The Philadelphia 76ers withstood a 41-point performance by Milwaukee's Terry Cummings tonight and came away with a 112-108 victory over the Bucks that gave them a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven NBA playoff series.
Moses Malone led the 76ers with 25 points. He was well-supported by Julius Erving, who scored 21 with 10 rebounds, and Charles Barkley, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Of the eight members of the Philadelphia team who played tonight, six scored in double figures.
Milwaukee got 20 points from guard Sidney Moncrief but fell woefully short after that as the 76ers' superior depth showed in a variety of ways. One measure was the team's inside defense. When Milwaukee's Alton Lister scored on a slam dunk with 14 seconds remaining in the game, it was the first score by a Bucks front court player since near the end of the third period.
"If you didn't have heart and desire, you were going to be beaten to death," said Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham. "There were no easy baskets."
Particularly for the Bucks, who, from the final 30 seconds of the third quarter until 6:32 remained in the game, were the victims of a 20-9 run. That made the score 97-87 in favor of the visitors.
But this was a game in which neither team was able to assume full control. The Bucks led by as many as eight points in both the first and second quarters, only to see the 76ers bully their way back into the game.
In the last half of the final quarter, it appeared that Milwaukee might make it interesting. With Cummings scoring from everywhere along the perimeter and Moncrief throwing himself at the basket and drawing multiple fouls, the Bucks cut the 76ers' lead to 105-102 with 1:44 remaining.
The Bucks, double-teaming at every opportunity, seemed to have the upper hand on the next possession when the 76ers were forced to call time with six seconds left on the shot clock. After the break, however, the basketball wound up in the almost-bigger-than-life hands of Erving, who was fouled by Craig Hodges while moving to the basket.
Erving's two free throws put Philadelphia back up by five with 1:22 to play. With 19 seconds remaining, the scenario was to be repeated. Milwaukee was pressing and Erving foiled the attempt by swooping to the basket and drawing contact for the foul.
"Doc was seeing the court so well," said Cunningham. "It was obvious early that the refs were going to let the players play, and when Julius saw that he just went to the basket and took over."
For Milwaukee, there was just no answer for that, home court or not. "They're not doing anything we didn't expect, but they're doing it so well," said Milwaukee Coach Don Nelson. "I have no complaints with the way we played. We played as hard as we could. We probably did not play as well as we can play but we did play as hard as we can play."