Cedric Maxwell promised he would bring along some of his Boston brashness when the Clippers traded for him, and he delivered it Thursday night in the form of a roundhouse punch aimed at the round physique of Philadelphia 76er forward Charles Barkley.
Just like old times, Maxwell and Barkley traded punches under the basket and incited a bench-clearing brawl in the continuation of a personal feud that began last season.
But Maxwell is now a Clipper, not a Celtic, and he probably didn't expect his new teammates to carry on the fight against the 76ers after both he and Barkley were ejected.
He was wrong. It turned out that Maxwell, who showered quickly and left the Sports Arena, missed a spirited Clipper performance that ultimately ended in a 117-108 loss that was considerably less predictable than it sounds.
The unscheduled bout between Barkley, definitely a heavyweight, and Maxwell, who rarely fails to back up words with actions, was an interesting undercard scuffle that led to an unexpectedly intense and competitive battle between the teams.
Long after Maxwell headed home and Barkley kicked back in the press lounge, the Clippers were still battling. The Clippers trailed, 105-102, with 3:55 left, but then the 76ers went on a 12-6 surge to gain the decision over the pesky Clippers.
Because Barkley was ejected and Julius Erving stayed behind in Philadelphia to attend the funeral of longtime 76er announcer David Zinkoff, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks were the only offense the 76ers had left with the game on the line.
It proved to be all they needed. Malone, who finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds, scored 6 points and Cheeks scored 8 of his 21 in the final six minutes.
For the entire first half and the first minute of the third quarter, the 76ers were slumbering. But the Maxwell-Barkley incident knocked some life into the 76ers.
The tussle started when Barkley, 6-6 and 263 pounds, backed his considerable behind into Maxwell and was called for an offensive foul. Maxwell grabbed Barkley as he was falling down and both players crashed to the floor, whereupon Barkley threw the ball at Maxwell.
At that point, Maxwell was on his feet swinging and the benches cleared. A Philadelphia player tried to hold back Maxwell and Clipper center Kurt Nimphius applied a bearhug to Barkley.
Witnesses say a Maxwell punch glanced some flesh, but no one was sure who it belonged to. Barkley says Maxwell never touched him.
"I lost my temper, you know," Barkley said. "We have a hatred. He (Maxwell) is cocky. I kind of threw the ball on him. It was hard to tell if he hit me. So many people were grabbing and stuff, it was hard to tell who touched who."
To fully appreciate this feud, some background is needed. Maxwell, a Celtic for eight seasons, has never liked Philadelphia. He once went into the seats at the Spectrum to "quiet" a fan, and he and Barkley also were involved in last season's celebrated Erving-Larry Bird scuffle.
Nimphius gave his account of Thursday's fight.
"I grabbed on to Barkley--it was tough to hold on--when Max started throwing punches," Nimphius said. "I didn't think it was too fair with me holding Barkley back, so I tried to push (Barkley) away but he was too big.
"This was nothing, just a little ruckus."
Marques Johnson, who led the Clippers with 30 points and 10 rebounds, said he admired Maxwell's guts to take on a heavyweight such as Barkley.
"(But) Max made sure that he had some people around to (help him) take on the Bark."
Philadelphia started making noises after the scuffle, building a 15-point lead that eventually evaporated. The 76ers, low on depth even before Barkley's ousting because of Erving's absence, tired in the fourth quarter as a result of the Clippers' constant pressure.
But the game eventually came down to talent and the Clippers just didn't have enough.
"We could have used Max," Clipper Coach Don Chaney said. "We like to have him near the end of the game when it's close, because he gets the big rebounds and draws fouls."
With Derek Smith out of the lineup again Thursday and also Saturday in Seattle, the Clippers basically relied on Johnson, who made 12 of 21 shots and added six assists.
The Clippers still are contemplating a replacement on the roster for retired Jamaal Wilkes. Coach Don Chaney said he wants a third center, "but one who can really help us. I don't see anyone one in the CBA who can help. There are a few guys we're looking at, and we might want to make a trade." . . . The 76ers got a big lift from Leon Wood and Bobby Jones. Wood, the former St. Monica High and Cal State Fullerton star, started at guard in the absence of Julius Erving and played a career-high 43 minutes. Wood finished with 13 points and four assists. Jones, who became a starter when Erving was switched to guard, played 35 minutes, his longest outing in a game this season, and scored 21 points. Jones came into the contest averaging six points a game.