DENVER — It might have been a rematch between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Danny Schayes, but what evolved instead was a mismatch of 18-point proportions.
This time, there were no wrestling holds, only business as usual, meaning the usual stream of jump shots and fast breaks, which usually favors the Lakers. Friday night was no exception.
The Lakers got 27 points from Abdul-Jabbar and took a 2-1 lead over the Nuggets in their best-of-seven playoff series with a 136-118 victory before a sellout crowd of 17,022 at McNichols Arena.
They came to see the Nuggets win and also to boo Abdul-Jabbar. Well, they got one out of two.
Abdul-Jabbar was booed during his pregame introduction and each time he touched the ball in the first half.
"Were they booing me?" Abdul-Jabbar asked, tongue in cheek. "Gee, I didn't notice them."
Yes, they were, and besides that, some of them also hung signs in his honor.
One of the signs said: "The problem is, Kareem, we really DO understand you."
That was probably referring to Abdul-Jabbar's post-bout comments that no one wanted to hear his side of the run-in with Schayes.
Another sign read: "Kareem eats quiche."
Abdul-Jabbar, who acknowledged that he does in fact eat quiche, said he didn't mind that sign, at all.
"It looks like we also ate a few Nuggets tonight," he said.
Coming into Game 3 of the Western Conference championship series, the Lakers had not lost here in more than three years. They still haven't.
In addition to Abdul-Jabbar's offense, James Worthy scored 28 points, Byron Scott scored 21, and the Lakers won for the ninth consecutive time on the Nuggets' home floor.
What is the reason for that?
"The best team is going to win," said Abdul-Jabbar.
The Lakers had 79 points at the half and 114 after three quarters, then survived a not-too-serious Nugget scare in the fourth quarter when Denver closed within 17 points with 6:10 left on three successive jumpers by Bill Hanzlik.
Abdul-Jabbar scored 15 of his points in the first half, but Denver Coach Doug Moe wasn't really sure that Abdul-Jabbar was much of a factor.
"I don't think he hurt us all that much," said Moe. "They just ran and ran and shot layup after layup."
Magic Johnson finished with 15 assists and also led all rebounders with 14.
"We wanted to extend our (halftime) lead and put them in a position where they couldn't come back," Johnson said.
As expected, Denver forwards Calvin Natt (30 points) and Alex English (23) carried the Nuggets' offense, but Denver shot only 44.8% to contribute greatly to the Lakers' running game.
Whether or not it was expected, a continuation of the Abdul-Jabbar-Schayes disagreement did not occur. They were matched up with each other for 13 minutes, but nothing happened.
"I'm just out here to play as well as I can, nothing else," Abdul-Jabbar said.
There were a lot of points in the first half, which ended with the Lakers holding a 79-68 lead, but not very much controversy.
They got close once, but it didn't involve Abdul-Jabbar or Schayes. Hanzlik, defensing Worthy, who had 20 points at the half, pushed him from behind, and Worthy retaliated with an elbow beneath Hanzlik's chin.
But referee John Vanak called the foul on Hanzlik for his shove, and Worthy got away with a free elbow.
After leading, 39-38, at the end of the first quarter, the Lakers began the second by making their first eight shots for a 56-44 advantage. The third quarter began about the same for the Lakers, who made their first five shots and took a 20-point lead.
The rest of the way was routine, except for the first appearance in the series by Denver guard Lafayette (Fat) Lever, who entered in the fourth quarter, coming back from a knee injury.
But Lever was a step or two slower than usual, and so were the other Nuggets.
"We got them going on the fast break and they killed us," Moe said. "I just knew we were in trouble from the start."
And now, what about the finish? With Game 4 coming up here Sunday afternoon, the Lakers have again reclaimed the home-court advantage in this series. If they win again Sunday, the Lakers are in a position to wrap up the series Wednesday night at the Forum.
Will the series go five, six or seven games?
"Talk to me after the game Sunday," Abdul-Jabbar said.
Laker Notes Denver's Danny Schayes, who was not fined by the NBA in last Tuesday's incident with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, said he is surprised that Abdul-Jabbar was fined only $500. Schayes figured it should have cost Abdul-Jabbar $1,500, the same amount Houston's Akeem Olajuwon was fined for sucker-punching Billy Paultz of Utah. "I thought it should have been at least that," Schayes said. "That's the only thing I could judge it by. It seems as serious, if not more so, than that." . . . This may seem surprising, but Denver's starting lineup has 42 seasons of experience compared to 32 for the Lakers' starting five . . . Game 4 tipoff is 3 p.m. PDT Sunday.