Clyde Drexler, finally living up to expectations, scored a career-high 37 points and led the Portland Trail Blazers to an easy 137-121 victory over the Spurs Sunday at San Antonio.
Drexler just missed a triple double in his most impressive game since the Trail Blazers made him their first-round choice in the 1984 college draft. He had 10 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 steals. He set the tempo for the one-sided victory by scoring 19 points in the first quarter and was instrumental in building a 36-25 lead.
The Trail Blazers, in ending a three-game losing streak, maintained the lead most of the remainder of the game. Only three-point goals at the end of the first two periods by Alvin Robertson and Mike Mitchell kept it from being a rout earlier.
Drexler, a spectacular open-court player on an exciting Houston team in college, had a disappointing rookie season and has yet to live up to expectations. Until Kiki Vandeweghe reinjured his knee shortly before the All-Star break, the 6-7 Drexler was coming off the bench with inconsistent success. Sometimes he played forward and sometimes, he played guard.
In the seven games he has started in the absence of Vandeweghe, he has flashed some of his best form, and Sunday he put on a show. He was all over the court, stealing the ball, setting up teammates and flying to the hoop. He made 15-of-24 shots and raised his average in the last seven games to 24.7 points, 7 assists and a shooting percentage of 50.2.
"Last season was a sobering experience for Clyde," Portland Coach Jack Ramsay said. "He came in late and had no program. He had no training camp and he just never caught up.
"This fall he worked very hard. He is an important part of our future. He gains confidence with performances such as this one."
The Blazers, battling to earn a playoff berth, are 4-3 since Drexler glided into a starting role.
"I don't like to see anybody get hurt," Drexler said, "but the more playing time I get, the more I improve. I can't go back and change it, but it was a mistake to miss all that training when I was a rookie. I paid for it, too."
Jim Paxson also had a big game for the Trail Blazers. The veteran guard had 35 points, making 15 of 25 shots and had 8 rebounds. He also spent part of the time guarding the Spurs' ace, George Gervin, who scored only 9 points in 25 minutes.
Boston 113, Indiana 100--Larry Bird is All-World just about anywhere, but he seems to save just a little extra for his appearances in Indianapolis.
Bird, who grew up in French Lick, Ind., and first gained fame at Indiana State, had 45 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals to make certain the Celtics maintained first place in the Atlantic Division.
Although the Celtics built an 88-64 lead in the third quarter and led by 18 going into the last quarter, Bird was enjoying his return home so much he played all but three minutes of the game.
The Pacers (18-39) have the worst record in the Eastern Conference. But for 16 minutes, they made it interesting, holding a 38-36 lead. Then, Bird and Robert Parish led a 17-6 spurt that gave the defending champions control for good. Parish had 9 of his 19 points in that spurt.
The victory gave the Celtics a 46-12 record, best in the league, and they stayed one-half game ahead of Philadelphia. The Celtics play 15 of their last 24 games at home. They have no trip longer than two games and travel no farther than Milwaukee.
Philadelphia 117, Utah 108--Julius Erving continues to defy those who say he is slowing down at 35. Dr. J put on a sensational show at Philadelphia and the 76ers needed his best to halt the Jazz's four-game road winning streak.
Erving scored 31 points, four of them in the final minute after Utah had taken a 108-107 lead. Erving's spectacular driving layup with 56 seconds left put the 76ers in front to stay and triggered a 10-0 closing spurt.
The Jazz, again playing without injured sharpshooter Adrian Dantley, had beaten Cleveland and New Jersey on this trip. When Darrell Griffith, who scored 35 points, put them ahead, it took the Doctor to beat them. Griffith also had nine rebounds.
The Jazz have not enjoyed success at the Spectrum since Oct. 22, 1977. This was their 10th loss in a row at the home of the 76ers.
Denver 117, Phoenix 107--Alex English scored 22 of his 32 points in the second half to lead a sensational spurt at Denver that brought the Nuggets from far back.
The Nuggets, who stretched their lead in the Midwest Division to 2 1/2 games, trailed 68-49 early in the third quarter. But English and Lafayette Lever led a 16-1 spurt that put the Nuggets close.
The Nuggets fell behind, 85-73, late in the third period, then English triggered a 17-0 spurt and the Nuggets pulled away in the closing minutes on free throws to record their 13th home court win in a row.