With four seconds still to play, Erving had scored 43 points and the Nets led 118-116. It was at this point that Marvin Webster, the 7'1" Denver rookie who was out most of the season with hepatitis, slammed home an offensive rebound to tie the score and apparently send the game into overtime. The Nets called time to set up a play for Erving.
Denver Coach Larry Brown ordered Jones to play Erving tight. Denver decided against double-teaming him, afraid he would find the open man. The ball came in to Erving on the right baseline 18 feet out. With one second left The Doctor shot, scored, and New York won the opener 120-118.
"I wanted to drive," Erving said. "I wanted to try for a dunk or at least to get some contact, draw a foul. But Bobby cut me off, and I didn't feel I had time to spin back. Also, you don't have power right away after a spin. So I shot it."
Jones said later that he had played the entire game with a huge blister on his right foot. "And when I went up to block his last shot," he said, "the blister popped. For a split second, I thought about that blister. Maybe if it hadn't popped, I would have stopped the shot."
Said Larry Brown, "Can you imagine knowing for the rest of your life you lost a championship because of a blister?"
Led by rookie sensation David Thompson, who had scored 30 points in the opening loss, the Nuggets came back to win Game 2 at home 127-121. This time Thompson scored 24. But Erving's night was even better than his first. He scored 11 of New York's last 13 points, eight of them on stuffs, and finished with 48 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists. Said Denver Scout Frank Hamblen, "Our fans will love this one. They root for us to win and for Dr. J to score 50."
"Julius is the greatest," said Thompson. "He used to be my idol. But no more. It's pretty hard to idolize a guy you're playing against. I have to keep reminding myself not to stop and watch him."
Back in New York, Erving got in deep foul trouble early in the third game, and spent a lot of time on the bench. Still, when he returned for the last time with 1:50 to play, the Nets were up 109-108.
"With our main man out we proved we could hang with those guys," said Nets Coach Kevin Loughery, who has become weary of hearing that he runs a one-man operation. "When Julius is in trouble, it's a difficult position for our team to be in. The Doctor was harnessed, but we were still able to stay in the game."
With Erving in temporary exile, John Williamson, who was having an excellent series, popped in 28 points and Rich Jones added 22. "They're playing good defense," said the cocky Williamson, "but not even good D can stop me. This year the bad situation in the ABA has motivated everybody. If this is the last year, New York be champion."