The first two games had been bruising encounters, but really not much different from most playoff competition. Nevertheless, Spur Coach Bob Bass vehemently complained that his club was taking unnecessary beatings. Said Bass, "The bad blood is boiling."
San Antonio GM John Begzos singled out the 6'8" Jones, calling him a "cheap-shot artist. Jones did that stuff with our club for two years, and he hasn't stopped. He low-bridged Gale in New York. He's good at elbowing little guys from behind. If he keeps it up, he's going to take somebody out of a game or somebody is going to take him out."
The San Antonio press, which leans toward sex crimes, violence and the assorted disgusting sicknesses in our everyday society for front-page fare—FAMILY STALKS RAPIST was one charming tale told last week—made great hay out of all this.
Meanwhile, Loughery was incensed that a general manager would use such incendiary language. Jones said he understood. "Begzos doesn't have it up here," the player said, pointing to his temple. "My game is intimidation and being aggressive. If I want to hurt someone, I'll knock him upside the head with a forearm, not just set a tough pick. Begzos is shooting his mouth off to sell tickets."
What concerned the Nets more than words was the change Silas' injury effected on the San Antonio lineup. With much of the team's backcourt offense gone, Bass still was able to move the versatile 6'7" George (Ice Man) Gervin to guard, insert Dietrick at forward and be helped rather than hurt by the move. Dietrick's good defense on Erving enabled the Spurs' other cornerman, Kenon, to concentrate on offense, where he tends to be explosive when in the mood.
The San Antonio strategy of going to Kenon and Paultz down low against the weak New York middle worked so well in the second game that the two ex-Nets combined for 50 points and 28 rebounds while Gale, the other New York expatriate, had a team-record 13 assists. "The Nets are just another team," said Mr. K. "I don't get fire in my eyes or anything."
Kenon's revelation could have fooled the 10,000-plus Texans who filled the HemisFair for Game 3 and watched him put on a second-half number that rendered the constant scuffles and infighting meaningless.
The Nets jumped off fast, making 12 of their first 19 shots to go ahead by 10 points in the first quarter. Double-teaming inside, blunting Kenon and Paultz, the New Yorkers challenged Gale to hit from afar while Taylor kept Gervin away from his favorite spots. At the half Kenon had only four points and San Antonio was behind 53-48.
But after intermission the Nets went into that characteristic coma of theirs featuring team members alternately running around or standing around waiting for the Doctor to do something impossible. All the Nets got from their first 13 trips down the floor in the second half was one foul shot. Meanwhile, here came Kenon.
"It was time I had an outasight game," he was to say later. Kenon scored from deep in the corner to give San Antonio the lead at 54-53. He drove the baseline for a finger roll three-point play to give the Spurs the lead again at 64-62. He hit from 15 feet at the end of the quarter to put San Antonio ahead 75-73, this time for good.