David Thompson may have found his missing touch, but the immediate future looks dim for the Denver Nuggets.
The Seattle SuperSonics are bubbling with confidence as they return home in preparation for Wednesday's sixth game in the western conference championship series. The winner will play the Washington Bullets for the NBA title.
Seattle has won 19 straight games at the Seattle Coliseum, including seven playoff games.
Dennis Johnson, a smooth, unheralded second-year man Thompson, the National Basketball Association's second leading scorer to merely another player most of the series. Although Thompson finally broke loose in Sunday's 123-114 victory in Denver.
On 16 of 27 shots to keep the Nuggets alive. It marked the first time in the series he had topped his 27-points-a-game regular season average.
"'It felt good to have the touch back," said Thompson. "I take a lot of the blame for us not winning before. I haven't been playing up to par, up to my normal standards."
The reason has been Johnson.
Johnson is as strong as Thompson and is one of the few guards who can leap with Thompson.
Johnson also makes Thompson work hard on defense.
For the fifth game Sunday, Denver Coach Larry Brown switched Thompson from Johnson to Gus Williams because "we didn't want David working so hard at [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
That move helped Thompson's offense but Williams burned him for 31 points, mostly by simply beating Thompson down the floor.
Now that Thompson is apparently in his groove, the Nuggets cannot be written off.
"Now the monkey's on their back," Thompson said. "Seattle has to win up there. I'm sure they don't want to come back to Denver for the seventh game. We can go up there Wednesday and be loose, play our game."
"Yeah, but they are in the driver's seat," countered teammate Dan Issel. "Winning up there Wednesday is a pretty good size hill to climb, but stranger things have happened."
Brown also is waiting for Johnson to wilt under the pressure of facing Thompson game after game.
"That young kid David is playing against is carrying a big responsibility, night in and night out," Brown said. "I don't know if he can keep that uP."
The Nuggets finally realized after the first four games that Thompson simply can't go one-on-one effectively against Johnson. So in the fifth game they set picks for him and Thompson used them to launch 15-18 foot jump shots.
"I've just got to find a way to get around those picks," Johnson said.
There has been a trend in the playoffs. The Bullets overcame the homecourt advantage of both San Antonio and Philadelphia to win in six games.
In both series Washington took a 3-1 lead in games, was blown out in game five on the road and came back home and wrapped up the series in six games.
[TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE] tr for add 4 sonics [TEXT OMITTED FROM SOURCE]
Seattle did the same thing in its Western Conference semifinal with Portland and now has Denver in the same position.
If a seventh game is necessary, it will be played Friday in Denver.
In the regular season, the Bullets were 3-1 against Seattle, winning both games at Capital Centre and splitting in Seattle. Washington was the last team to beat the Sonics in Seattle. That was on Feb. 8.
Denver beat Washington three out of four, but the Bullets did beat the Nuggets in Denver.