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Lakers' Board Game Is Won by Nuggets : Pro basketball: Led by Dikembe Mutumbo's 26 rebounds, Denver scores 124-117 overtime victory at Forum.


The Lakers came back from an 18-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and a terrible night on the boards to force overtime Friday night, only to lose to the Denver Nuggets, 124-117, at the Forum before 16,950 in the home opener.

Dikembe Mutumbo's 26 rebounds led a 67-38 advantage for the Nuggets in that department, and he also had 19 points and nine blocked shots. No Laker had more rebounds than the eight by Eddie Jones--the shooting guard.

The fourth-quarter charge got serious when Vlade Divac hit a running hook in the lane with 3:32 to go to cut the Laker deficit to 97-93, the closest they had been since 8:30 remained in the second quarter. Another hook with 1:22 left, kept them within striking distance at 104-99.

Sedale Threatt's straight-away three-pointer over a charging Mutumbo closed the gap to 104-102 with 55 seconds to play. Two possessions later, a near repeat: Threatt, this time on the right side, over Mutumbo from behind the line with 19.9 to go, giving the Lakers a 105-105 tie.

The Nuggets called time out, then got the ball to Dale Ellis, alone along the left baseline. One of the game's best outside shooters, but only two of seven from the field on this night, he passed up the jumper and drove to the lane. Antonio Harvey was waiting and blocked the shot just after it was released.

Divac grabbed the loose ball. Timeout Lakers, with 11.5 remaining. Their attempt to win in regulation ended when Nick Van Exel's 20-footer with two seconds left hit the front of the rim.

Any extra adrenaline the Lakers may have gotten from finally playing their first game at the Forum--the second-latest home opener in the league--disappeared early. Actually, the Nuggets may have grabbed it away, because Denver was getting practically everything else that was available in the first half.

The visitors outrebounded the Lakers in the first quarter, 18-4, with Mutumbo getting eight of those, en route to a 10-point lead about 10 minutes into the game. When the Lakers closed to 32-29 in the second period, the Nuggets responded with a 12-2 run for another cushion.

It only got worse for the Lakers inside. When Reggie Williams was not boxed out after missing a free throw in the final minute of the half, he came down into the lane for the rebound, was fouled and made both attempts from the line for a 57-43 advantage. Fittingly, the quarter ended with the Nuggets getting two offensive boards before Mutumbo converted the third shot with 2.9 seconds remaining.

By intermission, the Lakers trailed, 59-47, were being outrebounded, 34-10, and had a second shot on the same possession just twice. The Nuggets had as many offensive boards, and Mutumbo had 14 on his own, along with five blocks and seven points, in only 24 minutes.

To think it could have been worse for the Lakers. The Nuggets played without three of their best inside players--LaPhonso Ellis, Rodney Rogers and Brian Williams--because of injuries.

That's probably why Denver had only a 48-24 rebounding advantage heading into the fourth quarter, not to mention a 90-72 lead where it mattered most.

But of course that changed too.

Laker Notes

The retirement of 33-year-old James Worthy makes the Lakers the sixth-youngest team in the league, with an average age of 25.8. Their starting lineup averages 24 years old. But most telling of all is that the new captains, Cedric Ceballos and Nick Van Exel, are 25 and 23, respectively, and have a combined five years' experience. . . . Worthy would have been the only other small forward on the roster. Now, when Coach Del Harris wants to substitute for Ceballos, he will choose between power forward George Lynch and shooting guard Eddie Jones. Because Jones is a little undersized at 6 foot 6 and 190 pounds, the nod probably will go to Lynch, who made 44 of his 46 starts last season at small forward. "It's not a major problem to circumvent," Harris said. . . . Agent Frank Wheaton, on owner Jerry Buss agreeing to uphold Worthy's contract and pay the remaining $12.35 million over the next two years: "It was an angelic and Godsend-like way." . . . Three Lakers are on the all-star ballot: Vlade Divac at center, Cedric Ceballos at forward and Nick Van Exel at guard.


The Dallas Mavericks, who didn't win their second game last season until Dec. 23, got 16 points from Long Beach State's Lucious Harris and their second victory in three games, 107-100, over the Philadelphia 76ers. C8

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