Just as they had done in the previous game, the Philadelphia 76ers pulled away from the Los Angeles Lakers in the fourth quarter tonight, taking a 2-0 lead in the National Basketball Association championship finals with a 103-93 victory at the Spectrum.
Games 3 and 4 will be played at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Sunday and Tuesday.
Only four teams in the history of the NBA have come back to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first two games.
"We just have to regroup," said Lakers Coach Pat Riley. "I guarantee they won't take our title from us like they took this game tonight."
The Lakers controlled the rebounding and were in control most of the first half, even though they never could pull away.
Things changed in the third period, however, when the 76ers outrebounded them, 17-6, while turning a 55-51 halftime deficit into a 79-75 advantage.
The Lakers made a charge when Philadelphia missed its first three shots of the final quarter and Moses Malone dribbled the ball out of bounds. Michael Cooper scored on an 18-footer and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made a sky hook to tie the score with 9:21 left.
Malone, who finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds, scored after he grabbed one of those rebounds and then, after Abdul-Jabbar missed a sky hook, Julius Erving scored on a fast-break dunk on a feed from Bobby Jones.
The next time down the floor, however, Malone was called for his fifth foul as he bumped Abdul-Jabbar, who was maneuvering for a sky hook.
Malone sat down and in came seldom used Earl (the Twirl) Cureton. He was called on only because backup center Clemon Johnson was in Temple University Hospital with a urinary tract infection.
With Malone out of the game, the Lakers went right to Abdul-Jabbar, who went right at Cureton. And for the next five minutes, it was Abdul-Jabbar against the 76ers. The 76ers got the best of it.
When Malone left, the 76ers led, 83-79. When he returend 5 1/2 minutes later, the 76ers were up, 95-87.
Cureton played in front of Abdul-Jabbar and whenever the ball got by him, there was weak-side help. Cureton swatted two passes away himself. Abdul-Jabbar scored 10 straight Lakers points, but it took him nearly 6 1/2 minutes to do it and the Lakers lost ground in the process. Los Angeles also turned the ball over six times in that stretch.
The crowning blow came with 4:32 left when Cureton got a pass 12 feet to the right of the basket and, with teammates cutting everywhere, couldn't find one to pass to. With Abdul-Jabbar smothering him, Cureton faked to his left and then turned toward the base line and stunned Abdul-Jabbar with a sky hook of his own. It went it and the capacity Spectrum crowd of 18,482 went into a frenzy.
Abdul-Jabbar, who finished with 23 points, scored on a sky hook on the Lakers next possession, but the damage had been done.
On their next six possessions the Lakers turned the ball over three times and missed three shots and went scoreless for 3 minutes 21 seconds.
The 76ers, meanwhile, scored seven straight points, the last three by Malone, to take a 98-87 lead with 74 seconds remaining.
Cureton played a total of 17 minutes. His only basket in three attempts was his hook shot, but had three rebounds and two steals and put the defense on Abdul-Jabbar.
"Earl pounded the boards and did everything we asked of hin," said 76ers Coach Billy Cunningham.
Before tonight, Cureton had played only six minutes in the 76ers first 10 playoff games.
It was an extremely physical game and to protect Abdul-Jabbar from some of it, Riley put Kurt Rambis on Malone and let Abdul-Jabbar guard the offensively inactive Marc Iavaroni. Malone guarded Abdul-Jabbar at the other end, however.
The physcial play benefitted the 76ers. The Lakers made four more field goals than Philadelphia, but went to the foul line only five times and made three. They didn't shoot a single free throw in the second half.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, made 23 of 32 free throws.
The free throws made and attempted by the Lakers were both championship series record lows and the five attempts set an all-time playoff record low and the three successful shots tied the all-time playoff record low.
"Tonight we couldn't get anything to go our way," said the Lakers' Norm Nixon. "We couldn't come up with the loose balls; we couldn't get a shot to go down. They played extremely aggressive. They set the tempo, they controlled the game."
Magic Johnson, who had 12 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds, Jamaal Wilkes (17 points) and Nixon (eight points) all went scoreless in the fourth period as the Lakers went almost exclusively to Abdul-Jabbar.
Only three Lakers scored in the fourth period, Cooper, Abdul-Jabbar and Bob McAdoo. McAdoo, who missed the first game with a pulled thigh muscle, made two of three three-point shots late in the game and finished with 14 points.
"Kareem has done it for us before," said Riley. "Our perimeter shots weren't falling and they were taking most things away from us with their aggressive defense. They always seemed to get a hand in."
Maurice Cheeks, who had 19 points, eight assists and three steals, said the 76ers' game plan was to force the Lakers into shooting from outside. "I think they're really going to force the tempo when we get to L.A., though," he said.