"We're 10 points better than the other guys—on both courts," said Portland Assistant Coach Jack McKinney.
On Friday night both teams went about choking themselves to death during a pitiful first half in which Portland led 45-41 mainly because Walton was intimidating everybody except Erving, who scored 20 points.
But in the third quarter, after McGinnis finally woke up to lead a rally that enabled the Sixers to cut the lead to 53-52, the home team collapsed again. As Twardzik made steals and fed passes; as Walton (14 points, 24 rebounds) and Lucas (20 and 13) controlled the glass; as Gross turned into Dr. G, scoring 11 points in the quarter (and 25 in 25 minutes) while holding his fellow physician to four, the Trail Blazers went on a 17-2 burst that ran the 76ers right out of their own building.
The explosion provided Portland with its third 40-point plus quarter in three games as well as effectively deciding the outcome. After the Blazers took a 91-69 lead with 8:28 to go, those fans who weren't booing were heading for the exits as if 76er owner Fitz Dixon had screamed "Fire!"
While Dixon's millions went up in smoke, Erving, Collins and the hyperactive Jelly Bean led Philadelphia back to a semirespectable 110-104 defeat. Dr. J, again spectacular with 37 points, shook his head in the locker room. "I had a good feeling about tonight," he said. "It all backfired. It's a bad scene."
Bryant again accused some of his teammates of giving up. Collins said what Bryant saw was confusion, not quitters. Free said he didn't want to play Sunday. Shue smiled and slammed a door. Dawkins filled his tote bag with soda pop cans, then slammed a cooler. McGinnis saw former 76er Billy Cunningham and said, "Hey, Bill, can I borrow a smoke?" Mix said, "Can you believe the head cases on this team?"
During the 76ers' charter flight to Portland on Saturday (where 5,000 fans had greeted the Blazers at 4:30 a.m.), it was easy to believe anything. Most of the wives and girl friends were along. Poker money exchanged hands and tape decks blared. Mix prepared ice cream sundaes. Free complained about his ribs.
The Dawk recited poetry: "I love fast cars, cool summer breezes. Love when I want to and quit when I pleases." Turquoise Erving refused to take bows for being a prophetess. A 76er official announced over the P.A. that Shue was buying dinner for the entire plane and "you don't even have to eat with him." Was this a circus act or a Ship of Fools?
Caldwell Jones was asked what it was all coming down to. "I'm missing the cartoons," he said. "I be glad when basketball be over so I can get back to my 'toons."
On Sunday pro basketball finally was over. Only the Philadelphia 'toons flickered on.