If something out of the ordinary doesn't happen, Clint Richardson and Earl Cureton usually just sit and watch as fringe players for the 76ers.
That changed considerably today. Both reserves played critical roles in Philadelphia's 110-94 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers that evened the NBA championship series at 1-1.
Richardson's break actually came in the first round of the playoffs when Lionel Hollins broke a knuckle on his shooting hand punching Atlanta's Tree Rollins. That elevated Andrew Toney to a starting spot and made Richardson, a 6-foot-3 converted forward from Seattle University, the third guard.
Richardson played 22 minutes today, splitting his time guarding Magic Johnson and Norm Nixon. He scored 10 points, had four rebounds and committed only one turnover.
Cureton, playing only because Caldwell Jones and Darryl Dawkins were in foul trouble, scored six points in a three-minute stretch at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth that helped the 76ers increase a nine-point lead to 12.
Cureton also had eight rebounds and played Kareem Abdul-Jabbar almost even in the 15 minutes they went head to head, a time when the Lakers expected to cut into the 76er lead.
"Earl is so quick that he can get back and help out on the break, too, maybe better than our other big people," said 76er Coach Billy Cunningham. "His play today was very important."
Cureton, a third-round draft choice of the 76ers in 1979 as an undergraduate eligible from Detroit, said he realizes he may go back to being a spectator the next game. But he had his moment today and took full advantage.
"You have to be ready to play, even when you're sitting," he said. "If the situation arises again like it did today, I'll try to do the same things. Billy just told me to try to beat Kareem in the transition, to outquick him and to front him."
Richardson's contribution also was significant. Toney has had trouble both scoring and keeping Magic Johnson off the boards, so Cunningham has been forced to go to Richardson. As a result, Johnson has found that posting up Richardson isn't like posting up a normal 6-3 guard.
"People forget I played forward in college," said Richardson, "so I know what to do down low. They put (Larry) Bird at guard against me in the Boston series and posted up without much success and now they're trying to post up with Magic. I try to front him and once he gets the ball, slide around and play him head up."
"Not many people have success posting up Clint because he's so strong," said Hollins. "He knows how to play the post at both ends. That's where he made his living in college."
At the offensive end, Richardson, not possessing a consistent outside shot, said he just tries to blend in. "We know they're going to double team Doc (Julius Erving) and Andrew, so the rest of us have to keep moving.
"Not many plays are called for me, so I keep moving and try to get things on my own. I'm around the ball as much as I can be," he said.
That was evident on two occasions today. The first was early in the game when the 76ers were building their lead. There was a loose ball on the floor and, as three Lakers converged on it, Richardson dove on it, got to his feet and put in a six-foot shot over Abdul-Jabbar.
"That got us all going a bit," said Julius Erving.
In the fourth period, when the Lakers were making a run, Richardson eluded his man and cut to the basket, just in time to pick up an errant Toney pass before it went out of bounds. He scored on the play for another 76er lift.
Richardson said the major difference in today's game and the first game of the series was that the 76ers knew what to expect in Game 2.
"Going into that first game, we didn't know what to expect because we hadn't seen the Lakers in awhile," Richardson said. "It took us that one game to get used to them. We knew we had to rebound and get back. We're even now and this just starts us on a roll."