A mad comeback by the Philadelphia '76ers fell two points short in the closing seconds of their game at Portland yesterday, as the Trailblazers hustled their way to a 109-107 victory and their first NBA championship in the sixth game of the NBA playoff finals.
Sparked by mountain-man Bill Walton, the tournament MVP, the Blazers held leads as big as 17 points in the first half and 12 points with just six minutes left, then held off the furious Philadelphia rally to win.
Walton pumped in 20 points, hauled down 23 rebounds, and added seven assists and eight blocked shots--many in crucial situations--to dominate the game.
The efforts of Walton and Co. almost went for naught, though. Despite the fever pitch created by a wild crowd of 12,000 Oregonians hungry for their first pro sports title, Julius Erving (40 points) and George McGinnis (26 points) kept the Sixers in the game throughout, then nearly led them to a comeback victory.
The well-oiled Portland machine was running in fine form in the second half, leading 91-80 after three periods and 102-90 with six minutes to go. Then came the explosion.
A Henry Bibby layup was sandwiched between two Doctor J. jumpers, as Philadelphia quickly reduced the lead to six. Then McGinnis, playing his first strong game of the playoffs, stole the ball from Trailblazer forward Bob Gross and drove the length of the floor for a lay-in. Two minutes: 102-98.
Portland blazed back, holding the Sixers at bay, 108-101, with two minutes left. But then it was time for the Doctor J show. Erving clicked for a pair of buckets to make it 108-105 with 51 seconds left.
Maurice Lucas sunk a free throw at 0:27 to give Portland a 109-105 lead, but McGinnis responded with a 25-foot onehander at the 18-second mark.
McGinnis then hustled back on court, tied up Gross (22 points for the game) for a jump ball and tapped it to teammate Lloyd Free.
The steamroller stopped there, however, when Philly muffed three chances to tie the game in the closing seconds. Erving made one of his few mistakes with ten seconds to go, missing an open jumper from the foul line. Free hustled for the rebound, but Walton rejected his shot from the corner.
When McGinnis' ten-foot shot off the inbounds pass juggled about the rim and bounced off, Portland had the game and the world championship. The place went wild.