Let's go crazy?
Not just yet.
Taking a page from the Bullets' own book of execution, the Philadelphia 76ers scored on a pair of jump shots late in the fourth quarter last night at Capital Centre to edge the Bullets, 93-89, spoiling another fourth-quarter Washington comeback and leaving a crowd of 14,210 in a purple mood.
Despite shooting just 39 percent for the game, Philadelphia won out when guard Maurice Cheeks hit a 19-foot shot from deep in the left corner with 1:32 to play, tying the score at 89. Thirty-two seconds later, back-court mate Andrew Toney scored from almost the same spot.
"It was just good execution and ball movement," said 76ers Coach Billy Cunningham. "Bobby Jones, Moses Malone and Julius Erving deserve pats on the back for their parts in the play."
Malone was the game's high scorer with 24 points while Erving had 19 and moved to No. 6 on the list of all-time NBA scorers, passing Boston's John Havlicek.
When the game was on the line, though, the Doctor was in a subordinate role, setting screens in the lane along with his teammates on the front line to free up first Cheeks, then Toney. On the shot by Toney, the Bullets' Jeff Malone was caught in no man's land.
"I tried to go around the top instead of following him from behind," he said. "I got around the first pick then there was someone else right on top of me." Added guard Gus Williams, "We were trying to keep the ball out of Moses' hands because you know how he can deliver. They just did a good job of finding someone else."
Before the shots, it looked as if Washington (10-7) was going to win its ninth game in the last 10. Trailing, 85-78, with 4:43 to play, the Bullets scored 11 of the next 13 points to take an 89-87 lead with 1:43 to play, the last score a three-point play by Williams.
After the shots by the Philadelphia guards, the Bullets had the ball. First, Jeff Malone, unable to get the ball down low to center Jeff Ruland, missed a jumper. After the 76ers' Malone missed on the trip downcourt and the Bullets rebounded, came perhaps the most significant play of the night.
Bringing the ball into the front court, Williams was approached by Bobby Jones, who took a swipe at the ball. Although a tie-up never really occurred, referee Joey Crawford called a jump ball with 17 seconds to play.
The call was one of several questionable decisions by Crawford and Bennett Salvatore. The pair, perhaps influenced by the presence in the stands of the league's supervisor of officials, Darrell Garretson, called a particularly close game, which included a whistle for a double lane violation just before Cliff Robinson's free throw with 3:53 to play. "I've never seen a double lane violation in my life," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue.
The Bullets didn't help their cause by scoring an anemic 20 points in the third quarter, or by going just one of seven from the field at the start of the fourth quarter, when the 76ers, down much of the game, went in front. In Shue's opinion, the turning point came at the end of the first half, when Erving blocked Frank Johnson's shot and fed Toney for a basket with three seconds to play, turning a potential 11-point halftime lead to just seven, 47-40.
"There were just no easy baskets out there," said Shue. "It was like we always play, they shut down our fast break, we shut down their's. It was a game just like you see in the playoffs."
And, that's how the 76ers' players felt, although Cunningham expressed pleasure about holding the Bullets to 31 fewer points than they scored against Philadelphia last week.
"Most teams get up for Boston, Philly or Los Angeles," said Cheeks. "Now they'll have to start getting up for the Bullets too."