But on Sunday he was nowhere. The 76ers outrebounded the Lakers 52-39 and kept hammering away at the offensive boards, picking up 23 points on follow shots. When the ball didn't come off the glass, the Lakers couldn't run. And when they couldn't run, they couldn't seem to handle the ball. Though Los Angeles wound up with three fewer turnovers than the Sixers, the Lakers seemed to make theirs at inopportune moments. "We never protected the ball well," Nixon said. "When we had the opportunity to cut the gap, we turned the ball over."
If the Lakers were their own worst enemies, they had help from Erving and Maurice Cheeks, the 76ers' point guard. Cheeks hadn't been effective in the second half of Game 1, but on Sunday he limited Nixon to six points, scored 19 and added eight assists. "In the first game I was just floating around," Cheeks said. "Today I tried to be more aggressive, to go to the hoop more."
Erving, too, was more assertive. He put the Sixers up by 11 in the third quarter when he waded through the entire Los Angeles defense with one of his best serpentine moves, and on the next exchange, he rebounded a Rambis miss and went coast-to-coast, dipping, pumping and finally finger-rolling the ball into the basket.
Toney, who had scored a quiet 20 points in Game 1, in which he slightly twisted an ankle and sprained a knee, warmed up in the third quarter, sinking 5 of 7 shots after a 1-for-8 first half. If Toney's hand was a bit unsteady at times, it's little wonder. His wife, Priscilla, gave birth to their first child on Friday night, a daughter named Chanel Andrea.
"We had a chance to do something no one else had done," Earvin Johnson said after the streak had been stopped. "Now we have a chance to be the champs. I guess we have to focus on that."
"Nobody can talk about the history thing now," Cooper said. "This loss is to our benefit in a way. Now we just have to concentrate on being an NBA ball club, not the greatest team of all time."