The Los Angeles Lakers had the Philadelphia 76ers clawing at them all game long, but they beat back every challenge tonight, leading from beginning to end in capturing their second National Basketball Association championship in three seasons with a 114-104 victory at the Forum.
The Lakers beat the now thoroughly frustrated 76ers for the title in 1980 in six games and repeated that feat tonight. And just as in that first series, Magic Johnson was named most valuable player.
The Lakers won all three games at the Forum after winning the opener at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
Thirteen was the lucky number for Johnson this time around as he scored 13 points, had 13 rebounds and 13 assists, 10 of them in the first half. Jamaal Wilkes was the leading scorer for the Lakers with 27 points and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, coming back from a six-point effort in Game 5 Sunday, scored 18 points and had 11 rebounds, four assists and five blocked shots.
Bob McAdoo, coming off the Lakers'bench, scored 16 points and had nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
Julius Erving led the 76ers with 30 points and Andrew Toney added 29, but they were the only two players on whom the 76ers could count.
Tonight's game was the closest of any in the series, but it still was an uphill struggle for the 76ers from the opening tap. The Lakers scored the game's first nine points, five by Wilkes. The game never was tied and the 76ers never led, but they certainly put on pressure.
"They're a great team, no question," said Abdul-Jabbar, "but we're the champs."
"This is what we wanted and we all made up our minds that we were going to do it," said Johnson, who didn't take a shot in the second half and took only three the entire game, making two of them. He was nine for nine from the foul line. He played the game with a badly swollen right hand, which made shooting anything but a layup virtually impossible.
"I just told my hand, 'Hey, you've got to be ready,' " Johnson said. "In a big game like this, you don't think about pain."
The 76ers finally scored when Erving made a 17-footer two minutes and 18 seconds into the game, but they never did catch the Lakers.
Darrell Dawkins scored 10 points in the first quarter and the 76ers closed to within four, 30-26, but Dawkins didn't score another point the entire night and eventually fouled out.
Wilkes, who has had trouble with his outside shot all series long and had a six-for-17 shooting day in Game 5, made three straight 18-foot jump shots in the second quarter to get the Lakers' lead up to 11.
Toney, who scored 14 points in that quarter, and Erving with 10, kept the 76ers from getting blown away in the first half as they trailed by nine, 66-57.
When Erving started the third period with an incredible display of offensive basketball, scoring eight straight 76ers points, it seemingly was a new ball game.
Erving scored first on a scoop shot over Abdul-Jabber. Erving then came down and made two free throws after Johnson fouled him. Wilkes got those two back on a layup, but Erving scored again on a reverse layup between Abdul-Jabbar and Johnson.
After a Lakers miss, Erving brought the sellout crowd of 17,505 to its feet with a remarkable twisting tap-in of his own miss after he tried an acrobatic tap-in of a 40-foot baseball pass from Caldwell Jones. That brought the 76ers to within three points, 68-65.
The Lakers had a five-point lead, 76-71, when Toney drilled a 20-footer and after a Laker miss, Bobby Jones scored on a jumper to cut the Laker advantage to one, 76-75, with 5:30 left in the period.
The Lakers missed again on their next possession, but then McAdoo came up with what Laker Coach Pat Riley called the biggest play of the game.
Erving got the ball down low, but, as he wheeled to the basket, McAdoo blocked the shot, starting a fast break the other way for Abdul-Jabbar.
"If you can call one play a key play, that was it," said Riley. "I felt relieved after that. Who knows what would have happened if Doc had scored then?"
The 76ers got to within one point twice more in the period, the last time at 80-79 on a layup by Mike Bantom with 2:10 left in the quarter, but the Lakers scored the period's final six points to lead, 86-79, going into the final 12-minute period.
It looked like it was all over for the 76ers three minutes into the final quarter when the Lakers took an 11-point lead, 96-85, after fast-break baskets by Norm Nixon and Michael Cooper.
"We weren't about to quit, even with all those people screaming," said Erving.
The Lakers still had a nine-point lead, 103-94, with five minutes remaining when the 76ers scored six straight points to pull to within three, 103-100, with 3:51 left.
The Lakers missed a shot, Wilkes fumbled the ball out of bounds and Abdul-Jabbar was called for an offensive foul, leading to two baskets by Toney and two free throws by Bobby Jones.
But then the Lakers showed how badly they wanted this game. They got four offensive rebounds on their next possession before Abdul-Jabbar finally scored as he was fouled by Toney. His successuful free throw raised the Lakers' lead to 106-100 and the 76ers could get no closer than six the rest of the way.
"Several times we got right there and just didn't have the ability to go ahead," said Erving. "We saw we clearly had what it takes to win this series, but we just couldn't put it in motion often enough. It hurts. It hurts more than any other year. I don't know why, but it does."