Taking no prisoners, the Philadelphia 76ers shot 79 percent in the first half and survived an 18 percent third quarter to eliminate the Washington Bullets from the NBA playoffs last night, 106-98.
In winning the best-of-five series, three games to one, Philadelphia won the fourth game before 12,238 at Capital Centre by exploiting on a season-long Washington weakness, rebounding.
Charles Barkley got 14 rebounds, and the Bullets were bullied inside by a 46-29 margin.
"We got killed on the boards again," said Washington center Jeff Ruland, who had 10 of his team's rebounds. "We tried to keep Moses (Malone) off the boards, but there were waves of them. Every time you looked up they were crashing."
That handiwork on the boards was one reason why Washington looked so helpless in the first half. Malone and guard Clint Richardson were the visitors' poorest shooters in the first 24 minutes, and they were both three of five, 60 percent, from the field.
"Philly really blitzed us in that first half. I doubt if they've ever played better," said Washington Coach Gene Shue. "I didn't think we were playing badly, but they put on an incredible exhibition of basketball."
For the night, Julius Erving had a game-high 25 points. Malone added 18. Andrew Toney, just three of 16 in the Bullets' 118-100 win in Game 3, contributed 17 points, one more than Barkley. Richardson scored another 14 points.
Jeff Malone led Washington in the season finale with 24 points. Gus Williams added 17, but suffered through a seven-for-21 night from the field. The guard was three of 13 in the first half.
"We let them get out early and score some easy layups. It was a big hole that we were never able to get out of," said Jeff Malone. "We need to keep games close because we're not a great comeback team. We made one nice run but it wasn't enough."
That came in the third quarter. The Bullets were down by as many as 18 points in the second period and trailed, 61-47, at halftime, but Jeff Malone hit a pair of short jumpers to cut the Philadelphia lead to 61-51. Then, after seeing the 76ers push it back to 66-53, Washington ran off 10 consecutive points.
The visitors went more than four minutes between scores during the Bullets' spurt before Richardson hit a jumper at the 3:47 mark. The score did little to break Washington's momentum. The deciding moments came 3:46 later with the score 72-68, Philadelphia's favor.
Scrambling for a loose ball in the lane, Moses Malone put up a wild push shot between Ruland and Charles Jones as the buzzer sounded. However, referee Bill Oakes called a foul on Jones and sent Malone to the line, with the remainder of the players returning to their respective benches.
Malone made the free throws to give the 76ers a 74-68 lead and, perhaps more importantly, take some of the wind out of the Bullets' sails.
"I didn't hit him, and I don't think Charlie did, but it was a turning point," Ruland said. "Instead of being down four, the margin was six. It was pretty disheartening."
Erving did little to alleviate the somber mood at the start of the final period. Scoring eight points on a variety of jumpers, finger rolls and dunk shots, he almost single-handedly expanded Philadelphia's lead to 88-78. Washington would get no closer than six for the remainder of the evening.
"Generally, if we're stagnating, Billy (Coach Cunningham) looks for someone to step forward and get some shots, especially after that 13-point third quarter," said Erving. "Tonight, I just happened to be the guy."
Said Shue: "That was the key stretch of the game. They were going to Doc (Erving), and he was producing. We had our chance, but we were a little bit too late."
Washington forward Greg Ballard shook his head as he recalled Erving's performance with the game on the line.
"That was the old Doc," he said, "and I don't mean his age. Somebody got him mad out there." Barkley made almost as big a difference. Moses Malone, the league's leading rebounder during the regular season, averaged just eight a game in this series. The 6-foot-6 Barkley, however, muscled his way to nearly 13 per game, almost five more than his season average.
"Toney had some moments and Erving, too, but if you had to pick an MVP for this series you'd have to go with Barkley," said Washington's Frank Johnson.
Barkley smiled when Johnson's words were repeated to him. "Tell him I said, 'Thank you.' That's a great compliment," Barkley said. "Does that mean I get a car now? No? Rebounding is just part of the game. All I do is try and go out to do a job."
There was little question of the success of Barkley's mission, as well as that of all of the 76ers.
"We were confident we could beat them," said Moses Malone. "They had two playoff games at home but we thought we could close the business here tonight."