INGLEWOOD, Calif., May 15 -- The Los Angeles Lakers played Tuesday night about as well as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrestles, which isn't very good. So before counting the Denver Nuggets out of the Western Conference finals, first check what happened in the Forum.
Nuggets 136, Lakers 114.
Danny Schayes 1, Abdul-Jabbar 0.
In an unscheduled main event, Abdul-Jabbar threw himself on Schayes' back and wrestled the Nuggets' center to the floor to touch off a brief but wild fourth-quarter melee.
If it hadn't been so unexpected, it might have been a little funny. The Lakers were well on their way to a richly deserved loss, one that evened the best-of-seven series at one game each, when Abdul-Jabbar suddenly landed on Schayes' back.
Why Abdul-Jabbar did that is not known, because he did not wait in the locker room to give any clues. He walked quickly out the door.
Magic Johnson shed a little light on a possible reason when he said Schayes had elbowed him in the chin only moments before. "I went over to tell him about it and then it all broke loose," Johnson said.
The rest of the play-by-play went like this: Abdul-Jabbar grabbed Schayes from behind and flopped on top of him when they both hit the floor, which was one of the few things Abdul-Jabbar was able to hit during the game.
In 33 minutes, during which time Coach Pat Riley said Abdul-Jabbar was subjected to a lot of pushing and shoving, he made four of 16 shots.
"I can only think that he was very frustrated," Schayes said. "I was certainly surprised. Him, of all people."
Quickly, players and coaches spilled from both benches. Soon after officials Jake O'Donnell and Wally Rooney peeled Abdul-Jabbar from Schayes, the usually mild-mannered Lakers captain had received his second technical foul and an automatic ejection, which will cost him $250, at the very least.
"He tried to gouge my eyes out," Schayes said. "He said, 'How does it feel to have your eyes gouged out?' I don't think he meant anything by it. He has a reputation as a very classy player, and I'm sure he is."
Denver's Alex English scored 40 points and Dan Issel, a late addition to the Nuggets' starting lineup at center, had 22. The Lakers had not lost at home since Jan. 30, a streak of 23 consecutive games, but that ended in a sea of 24 turnovers coupled with a very soft defense.
For the first time in the playoffs, the Lakers trailed after every quarter. Byron Scott led them with 22 points.