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Nuggets' Pace Plays Into Lakers' Hands in 141-121 Victory

November 22, 1990|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Exactly nine years and two days after he was fired as coach of the Lakers, Paul Westhead returned to the Forum as coach of the Denver Nuggets.

The Lakers marked the anniversary of Westhead's departure by dispatching the Nuggets, 141-121, Wednesday night before 15,941.

Coaching his first game in Los Angeles since he left Loyola Marymount to install his fast-paced offense in Denver, Westhead and his Nuggets were run out of town by the Lakers, who produced their highest point total and best shooting percentage (60.9%) of the season.

The Nuggets are off to their worst start, losing 10 of 11 games.

"I hope we play our system better as we go, game by game," Westhead said. "It's rough right now, but I think we'll be OK."

Seven Lakers finished in double figures, led by James Worthy, who had 29 points. Worthy, who had 18 points in the second half, made eight consecutive shots before he missed one in the closing seconds of the third quarter.

Magic Johnson added 22 points and 18 assists, Byron Scott had 19, A.C. Green 15, Sam Perkins 14, Vlade Divac 12 and Terry Teagle 11.

The Nuggets, who trailed by 15 points at halftime, cut the Lakers' lead to five with 2:22 left in the third quarter as guard Michael Adams, who had 19 points, launched back-to-back three-point shots.

But the Lakers caught their second wind, outscoring the Nuggets, 11-2, in the final 2:15 of the third quarter, and cruising to their second victory in three days against Denver.

Pressed by the Nuggets, who had abandoned that strategy in a 122-105 loss to the Lakers Monday night in Denver, the Lakers jump-started their running game, dormant for most of the season.

"I'd like to be able to get out and run like that every night," Laker Coach Mike Dunleavy said.

Nugget forward Orlando Woolridge, the NBA's leading scorer, had 28 points as he returned to the Forum for the first time since the Lakers traded him to Denver for two second-round draft picks. Woolridge, who received an ovation when he was introduced before the game, had 18 points in the first half.

The warm reception caught Woolridge off guard.

"I really didn't expect it," Woolridge said. "It caught me by surprise and took me awhile to recover. I had to remind myself that I was here to play basketball because I almost had a tear come from my eye."

So the Lakers, who extended their winning streak to a season-high three games, kept pace with the Clippers for fifth place in the Pacific Division. Both teams are 5-5.

"It feels good to have won four out of five," Dunleavy said. "Hopefully, we'll build on this and go on from here. We have a lot of room for improvement. Though I'm very pleased with our improvement, we're not finished learning yet."

Laker Notes

The Nuggets signed forward-center Terry Mills. Although no terms were disclosed, Mills' contract is believed to be worth $1.35 million over two years. The 16th pick in the NBA draft, Mills was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Nuggets acquired the rights to Mills in exchange for center Dan Schayes. After negotiations bogged down, Mills reached agreement on a contract with the PAOK Athletic Club of Greece, but returned to the United States.

Rookie guard Chris Jackson, who finished with 23 points, came off Denver's bench to score 10 points during the Nuggets' 22-11 run in the second quarter. . . . Denver activated Jerome Lane from the injured list and placed Marcus Liberty on the injured list with a pulled hamstring. Lane made his first start since missing five games with a severe viral infection, replacing T.R. Dunn in the Nuggets' starting lineup. The Nuggets also waived guard Corey Gaines, who played at UCLA and Loyola Marymount.

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