paul Westhead to let him guard Dawkins.
Westhead agreed, so Dawkins moved outside and swished a 15-footer to put the 76ers ahead to stay with 3:33 left in the third period.
"God blessed me with a beautiful body and I try to use it the best way I can," Dawkins said. "A lot of people say I'm not this and I'm not that, but we're tied, 2-2, in the world championship series. Can you dig it?"
Caldwell Jones turned in the best defensive job on Abdul-Jabbar so far in the playoffs, limiting him to 12 points on 11-of-27 shooting.
The rest of the Lakers, namely Earvin (Magic) Johnson, Jamaal Wilkes and Norm Nixon, almost got the Lakers a victory anyway. But the 76ers held off every one of their rallies.
Two Johnson free throws with 31 seconds left cut a five-point Philadelphia lead to 105-102. The Lakers got the ball back with nine seconds to play after Abdul-Jabbar rebounded a Cheeks miss.
A three-point shot was the Lakers' only real hope, but they were one of the poorest three-point shooting teams in the league.
They did not even get off a shot today. A desperation cross-court pass from Nixon intended for Michael Cooper was intercepted by Bobby Jones and the game ended.
"We were just trying to get the ball up at basket and win," said Johnson. "We were trying to get the ball to whoever was open."
Before today, the key to the Laker success was their defensive philosophy against Julius Erving.
They have been double-teaming him, and that tactic had stymied Philadelphia. The 76ers felt they had to get Erving more involved if they were to be successful.
So they started today's game by isolating Erving on the right side of the court.
The Lakers, caught off guard, were called for playing a zone defense in the game's first 20 seconds.
They eventually adjusted by going to a straight double team on Erving without trying to disguise it, or by converging on Erving whenever he drove toward the middle.
"Julius is the only person in the game today you can really isolate like that and have it work because he can do so much with the ball," said Bobby Jones.
Erving finished with 23 points, including 10 of Philadelphia's last 16. The game-clincher was a sensational behind the glass layup that gave the 76ers a seven-point lead with 7:35 to play.
Erving drove to the baseline around Mark Landsberger, but Landsberger was able to force Erving deep behind the basket. Erving went up as if to pass the ball out, but saw an opening over Abdul-Jabbar's shoulder and somehow threw the ball backwards of the glass. It spun in.
The capacity Spectrum crowd of 18,276 went wild and the Lakers called a timeout.
"A force bigger than I allowed that shot to go in," said Erving.
"I feel we're going to win this whole thing now," Erving added. "We're doing it the hard way though, by losing at home Saturday.
"I think we discovered a few things today that will help us the rest of the series, too. Like just letting Caldwell guard Abdul-Jabbar and have our other guys concentrate on their own men and not worry about helping Caldwell." o
The Lakers defense is set up to force the 76ers to shoot perimeter jump shots and, until they started getting the ball into Dawkins, the 76ers were playing right into the defense.
Dawkins is their best inside scorer because of his strength. "He's a genuine superheavyweight," said Caldwell Jones.
"I just went to the basket strong and people moved out of the way," Dawkins said.
Lionel Hollins scored 10 first-quarter points and the 76ers led, 28-21, by the end of the period. They still led, 43-38, with 4:23 left in the first half when the Lakers went on an 11-0 scoring spurt to go on top, 49-43.
Johnson, who led the Lakers with 28 points, nine assists, nine rebounds and three steals, was the catalyst in that spurt.
He scored on a fancy three-point play as he drove the lane and then switched the ball to his left hand just as he was about to shoot, forcing Bobby Jones to foul him.
Johnson made both the shot and the ensuing free throw. He then stole the ball from Hollins 10 seconds later and scored on a breakaway layup.
Two Cheeks layups at the end of the half got the 76ers back to within two points, 51-49.
The Lakers again pounded the 76ers on the boards, outrebounding them, 49-34, 18-5 at the offensive end.
But with Abdul-Jabbar not hitting and with Dawkins muscling his way around, the 76ers were not hurt much inside.
"Darryl is the key to what we have to do against this team," said Erving. "We have to go to him and he has to deliver. I have no doubts that he will." "