This was made apparent early to Dawkins, who began the game with a "Gorilla Dunk" but soon found himself crawling sheepishly to the bench after a sudden attack of bad hands, offensive fouls, airballitis and the shakes, also known as a Kareeming. Even though his numbers were puny—12 points, three rebounds—Dawkins showed that his verbal game was still intact.
"I ain't afraid to go to the hoop on Kareem," said Dawkins. "But when the refs are calling 'em that way it's a waste of time. I lost my funk."
Erving, at least, understood what had happened to him. "Every time I caught the ball I had two people on me," he said. "First, I forced shots, hoping our four-three advantage would get us the rebound. Then I tried the quick pass. Unfortunately, our guards didn't shoot too well. What can we do? That's something for the coach to figure out and lay on the team."
What Billy Cunningham laid on the Sixers was this: he would keep Dawkins out of foul trouble and more into the offense by freeing him from the responsibility of guarding Abdul-Jabbar. ("How do you stop him?" said Dawk in response to a question. "Bump him, bite him, step on his foot.") Cunningham gave that job to Caldwell Jones. So, at a very loose between-games practice, Dawkins worked on his long-range jumper.
At the Laker workout, only Spencer Haywood's late arrival caused tension, compounding the trouble that had been building because Haywood had seemed lackadaisical, even somewhat drowsy, during stretching exercises a few days earlier. This prompted a wry Los Angeles Times headline: WILL HAYWOOD BE THE SLEEPER OF THE SERIES?
L.A. Coach Paul Westhead, who once taught Shakespeare at LaSalle, dropped some political science on the Lakers before Game 2. "We want to get the fast break every time," he said. "That's a democracy. Everybody gets the ball. But when we don't run, it's a monarchy. Get it to The Man. If we don't run and we don't get it to Kareem? Then it's anarchy. Let's see what kind of government we have tonight."
It was anarchy. The Lakers may have been a half step slower, but the 76ers had become the defensive team that destroyed Atlanta and Boston. They took away the Laker fast break and locked it in a closet. The Lakers got it to Kareem all right—he scored 38 points—but the help so evident in Game 1 was absent, until it was too late.
The 76ers played such crackling sharp defense that the Lakers made just eight free throws to Philly's 21. Erving, meanwhile, shook his chains and took the ball right in and over Kareem the first time he touched it. He scored 12 points in the first period on his way to 23. Cheeks, generally an average scorer (11.4 points a game in the regular season), hit his first nine shots and also had 23, and Bobby Jones had 13. But the biggest explosions came from Dawkins, who scored 25 points, 10 from downrange, the rest on layins and a couple of thunderclap jams.
After Philadelphia led by 10 and 18 at the ends of the first two periods and 20 in the fourth, Los Angeles went on a furious 25-7 tear and got to within one at 105-104 after two giant baskets and a blocked shot by Kareem. It would have been an alltime championship choke had Bobby Jones not canned an eight-foot jumper with seven seconds left.
But Dawkins did most of the postgame talking, as usual. "I was just feeling good," he said. "I had my rhythm and funk together and I kept dropping it through. I know I'm important to this team offensively, but this is the Doc's team. I'm just happy to play on it. The Big Guy owns the other team. I don't want a team. It's a headache."