Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored six points, his all-time playoff low, and Darryl Dawkins contributed a rare outstanding performance today, enabling the Philadelphia 76ers to rout the Los Angeles Lakers, 135-102, in Game 5 of the NBA championship series.
It had been 420 games, dating to his early ejection for punching Kent Benson in Milwaukee in the 1977 season opener, since Abdul-Jabbar had scored fewer than 10 points. Because of his output, because Magic Johnson was hindered by a sore right hand and because the Lakers had 24 turnovers, the 76ers kept the series going.
Action now shifts back to Los Angeles for Game 6 Tuesday (WDVM-TV-9 at 9 p.m.). The Lakers hold a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series; the seventh game, if necessary, will be in Philadelphia Thursday night.
The 76ers broke open a close game by outscoring the visitors, 12-2, to take an 80-72 lead with 3:44 left in the third period. The Lakers never got closer and trailed by 16 early in the fourth quarter. They were outscored, 44-21, in the last period.
Dawkins completely outplayed Abdul-Jabbar, scoring 20 points, outrebounding him, 7-4, and blocking three shots in just 28 minutes. In the first four games, Abdul-Jabbar had outscored Dawkins, 84-43, and outrebounded him, 31-22.
"Darryl played a good game," Abdul-Jabbar said, brushing past reporters to leave the dressing room before most of his teammates had taken off their uniforms. When asked if the 76ers did anything different against him, the 7-foot-2 center said quickly, "They just pushed and shoved."
"This was the most physical game of the series," said Johnson, who took only two shots after banging his sore hand on somebody's hip in the first half. "We had a lot of guys in foul trouble and they shot a lot more free throws than we did (34-16)."
Johnson said he jammed the knuckles in his right (shooting) hand in the Phoenix series in April. He said it doesn't bother him unless it is hit hard, and then it goes numb.
"I didn't have any feeling in it for a while," the 6-9 all-star guard said. "There were a lot of things I couldn't do. I couldn't reach or hold, and if you can't do that against Julius (Erving), he's going to go for big numbers."
Erving, held scoreless until 2:21 was left in the first half, missed his first seven shots. He scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half, including l0 in the final period.
Erving said he wasn't angry, just disappointed, with his first-half performance. Andrew Toney carried the 76ers with 19 of his game-high 31 points during that time.
When asked if he thought the series could turn around now, Erving smiled and said, "I think it's already turned around."
Still, the odds are not with the 76ers. No team has overcome a 3-1 deficit to win the championship series. Los Angeles was 30-11 at home this season and is unbeaten in six playoff games at the Forum.
Although Coach Pat Riley said he was pleased with his team's first-half performance, the Lakers looked like losers in the first quarter, committing 11 turnovers and making only 10 of 24 shots. Still, the game was tied at the end of the period and was close until midway through the third quarter.
Following the 17th tie (70-70), the 76ers went on their game-winning run. Toney started it with a fast-break layup. Johnson missed two free throws and, after a dunk by Erving, Abdul-Jabbar missed two from the foul line.
Bob McAdoo (23 points) made a short jumper, but Toney scored from 18 feet, Dawkins made a base line jumper and Erving scored on a fast break to put Philadelphia on top, 80-72.
Abdul-Jabbar then was called for an offensive foul, his fourth, and Riley called time as the sellout crowd of 18,364 stood and roared its approval.
"I was pleased with the way we were playing up until then," Riley said. "In a game like this, it comes down to whoever gets eight or 10 points in a row. In this series, there's not much margin for error.
"I thought Philadelphia played very aggressively. We had guys in foul trouble (four Lakers had three fouls at halftime) and that made them play tentatively."
When asked about Abdul-Jabbar's poor production, Riley responded, "You get a man in foul trouble and he can't play his game. It makes it very difficult. He was getting hammered, but he's used to that. He's dealt with it before and he'll deal with it Tuesday."
Dawkins, averaging just 10 points and five rebounds a game in this series, was not nearly as talkative as usual afterward. He, too, must know that he will have to face an aroused Abdul-Jabbar in the next game.
"I just tried to do my best," Dawkins said. "He's a tough man. I don't know why I was able to get inside so much. I just think we played with more enthusiasm."
Coach Billy Cunningham of the 76ers credited the defense with forcing all Lakers' turnovers and starting the 76ers' running game, which set up 29 fast-break points.
"We proved again today that the key to our team is defense," he said. "If we give up easy baskets, we're in trouble. In the two games in L.A., we didn't make them work hard enough for their baskets. When we give up easy baskets, we're in trouble.
"Our offense comes from our defense," Cunningham went on. "When everyone is playing good defense, they get involved in the offense. All of a sudden somebody like Bobby Jones (a series-high 21 points) is out on the break and we're getting the easy baskets."