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Lakers Have Nuggets on the Run, 139-122

May 12, 1985|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

Know how to make the Lakers mad? Just tell them your team can run as fast, as much and as often as they can. That really gets them.

Now it can be told. The Lakers treated the Denver Nuggets so poorly in the first game of the Western Conference final because Nugget Coach Doug Moe said his team could run just as well as the Lakers.

Such blasphemy. Such controversy. Such excitement. If only Game 1 were as interesting. The Lakers said they had something to prove to Moe, so they went out and ditched the Nuggets, 139-122, Saturday at the Forum to take a quick 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series.

This one wasn't even remotely interesting after the first half, which ended with the Lakers ahead by 28 points, 80-52, and Byron Scott rainbowing three-pointers on his way to the locker room.

Scott scored 27 points in 30 minutes, which was the longest any Laker starter played. That was because the closest Denver got in the second half was the final margin of 17 points.

No, this one didn't get interesting again until it was over, when one by one, the Lakers expressed resentment at Moe's suggestion that Denver's running game could stand up with the Lakers'.

Actually, Moe never said that. What he did say was that while Denver might be able to run with the Lakers, they certainly couldn't out-fast-break them. Something must have been lost in the translation, but that didn't seem to matter.

"We remember Doug's quote saying they can outrun us and out-fast-break us," Bob McAdoo said. "That got everybody kind of agitated. We used that as a springboard. We tried to prove to them that they are not the better fast-break team."

Scott, who made both of his three-point attempts, was equally upset. "They do a lot of talking," Scott said. "It's time for them to show what they can do."

Magic Johnson had 16 assists in 26 minutes and a few words for Moe: "I'll just say we're gonna see it on the floor."

As you might expect, Moe was devastated by the reaction from Lakerland. After he stopped laughing, Moe asked a reporter to thank the Lakers for showing so much respect for his words.

"I'm glad they think I'm so important," Moe said. "No one has ever listened to me before, and I've been talking for a long time."

If one game is any indication, Moe was wrong in whatever he said, whether the conversation was real or imagined. The Lakers jumped off to a 19-5 lead, then sank a bit when Moe relieved rookie guard (Wonderful) Willie White from further embarrassment and inserted Mike Evans into the lineup.

That helped the Nuggets, but only for a while. The Lakers led by eight points at the end of the first quarter, only to put the game away with a 42-point outburst in the second quarter.

Consecutive three-point plays by Johnson and two of Mike McGee's nine second-quarter points got the Lakers a 17-point lead that grew to 20 after a technical foul on Moe and a dunk by Scott, who received an alley-oop pass from Johnson.

After that, the only question was how many turnovers White would commit (the answer was seven) and whether Chuck Nevitt would play (he did).

The Laker lead ballooned to 36 points, 104-68, midway through the third quarter, when Coach Pat Riley put Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the bench for the rest of the game.

They weren't needed because of what happened before, especially in the backcourt. Denver's starting guards, White and T. R. Dunn, combined to score eight points, one fewer than Scott had after the first six minutes.

Laker guards outscored Denver's guards, 75-37, and that seems to be an area in which the Lakers seem to clearly dominate.

Moe got away with playing White, a barely used rookie, against Utah, in place of the injured Lafayette (Fat) Lever, but that's not going to work against the Lakers. Moe said he will change and maybe go to Bill Hanzlik or Evans in Game 2.

"Willie was just scared to death," Moe said.

When the Lakers are playing as they did Saturday, you can see why. Seven Lakers scored in double figures; they shot a team playoff-record 64%, out-rebounded the Nuggets, out-blocked them and never let them get back in the game after halftime.

And yes, they outran the Nuggets, too.

"We sustained the energy surges," Riley said.

About the only area in which the Nuggets came close to the Lakers was in injuries. The Lakers' Larry Spriggs had his nose broken by Calvin Natt's elbow, accidentally thrown when they were trying for a rebound, which was matched by Wayne Cooper, who got a bruised rib when McGee elbowed him on a drive to the basket.

Both Spriggs and Cooper are expected to play in Game 2, although Spriggs' nose will be hidden by a mask. The Nuggets' offense was equally secretive Saturday. Alex English scored 30 points, and Natt had 26, but neither was doing much when the Lakers put the game out of reach by halftime.

Abdul-Jabbar, who in 26 minutes of work scored 16 points with seven rebounds, was asked why the Lakers were able to dominate.

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