Alex English scored 30 points and Danny Schayes had 25 points and a season-high 14 rebounds to lead the Denver Nuggets to 115-104 victory Friday night over the Clippers.
The victory moved the Nuggets within a half-game of the first-place Houston Rockets in the Midwest Division.
Denver never trailed, jumping to a 10-0 advantage behind the shooting of Wayne Cooper, English, and T.R. Dunn.
The Nuggets increased their lead to 16 points as English scored 14 points and Cooper 11 in the first period. In the second period, largely on the scoring of Schayes, Denver padded its lead to 65-47.
The Clippers rallied in the third period led by rookie center Benoit Benjamin, who scored 20 points, and Marques Johnson, who finished with 22. The Clippers twice trimmed Denver’s margin to three points, the last time at 82-79 with 2:15 left in the third period.
But the Nuggets pulled away to a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter as Bill Hanzlik scored nine of his 13 points, and Fat Lever hit nine of his 17. Lever had 15 assists, and Cooper pulled down a season-high 17 rebounds.
The effort by Schayes, who averages 7.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, drew praise from Denver Coach Doug Moe.
“Danny Schayes is doing a terrific job,” Moe said “He’s helping out on defense, in rebounding and offensively. He’s been a big plus for us.”
Starting Schayes and Cooper is a big-man pairing that has worked nicely for the Nuggets.
“Over the past six games, Danny and I have played well together,” said Cooper, a 6-10 center. “Before that, we were getting beaten badly on the boards because we usually had too small a lineup in there.”
Schayes, at 6-11, said: “The big lineup has been effective. Cooper and I seem to play real well together. The team came out and played with a lot of intensity right off tonight. We need to do this. Strange things can happen if the score is close in games like this.”
Clipper Coach Don Chaney had nothing but praise for Denver, saying: “They’re a very good team, especially at home. We didn’t open it up full-speed like they did. Denver would run two or three guys in the paint, meaning we had the shots from the perimeter. But it didn’t matter as we just matched points with them. They got out early, and that was the difference.”
Johnson agreed that the early Nugget spurt was the Clippers’ downfall.
“We started off slowly and dug a hole,” he said. “By the time you make your run at them you expend too much energy to get back.”