The Denver Nuggets would like a Rocky Mountain High known as the NBA championship, but a carrot-topped vegetarian named Bill Walton is standing directly in their path.
The Nuggets have had a week off to recover from a season of constant running, pressure defense and mile-high leaps to the bucket by the likes of David Thompson and Bobby Jones.
But hurding the Blazers and Pass-the-Granola Walton may be the toughest leap of all.
The Nuggets will have the home-court advantage if the series goes seven games, a definite plus considering they lost only seven there all season.
Still, the Nuggets have had rotten playoff performances in each of the last two seasons, went into a semidive at the end of the regular season and will have difficulty handling Walton and his rugged teammate, Maurice Lucas.
The Nuggets no doubt will be using healthy doses of big Marvin Webster and playoff veteran Paul Silas as early subs to take some of the heat off the boards, but will have to cut down their turnover rate drastically to stand a chance.
The Nuggets had more turnovers than any team in the league. They also have a dreadful record in close games, losing 20 of 33 contests decided by eight points or fewer.
Both teams use a lot of bodies, and Portland has six men scoring in double figures. Walton led the league in rebounding and blocked shots and, off his performances against Chicago, has regained his health.
"He's the toughest center to play," said Philadelphia's George McGinniss, "because he creates so many things. He's not just a scorer. He's a great passer and rebounder; he makes their break go and he sees things on the floor better than any other big man in the league."
The Blazers were 44-21 with Walton playing, 5-12 with him on the bench, hobbled by injuries to his knee, Achilles tendon and ankle.
The teams split their four regular season games.