There was something radically wrong at Denver Wednesday night.
Early in the fourth quarter, Blair Rasmussen of the Nuggets was outscoring Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, 34-8.
It was no surprise, then, that the Nuggets romped to a rather easy 138-125 victory over the road-weary Celtics.
Rasmussen, a 7-foot center from Oregon in his third pro season, wound up with a career-high 34 points. Bird, who may have suffered a broken nose in the closing minutes, had just 13. Bird's nose was bloodied in a melee in the last three minutes. His nose was to be X-rayed.
In his first two seasons, Rasmussen was a backup with promise and a 7.0 scoring average. This season, playing a little more, he has averaged 11.2 points a game. In this game, he sparkled in the absence of injured Celtic center Robert Parish, and also had 11 rebounds.
It was the seventh road game in a row for the Celtics, who must play at Portland Friday night before returning home. Their last home game was Feb. 3.
For a quarter, Bird and his Celtics held their own, but in the second and third quarters, the Nuggets shut down all the Celtics except Kevin McHale, who scored 33.
With Rasmussen and Alex English leading the way, and Bird getting in foul trouble, the Nuggets increased their lead to 115-92 in the first minute of the last quarter. At that point, Rasmussen went out for a rest and Bird re-entered the game. Bird scored five quick points, but it was a futile effort.
Parish is out with a back problem, so rookie Mark Acres first tried to stop Rasmussen. Then veteran Artis Gilmore tried and finally McHale played him.
English, with 37 points, wound up high scorer. The veteran forward also had 11 assists.
Cleveland 115, Philadelphia 107--Although every team in the National Basketball Assn. has about 30 regular-season games remaining, it is almost certain that all six teams in the Central Division will qualify for the playoffs.
Although they are playing well, the Cavaliers are having trouble getting out of the cellar.
Mark Price had 28 points and Brad Daugherty 19 at Philadelphia as the Cavaliers improved their record to 27-24.
Eight teams qualify in both conferences for postseason play. The Cavaliers are in seventh place in the East. In eighth place is the 76ers with a 21-27 record. In ninth place and out of playoff consideration at the moment is Washington with an 18-29 record.
Dallas 123, Washington 108--Just a couple of weeks ago, the Mavericks had all sorts of problems. They were in a slump and were in danger of losing first place in the tough Midwest Division.
But Coach John MacLeod gathered his club together for the All-Star break and appears to have them straightened out.
The Mavericks made their first eight shots at Dallas and built a big early lead, then romped to their third consecutive victory. They have pulled back to a two-game lead over the Houston Rockets.
Mark Aguirre, who finished with 35 points, scored 15 of them in the first quarter to help build the 39-23 lead.
Roy Tarpley had 19 rebounds and 17 points for the Mavericks.
Milwaukee 115, Seattle 93--Another team running into problems lately is the SuperSonics. With Terry Cummings scoring 20 points at Milwaukee, the Bucks handed Seattle its eighth loss in nine games.
The Bucks had an 85-75 lead after three quarters, then broke it open with a 21-5 burst to open the final period.
Utah 108, Phoenix 103--Karl Malone had 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds at Salt Lake City to pull the Jazz above .500 (25-24) for the first time in two months.
The Jazz took charge after the Suns scored the first eight points.