When Julius Erving retired, Charles Barkley knew he was going to have to assume more of the burden if the Philadelphia 76ers were going to remain a winning team.
Now, however, with all of the team's big men injured, Barkley has had to assume almost the entire burden.
The bulky 6-foot 6-inch forward scored 32 points and had 14 rebounds Wednesday night at Philadelphia to lead the 76ers to a 114-102 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Despite Erving's departure and injuries to 7-foot centers Tim McCormick and Chris Welp and power forward Roy Hinson, the 76ers are not much worse off than they were a year ago.
At this point last season, they were 11-6. Wednesday night's victory gave them a 9-8 record, and they are second in the Atlantic Division, two games behind Boston.
Barkley, in his fourth pro season, is better than ever. He leads the team in every offensive department except assists, in which he is second to playmaker Maurice Cheeks.
In this game, he wiped out the Spurs early. He scored 22 of his points and controlled the boards as the first half ended with the 76ers leading, 57-37.
Welp is out for the season, McCormick may be back by January, but Hinson returned for a brief stint against the Spurs.
"All in all, we haven't done too badly," Barkley said as the 76ers started a string of 7 games in 10 nights. "I'm happy with the 9-8 start, under the circumstances. I think it's good we're even with the Celtics in the loss column.
"We'll find out more later this week with back-to-back games with the Celtics."
Barkley, shooting 62%, was 13 for 17 and had 6 steals and 6 assists in 44 minutes.
Boston 121, Utah 111--Larry Bird scored 38 points, and the Celtics ended a two-game home losing streak against their favorite Boston Garden foe.
The Jazz, which has never won in Boston, played the Celtics on even terms until the closing minutes of the third quarter, when Bird and Robert Parish led a 15-8 spurt that sent the Jazz to their 18th consecutive loss at Boston.
The Celtics had announced Tuesday that Kevin McHale, still having some problems with his broken foot, would play only 24 minutes a game. They stuck to the plan for one game. In this one, McHale played 36 minutes, getting 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Bird was 14 for 25 as the Celtics outshot the Jazz, 57.5% to 45%. Karl Malone had 31 points and 12 rebounds in a losing cause.
Denver 132, Houston 113--The Rockets' first game after breaking up the Twin Towers found the one remaining tower leaning.
In this game at Denver, the first since Ralph Sampson was traded to Golden State, Akeem Olajuwon scored only 11 points, and the Rockets were routed.
Sleepy Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll, obtained in the Sampson deal, had 14 and 9 points, respectively.
The Nuggets broke open a close game with a 20-5 spurt late in the second quarter. Michael Adams led the way and finished with 24 points.
Dallas 109, New Jersey 105--Derek Harper scored 7 of his 27 points in overtime at East Rutherford, N.J., including the decisive three-point shot with 29 seconds left in overtime.
The Nets, attempting to win two in a row for the first time this season, went on a 9-2 run in the last two minutes of regulation to tie it. Ben Coleman's layup sent it into overtime.