After blowing an 18-point lead Tuesday night at Milwaukee, the Bucks have to be concerned about the Philadelphia jinx.
The 76ers, trailing, 83-65, with 18 minutes remaining, rallied behind Julius Erving and Charles Barkley to beat the Bucks, 118-112, in the first game of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.
In four previous playoffs, the 76ers have eliminated the Bucks. Last spring, the 76ers overwhelmed the Bucks, sweeping the series in four games.
Both teams were without their top player. Philadelphia center Moses Malone is out for the season, while Sidney Moncrief, the Bucks’ star guard, missed the opener with an injured left heel.
For more than half the game it appeared the well-rested Bucks didn’t really need Moncrief. With Terry Cummings and Paul Pressey leading the way, they led from the start. It was 65-54 at halftime, and a Cummings jumper made it 83-65 with 6:15 left in the third quarter.
Barkley, a sensational performer in the hectic five-game first-round series with Washington, began to assert himself. He finished with 31 points, 20 rebounds and 6 assists.
“A lot of people just see Charles Barkley sporadically,” 76er Coach Matt Guokas told United Press International. “They don’t know the things he can do. But we see him every night. We sort of come to expect it out of him.”
With 7:33 remaining in the game, the Bucks, who had not played in a week, still led, 101-97. But Maurice Cheeks and Erving, who scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, made the points that gave the 76ers the lead for good.
Boston 119, Atlanta 108--Despite another subpar performance by scoring champion Dominique Wilkins, the Hawks threw a scare into the Celtics before becoming the 35th consecutive visiting team to lose in Boston Garden.
In taking a 2-0 lead in the series, the Celtics built an 87-69 lead in the third quarter, but with four minutes left in the game, they led by one, 109-108. While the Hawks didn’t score again, Larry Bird scored eight of his game-high 36 points to assure the Celtics of victory.
The Hawks’ rally began shortly after Celtic guard, Danny Ainge, often involved in altercations during his young career, was hit with a flagrant foul by referee Earl Strom and ejection for apparently kicking Scott Hastings.
Ainge succeeded in waking up the Hawks, who made a real game of it. Wilkins, obviously bothered by the long arms of Kevin McHale, scored only 19 points, making only 7 of 22 shots from the field.
“One more big play and they might have won this game,” Bird said.
In the two games against the Celtics, Wilkins is 11 for 37 for 30% and has scored only 32 points. During the regular season he shot 46.8% and averaged 30.3 points.
Houston 119, Denver 101--The Rockets, at least for two games at Houston, are making a joke of their Western Conference semifinal series with Denver.
The Rockets built a 53-43 halftime lead, then, with Lewis Lloyd scoring 13 of his 23 points in the third quarter, turned it into a rout with an 88-71 lead.
“It was no contest tonight,” Coach Doug Moe of the Nuggets said. “We had no offense. We stunk up the place. I thought we were aggressive on defense but on offense we had fast-break opportunities early and didn’t follow through.”
One of the chief offenders for the Nuggets was Alex English, their high-scoring forward. English was 4 for 13 and had only 11 points in 29 minutes. Nagging injuries that have hampered the play of Calvin Natt and Wayne Cooper also hurt the Nuggets.
Ralph Sampson was outstanding for the Rockets. He had 27 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists.