Akeem Olajuwon still manages to bring out the best in Moses Malone, although the battles between the two are no longer all that meaningful.
When Olajuwon came out of Nigeria to become a highly regarded freshman at the University of Houston in 1980, Malone was playing with the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Assn.
Malone, generally acknowledged as the best center in the game at the time, made Olajuwon his project. Malone was such an excellent teacher that Olajuwon is now generally recognized as the best center.
Now in his 14th season and playing for the Washington Bullets, Malone has an outstanding game only occasionally.
He had a big one Saturday night at Houston, but the Bullets couldn't beat Olajuwon and the young Rockets. Although Malone had 27 points and 15 rebounds, the Bullets lost to the Rockets, 115-109, despite a 46-point fourth quarter.
Olajuwon had a good game, scoring 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds, but it was the sharpshooting of Purvis Short that enabled the Rockets to hold off the determined Bullets.
Short came off the bench in the second quarter to make 6 of 8 shots, then came back in the third quarter to score 11 points and help build a 75-55 lead. Short finished with 33 points.
John Williams and Malone led the Bullet rally that cut the lead to 112-109 with 19 seconds left. But Eric (Sleepy) Floyd made three free throws to close out the victory for the Rockets.
Williams had 14 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter when the Rockets, who had been shooting about 55% from the field, turned cold. Williams also had nine rebounds off the bench.
"Sometimes you get the feeling you just can't be stopped," said Short, who was 14 for 22 from the field. "The wings were open all night, and the guys did a great job of getting me the ball."
The Bullets made a game out of it despite a poor night by Bernard King, who was only 4 for 18 with 8 points.
Seattle 113, New Jersey 101--At full strength and at home, the Nets are hard-pressed to beat a good NBA team. When there is unrest and players missing, the problems mount.
The struggling SuperSonics took advantage of more adversity for the Nets at East Rutherford, N.J., and ended a four-game losing streak by building a big early lead.
For the second game in a row, the Nets' No. 2 scorer, Orlando Woolridge, was missing. But unlike Friday night, when Woolridge's whereabouts were unknown, the 6-foot 9-inch forward checked in by phone.
About an hour before the Sonics' game, Woolridge called Nets Chief Operating Officer Bob Casciola and said he was injured in an auto accident Friday on the New Jersey Turnpike but would rejoin the club Tuesday.
According to Woolridge, his car skidded off the road in bad weather when he was on his way to join the team for the bus ride to Philadelphia for the game with the 76ers. He said he bumped his head, went to a hospital for treatment, spent the night in a hotel and would not be on hand for the Seattle game.
"This story is according to Mr. Woolridge so we have not had time yet to check out the facts," Casciola said. "We hope time will tell."
Dale Ellis and Tom Chambers helped the Sonics get off to a fast start, and the Nets were never in the game. Ellis had 30 points, Chambers 28.
Buck Williams had 23 points for the Nets. Roy Hinson had 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Phoenix 128, Denver 108--Until they find a way to beat some of the weaker teams on the road, the Nuggets can forget about beating Dallas for the Midwest Division title.
In recent games at home, the Nuggets have beaten the Lakers and the Boston Celtics.
Against the Suns at Phoenix, the Nuggets trailed by only six points after three quarters. But Larry Nance and Walter Davis went wild in the first six minutes of the last quarter, and the Suns stretched a six-point lead to 14 and went on to improve their record to 16-34.
The Nuggets, 20-4, at home, fell to 9-16 on the road.
Nance and Davis both come off the bench these days to provide instant pop to the attack.
Nance had 29 points, 12 of them in the first six minutes of the last quarter. Davis finished with 28 points, including eight in the opening rush in the last quarter.
The loss dropped the Nuggets 3 1/2 games behind Dallas.