Boston's Larry Bird and Philadelphia's Andrew Toney are as dissimilar as two basketball players can be.
Bird is the true team player, one who has honed his marvelous individual skills to blend in with and enhance the skills of less-gifted teammates.
Toney is the classic one-on-one player. Give him the ball, get out of the way and watch him work.
Bird is a 6-foot-9 1/2 forward who shoots, rebounds, passes, dives for loose balls and plays defense.
Toney is a 6-3 rookie guard who shoots, shoots and shoots.
Both are doing exactly what their respective teams require them to do in the NBA's Eastern Conference championship series. Bird is used to carrying his team; Toney isn't.
The series stands at 1-1, with the third game tonight at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. The fourth game, Sunday afternoon, will also be at the Spectrum.
Bird's 33 points in the first game were wasted as Toney came off the Philadelphia bench to score 26 points, including two free throws in the final two seconds that gave the 76ers a 105-104 victory in Boston.
In the second game Wednesday, Toney's 35 points went for naught. Bird, who also had a lot of help from his teammates, led them to a 118-99 victory with 34 points, 16 rebounds and five assists.
"If you're going to make any money in this league, you've got to take the ball in your hands," Bird said. "But I'm not doing the things I'm doing just on my ability alone.My teammates have enough confidence in me to keep giveing me the ball." One reasons for that is that they know they'll often get it back.
Bird is so accurate from outside (he made 11 of 14 field goals from 16 feet or father Wednesday and seven 20-footers) that whoever guards him can never let up.
"If you do, he'll burn you," said Philadelphia's Bobby Jones, considered to be the best defensive forward in the league. "If you crowd him, he'll go by you; if you lay off, he'll get you with his outside shot, and if you double-team him, he'll find the open man. You can't take a mental break on him because he isn't going to take one."
Jones has had his troubles containing Bird the times they've been matched up. The 76ers start with 7-foot Caldwell Jones on Bird, but when Darryl Dawkins gets into foul trouble or is inefective, both of which happen often, Caldwell Jones moves to center and Bobby Jones comes in to guard Bird.
The Celtics have no one who can guard Toney. He's too quick for Boston's guards, Chris Ford and M.L. Carr, and he has too many moves for Gerald Henderson or Tiny Archibald.
"We've got to make him work harder than he has been for his points," Boston Coach Bill Fitch said of Toney. "Right now, it looks like he can score whenever he wants to."
Toney, the 76ers' bow-legged No. 1 draft choice out of Southwest Louisiana, was a starter much of the season. But when the 76ers slumped late in the year, Coach Billy Cunningham replaced him with steadier Lionel Hollins. Toney is just now getting comfortable with his new role. "I go in to score points," he said.
Wednesday's game was Philadelphia's third in four days. The 76ers were exhausted and it showed. By winning the first game of the series, the 76ers took the home-court advantage away from the Celtics and are extremely confident with the next two games being at the Spectrum. The Celtics have lost nine in a row there and haven't won in Philadelphia since Jan. 20, 1979.
"The court shouldn't make that much difference, as long as the basket's where it's supposed to be," said Bird.
The Celitcs were in a similar position at this time last year. They had the home-court advantage over the 76ers, lost the first game, won the second easily and then lost two straight at the Spectrum and the next game at home and the series in five games.