Into the land of Easter enchilada hunts, 10-minute tornadoes and the instant pageantry of Dancing Mu�oz rode the New York Nets and their traveling alumni show. San Antonio's daily scandal sheets were belching fire. The Baseline Bums were in full throat. Even black-hatted Ernest Mu�oz, a Tex-Mex version of the Establishmentarian sideline hoofer, Dancing Harry, seemed overwhelmed by the variety of his own moves.
What occasioned all this thunder last week was a mere first-round playoff series between the Nets and the San Antonio Spurs. But attrition being what it is these days in the American Basketball Association, it was also a semifinal series. Moreover, it was internecine warfare among new Nets and old Nets and new Spurs and old Spurs. And more than that, if the screaming headlines and frenzied conversation in the local taco parlors were to be believed, the contest had turned from basketball into a grudge battle between two distinct social classes gone berserk, SPUR BLOOD UP FOR NET KNOCK, roared the San Antonio News. CRAZY MAN, IT'S THE PSYCHO SERIES, wailed the San Antonio Light.
The playoffs had started ordinarily enough in New York when Julius Erving, the incomparable Dr. J, scored his team's first seven points and 31 all told as the Nets whipped the Spurs 116-101. New York Coach Kevin Loughery said it might have been his team's best game all season, that the Nets could have "beaten the world" this night.
Late in the third quarter of that first contest, San Antonio's star guard, James Silas, was bumped in the air by the Nets' Brian Taylor, and he fell to the floor, chipping a bone in his right ankle. This meant that the Spurs would be without their leader and his 24 points a game for the rest of the series, which meant that the Spurs would become all excited and hyped and play over their heads, which meant that the Nets would laugh a lot and achieve the anticipated degree of overconfidence while being blown off their own court in the next game.
This kind of nonsense happens in pro basketball regularly and, sure enough, it happened here.
In truth the Nets are the Doctor and a few good interns in backcourt. No more. While they missed 68 shots, and Coby Dietrick forced Erving away from the offensive boards, the Spurs won Game 2, 105-79. Presto, a reverse runaway.
Before anybody could say, "What's up, Doc?" it was obvious the Nets and Spurs already had accommodated those aficionados of postseason activity who look for such basic playoff baggage as the famous "key injury," the surprising 41-point "turnaround" and, of course, the dreaded "home-court advantage."
In the Nets' case, the latter had crumbled because of the apathy of barely 14,000 people—total—during the two games at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. "We had no excuse for being flat," said Loughery. "But when you see people screaming for you, you get yourself up. Our fans don't react. They start to, then they go back to their painted positions."
As the series moved to Texas, the Spurs knew they would have no such problem with their own supporters. At San Antonio's HemisFair Arena, hard by the Alamo, the cry is "Remember the trades"—those being the off-season deals with the Nets which brought three Spur starters from New York in Larry (Mr. K) Kenon, Billy Paultz and Mike Gale.
Ironically, the limelight was on a fourth man involved in the New York- San Antonio negotiations, namely the bearded now-Net forward, Rich Jones.