In that game—which ended with Celtic fans gleefully shouting, "See you Sunday"—and the next, the Celtics were helped mightily by their double-team defense. One of Philly's favorite plays begins with either Maurice Cheeks or Toney dribbling below the foul line on the right side and setting up a two-man game with Erving. But instead of double-teaming the Doctor, as they had done previously, the Celtics immediately sent the topside guard down, trapping the Philly guard before a pass could be made, cutting seconds off the shot clock and leading to terrible 76er shots. In the second period of Game 5, Philadelphia was 4 for 26 from the field, an abysmal 15%.
That was just a portent of what was to come in Game 6 on Friday night, although at the start it looked as if the series would be ending as the 76ers grabbed leads of 7-0 and 26-12. From its first possession Philadelphia moved the ball well and swarmed on defense, and no one in the noisy Spectrum seemed concerned with an 8-0 Boston spurt that made it 26-20 at the quarter. Or with the fact that the Sixers, as well as they were playing, couldn't pull away. The 76ers led by just 48-42 at the half. For the record, neither team had relinquished a halftime lead in any of the previous games.
That changed when Parish hit a jumper with 7:56 left to play, giving Boston a 69-67 lead. From then on it was a horror show for the Sixers, who had begun to play too finely. Over the last 18 minutes of the game, after a Bobby Jones layup at 6:12 in the third made it 57-53 Philly, the Sixers scored only four field goals, two of them on goaltending calls. Their 27-point second half was the lowest in the playoffs since the introduction of the shot clock in 1954.
Hadn't we seen this somewhere before? "D�j� vu?" asked Fitch. "I can't speak English sometimes. I don't want to get into that French stuff. It was a fierce game for conditioning, playing a winter game in the summer."
"That didn't make a difference," said Cunningham. "The building was air conditioned, wasn't it?"
When someone suggested to Parish that it would be Philly that would come out smoking in Game 7, the Chief just shrugged, "That's O.K. I'd put our best five out against theirs any day."
But on Sunday the best five were wearing red. The loosest five, too. Cunningham yanked the Sixers off the floor with three minutes left in the pregame warmups, presumably to pull the team together. Instead, backup Center Darryl Dawkins used the time to rip apart his teammates with jokes. "I know it was a serious occasion, but even if you're at a funeral," he said, "people will laugh if you say something funny."
The Sixers maintained their cool throughout the game—sometimes smiling when fouls were called against them. Once, Erving and Caldwell Jones actually slapped fives after Philly was called for a three-second violation. But it took a slap in the face to get Toney loosened up. In the first quarter M.L. Carr flattened him as he shot a jumper from the top of the key. The shot was good and so was the foul shot, and now Toney had regained the confidence he had lost in Games 5 and 6, in which he went 7 for 31 from the field. "I just felt like I had to play better," Toney said. "For the team and myself."
Apparently his teammates felt so also. Cheeks had visited Toney at his home after Game 6 expressly to tell him to relax. Before Sunday's game, many Sixers came over to give Toney a little pat.
Not that Toney needed much solicitude after he got started. At times he ignored plays to go off on his own offensive tangents. Even if his forays weren't planned, they were what the Sixers, who tend to be tentative at times on offense, needed. "If he hits one, you know he's going to hit another and another and another," Dawkins said.