Moe Was Right--Lakers Too Good for His Nuggets
The scoreboard doesn’t lie. And neither, as it turned out, does Doug Moe.
“Are there any more doubts about the great soothsayer from the West now?” said the Denver coach after the Lakers completed a three-game sweep with a 140-103 annihilation of the Nuggets here Wednesday night.
“It ain’t no secret but they’re going to win this thing,” said Moe, who carried two cans of beer into his postgame press conference.
“They’re absolutely terrific, as good as I’ve ever seen.
“Mark my words. They’re going to coast through this thing. They may lose a game here or there . . . if someone breaks their legs.”
The Lakers will play the winner of the Utah-Golden State series in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. Utah leads 2-1 after losing, 110-95, Wednesday night. Game 4 is scheduled for Friday in Oakland.
From Moe’s perspective, the most frightening aspect of the game, apart from the final score, was this: The Nuggets played as well as they could in the first half and still were down by 13, 69-56.
“I thought at halftime that if we’d been playing anyone else, we would have been ahead,” Moe said.
The Nuggets, who lost the three games by an average of 27.3 points, were ahead, 42-40, after guard Mike Evans’ three-pointer with 6:52 left in the second period.
But that’s when Michael Cooper threw in two straight three-pointers from the top of the key, triggering a 15-2 run that gave the Lakers’ their first double-figure lead of the night.
Cooper, who hit four three-pointers Wednesday, also assisted on three straight baskets by Byron Scott--who led the Lakers with 25 points--during that stretch.
That, Moe said, was it for the Nuggets.
“We played as good as we can play, and then we cracked,” Moe said. “We just couldn’t continue to play at that level. They were able to and they just got better and better.
“You want to know something? They may do it in the finals. And when this (bleep) is over, we’re going to be the heroes, because we lost to these guys just three times. Everybody else is going to lose four.”
It’s no accident that the Lakers were relentless, even on a night that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar failed to score in double figures for the first time in five years.
“We’re not going to let up--that’s one thing you’re going to see, no matter where we are or who were playing,” said Magic Johnson, who had 16 points and 14 assists.
“And that has to start with me and Kareem telling them that, reminding them. . . . We were at our highest. We were ready.”
Abdul-Jabbar, who has a streak of 774 consecutive regular season games of scoring 10 points or more, finished with 9 Wednesday night, making just 2 of 8 shots in 25 minutes. He came out of the game for good with 4:23 left in the third quarter and the Lakers ahead, 90-73.
But before he left, Abdul-Jabbar contributed five blocked shots to the Lakers’ season-high total of 14. James Worthy and third-string center Mike Smrek had three blocks each.
Smrek’s entry into the game was triggered by the night’s worst collision, involving rookies Billy Thompson of the Lakers and Maurice Martin of the Nuggets.
Thompson had knocked the ball loose from Martin in the Nuggets’ front-court and was going in for one of his patented high-flying jams when he was knocked to the floor by Martin.
At the time, the Lakers’ lead was 38 points, 125-87.
Thompson remained on the floor for a few moments before being assisted to the locker room by James Worthy and A.C. Green, the Laker forwards who scored 40 points between them.
Green, who scored 11 of the Lakers’ first 13 points, had 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Worthy scored 22, missing just 3 of 10 shots.
For the series, Worthy shot a phenomenal 72.2%, making 26 of 36 shots.
Laker physician Steve Lombardo, who examined Thompson, said the rookie forward hyperextended his left knee and it would be at least 48 hours before he’d be able to determine the extent of the injury.
“He’s in a fair amount of pain now,” said Lombardo, who added that Thompson had suffered ligament damage to the same knee in his sophomore year at Louisville.
Thompson, who looked over his shoulder a couple of times, said he expected Martin to challenge his flight to the basket.
“I just didn’t expect him to wipe me out like that,” Thompson said.
Laker forward Kurt Rambis, who was on the floor at the time, saw no malice on Martin’s part.
“He went after the ball--he didn’t go after the person, from what I saw,” Rambis said. “Coaches tell you all the time not to play the score. It’s not like he could just let him have the layup.”
But even though Alex English finally surfaced to score 25 points, the Nuggets could do nothing to keep the Lakers from a first-round walkover.
“Well, I hope Doug’s right this year, if he thinks we’re the best,” said Pat Riley, who was belittled by Moe for taking exception to Moe’s “we’ve got no hope” comments throughout the series.
Even Wednesday, Moe couldn’t resist taking a little jab at Riley.
“Wait a second,” Moe said at one point. “I’d better ask Pat if I can kid around here.”
But while Moe thinks the Lakers will be laughing all the way to the finals, the Lakers aren’t taking anything for granted.
“We’re right on schedule,” Magic Johnson said. “I see the same feeling we had the years we won championships. But I don’t know if we’re better yet.”
If Utah beats Golden State on Friday, the first game of the second round will be Sunday afternoon at the Forum and will be televised by CBS. . . . The last time Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored fewer than 10 points was on June 6, 1982, when he had 6 against Philadelphia in Game 5 of the finals. The Lakers lost to the 76ers, 135-102. . . . The Lakers’ biggest lead of the night was 41 points, 128-87, following a tip-in by Kurt Rambis. . . . Blair Rasmussen, who had been the Nuggets’ leading scorer in the series with a 20-point average, was held to 9 Wednesday. . . . All 12 Lakers scored. T.R. Dunn, who was scoreless in 9 minutes, was the only player on either team without a point.