"Realistically, if they're not getting layups and they're only taking jumpers, how are they going to get to the foul line?" asked Erving. "Who was driving for them tonight? Not Magic. Not Nixon. Not Kareem."
Riley's complaints about Garretson seemed to have the effect of giving the Lakers another excuse—to go along with Game 1's fatigue—for losing to the 76ers. L.A. found it difficult to give Philadelphia its due, even after being outplayed twice. "They didn't want to win those first two games," said Nixon. "You could see they didn't really want to win, but we just couldn't take advantage of it."
Game 3 made it evident that the Lakers weren't able to adjust to the Sixers' aggressiveness even though Abdul-Jabbar grabbed 15 rebounds. "Through the pain of losing four of the last seven years," Riley said, "the 76ers have conjured up an emotional level that is probably more significant than ours. It seems like, at the appropriate time, they were always able to take their level of aggressiveness to another level."
Up is a place particularly familiar to Erving, who levitated his game on Sunday with 21 points and 12 rebounds. And when the Doctor, who has been most often identified with the 76ers' long struggle for the championship, was asked what he would do with the NBA championship ring he has chased for seven years, Erving, who already has a surfeit of rings, said, "I probably won't even wear it. They can give it to me in any size." Just so long as they give it to him.