Moses Malone sat in front of his dressing cubicle shaking his head. He had just been outmuscled and outplayed by Bob Lanier. That doesn't happen often.
Malone is perhaps the most physical player in the National Basketball Association and much of his effectiveness is predicated on sheer strength. In the first game of the Eastern Conference championship playoffs Sunday against Milwaukee, Lanier beat Malone at his own game.
The 76ers still came away with a 111-109 overtime victory, but going into tonight's second game of the best-of-seven series at the Spectrum (ESPN Cable at 7:30), Malone said he will make some adjustments.
"There was a lot of grabbing and holding going on in the first game and in a situation like that, you have to keep a cool head," he said.
"I guess I'm going to have to expect that kind of treatment the whole series. I'll be ready for it next time."
Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham called the first game "the most physical playoff game I've ever seen. And if it's going to remain that physical, we'll have to make some changes. I don't know if we can win in that type of situation. We were lucky Sunday because we came up with the big play at the end, but that game could have gone either way."
After watching Malone destroy the New York Knicks by averaging 31.2 points and 15.5 rebounds in the conference semifinals, Milwaukee Coach Don Nelson devised a flexible defense to try to keep Malone confused and off balance.
Lanier, 6-foot-11 and 270 pounds, played Malone one on one and kept him farther from the basket than Malone would like. Lanier used his bulk to screen Malone from the boards.
Malone can usually back his defender in as close to the basket as he wants, but Lanier wouldn't budge. Sometimes he played Malone to the side, making it difficult for the 76ers to get the ball inside to Malone.
When Lanier wasn't in the game, Harvey Catchings or Alton Lister guarded Malone and the Bucks double-teamed him.
As a result, Malone scored only 14 points and had 12 rebounds. He took only 14 shots. He took 20 shots a game in the last series. Malone also committed nine turnovers Sunday and didn't have an assist.
Lanier scored 15 points, with nine rebounds, six assists and only two turnovers before fouling out after playing 27 minutes.
With Malone kept off the boards, the Bucks got 21 offensive rebounds, seven by Junior Bridgeman and five by Sidney Moncrief. Malone had only six offensive rebounds and scored only four points off second shots. All four were in the game's first five minutes.
The only thing Lanier said he plans to do differently tonight is stay in the game longer.
"I followed my plan as long as I was able," he said. "You have to play a physical game against Moses and keep the ball out of his hands, and bodies in his way. If you don't, he'll walk all over you."
Moncrief, who was one for nine shooting Sunday, said the last time he got only one field goal in a game was in elementary school. "I tried to work harder to get my shots, but their guards just worked harder at stopping me," he said . . . Milwaukee had considerable success when it used Moncrief, Marques Johnson, Bridgeman and Brian Winters together. It's a small lineup, but all are exceptional offensive players and it created all sorts of matchup problems.