Philadelphia 76ers guard Clint Richardson isn't even the most celebrated substitute on his team.

That distinction goes to forward Bobby Jones. But in the Eastern Conference title series against the Milwaukee Bucks, and again Sunday in the first game of the National Basketball Association championship series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Richardson showed he is just as valuable to the 76ers as his all-star teammates.

"It's very easy to get overlooked on this team, with all of its so-called stars," said Julius Erving, who began the final series with 20 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and five blocked shots. "But Clint knows his role and he fulfills it. We have a lot of confidence in him, too. We feel he can guard virtually any one, even though he is only 6-3, and he can score."

Playing point guard, shooting guard and some small forward, as well as defending against 6-foot-8 Magic Johnson, Richardson played a major role Sunday in the 76ers' 113-107 victory. He played 31 minutes and made seven of 12 shots for 15 points, 10 coming in the third quarter when the 76ers moved to a lead they never relinquished. He also had four rebounds, four steals and three assists, and didn't let Johnson dominate the game.

"I tried to play Magic straight up and keep him off the boards," said Richardson, a high scoring forward at Seattle University. "Because I am a converted forward, I know how to play inside and do well when bigger guards try to post me. I've been in the league four years and this is the third time I've been in the finals, so I'm used to these kinds of situations, too."

An important part of the Lakers' success is their versatility. So many players can play so many positions that they seem deeper than they actually are. That also allows them to avoid major foul problems. Richardson gives the 76ers the same flexibility.

In Sunday's game, the Lakers changed their defensive assignments, with Jamaal Wilkes starting out guarding Andrew Toney and Johnson on Erving. Because Malone, who had 27 points and 18 rebounds, is so much stronger than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Coach Pat Riley moved Abdul-Jabbar to defensive forward at times and had Mark Landsberger guard Malone. Riley said he wasn't sure what he would do for Game 2, to be played Thursday at the Spectrum (WDVM-TV-9 at 9 p.m.).

Both Riley and 76ers Coach Billy Cunningham gave their teams yesterday off. The Lakers clearly needed the rest. They tired in the fourth period Sunday, after having played at San Antonio Friday night, and they had to play without Bob McAdoo. McAdoo badly bruised his thigh Friday and was held out of Sunday's game.

"He's better than he was yesterday, and by Thursday he should be able to play," said Riley. "He'll make a difference."

Guard Norm Nixon, who led the Lakers with 26 points, injured his shoulder in a first-quarter collision with Toney and had X-rays taken Sunday night. They revealed only a bruise, and even though his shoulder is sore, Nixon will play Thursday.

Clemon Johnson, the 76ers' 6-10 reserve center, was hospitalized yesterday afternoon with an acute urinary tract infection and Michael Clancy, the team physician, said Johnson's status for Thursday night's game is uncertain.

Johnson, acquired in midseason from Indiana, has been averaging 6.8 points and 6.4 rebounds as backup to Malone. He played only nine minutes Sunday.