Despite his most impressive effort of the season, Philadelphia 76ers rookie Terry Catledge made it very plain today that he doesn't consider himself another Moses Malone.
"You can't replace Moses; I know I got the opportunity to play only because he got hurt," said Catledge, whose 27 points helped the 76ers rout Washington, 134-109, and prevail in their first-round playoff series, 3-2.
"His going out gave me a chance to get a name around the league," said Catledge, who is 6 feet 8 and 230 pounds and played at South Alabama. "It was a big break for me. I'm trying to fill in as best I can right now."
Malone, who was standing nearby wearing dark sunglasses to protect his injured right eye, only smiled when asked to comment on Catledge's play today. He gave his young teammate a quizzical look and told him to take his press conference to the back of the locker room because he was blocking the aisle.
Clearly, no one has forgotten Malone. But today, Catledge was the star. In 27 minutes, he shot 13 for 22 from the field and one for six from the foul line. He had six rebounds.
Ten of his points came in the first quarter as the 76ers scored 40 points in taking an 18-point lead. Oblivious to Washington's 7-7 Manute Bol, Catledge scored 11 more in the second quarter to help Philadelphia lead at the half, 70-52.
In the four previous playoff games, Catledge averaged 15.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. His previous high point total in the series was 18, and his regular-season high was 30.
Bullets Coach Kevin Loughery had nothing but praise for Catledge: "He was the difference. Catledge took it to us. We never expected him to have that kind of game. It was not a situation where he got his points off mismatches. He was the key to the game."
Philadelphia Coach Matt Guokas said Catledge made the same moves and shot the ball the same way he had done in the previous playoff games.
"Maybe today Terry was more aggressive, shot the ball a lot quicker. He got out and ran the floor. And when he got the ball, he went up strong. He got us off to that big start."
Catledge said he had every intention of taking it to Bol. "I was determined to go inside against him, and if he blocked it, cool, I'd go right back up again," he said. "I wanted to beat him down court and get open for my shot. I was able to do that, thanks to my teammates."
One of the teammates crucial to Catledge's performance was Greg Stokes, a 6-10 rookie from Iowa. Another late-season starter because of front-court injuries, he had his best game of the series. He had 12 points and seven rebounds but, most importantly, occupied Bol's attention and kept him from challenging too many inside shots.
"I wanted to force Bol to play honest so the other guys could create problems for the other Bullets," said Stokes, who had totaled only 15 points and six rebounds in the previous four playoff games. "They couldn't double team Charles [Barkley] if Terry and I could hit a few shots. Once we got our running game going and hit a few baskets, we took the Bullets right out of it quickly."
The 76ers, who move on to meet Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference semifinals, rewarded the 15,162 fans with some outstanding play. In addition to the rookies' efforts, Barkley was his usual overpowering self with 19 points, including three thunderous dunks in the final period, and 15 rebounds. "We got off to a good start and kept playing hard," he said. "We just wouldn't be denied."
He was not at all surprised at Catledge's contributions.
"He's my son," Barkley said. "Need I say more?"
Point guard Maurice Cheeks had 24 points and 11 assists before spraining his right ankle colliding with several players under the Washington basket late in the game.
"It hurts right now, but I hope to be able to play [Tuesday]," he said. "It's tough getting hurt right now, because we need every man we can get. I'll have to see how it feels."