Although the paths taken might have been rougher and more roundabout than expected, the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets will meet as anticipated for the NBA's Western Conference championship, with the first game scheduled for 3:30 p.m. today (WDVM-TV-9) at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
The Lakers and Rockets, who finished first and second respectively in the overall Western Conference standings, both advanced with victories Thursday night. The defending champion Lakers stopped the Dallas Mavericks, 120-107, and the Rockets defeted the Denver Nuggets, 126-122, in double overtime. Each team won its best-of-seven series on the road, and by a 4-2 margin.
In Denver, Houston center Akeem Olajuwon was ejected with 6:08 left in the game for grabbing referee Mike Madden after the public address announcer mistakenly announced that Olajuwon had been called for an offensive foul. The foul actually was called on Denver's Danny Schayes.
An NBA spokesman said yesterday the league still was looking into the incident and nothing would be announced until next week.
With Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson and Robert Reid all out of the game, the latter two having fouled out, Rockets Coach Bill Fitch turned to Lewis Lloyd in the second overtime.
Lloyd, responding to what he termed "money time," scored four of his 25 points in the second overtime to lead the Rockets to victory.
"I knew I had to hit the shots when I got the ball," Lloyd said. "Bill called a couple of isolation plays for me. That gave me the chance to hit the shots."
With the Rockets ahead, 122-121, and time running out on the 24-second clock, Lloyd hit a 20-footer over Mike Evans to give Houston a three-point lead with 1:45 to go.
Calvin Natt made one of two foul shots for Denver, but Rodney McCray's jumper gave Houston a 126-122 lead with 55 seconds left. The Nuggets did not score again.
Thursday night in Dallas, the Lakers let a 20-point third-quarter lead all but disappear and were forced to rally behind Magic Johnson and James Worthy down the stretch. Los Angeles had a 69-51 halftime lead. That was extended to a 20-point cushion in the first moments of the third quarter, but the Mavericks closed to within two just before the end of the period.
Dallas cut the deficit to three with 6:30 to play, but Worthy and Johnson scored the Lakers' next 11 points to forge a nine-point lead.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 27 points and Johnson and Worthy each had 21 for Los Angeles. Mark Aguirre, who sprained his ankle in the third quarter and returned only briefly, scored 28 for Dallas and Rolando Blackman had 23.
"Mark being out didn't cause us to lose," said Motta. "We lost because Los Angeles played a good game. We lost to a great basketball team."