INGLEWOOD, CALIF., FEB. 23 -- It probably amounts to little consolation for the orange- and blue-clad zealots who sulked back to Denver following the Washington Redskins' resounding Super Bowl triumph, but their NBA franchise, the Denver Nuggets, have had an equally impressive hold over the Washington Bullets.
Their 100-87 triumph Monday over Washington was the Nuggets' third straight over the Atlantic Division team. In sweeping this season's two-game set, Denver, battling Dallas and Houston for the Midwest Division title, won by an average of 14 points.
Not only that, should the Nuggets enjoy success in the postseason, they'll likely have the Bullets to thank for it. That's partially because of the preseason trade that sent guard Michael Adams and forward Jay Vincent west in exchange for Darrell Walker and Mark Alarie.
Adams, among the league leaders in three-point field goal percentage, has been good enough to move all-star starter Lafayette Lever from the point to off-guard position. Vincent is merely the highest scoring sixth man in the league, averaging 17 points per game. Conversely, Walker's season has been dramatically hampered by a severely sprained ankle. Alarie has had some impressive flashes but has been largely rooted to the team's bench.
Not only have the Nuggets bested Washington physically, they have came out on top in the cerebral maneuvering that went on before last June's draft. A proposed deal that would have sent Vincent, guard Jeff Malone and either Adams or Tyrone Bogues to Denver for Lever and center/forward Dan Schayes fell through when the Bullets balked.
Now, people in Denver are giddy over their good luck.
"They didn't want it; they kicked a gift horse in the mouth," Nuggets Coach Doug Moe told the Denver Post. "And when they finally changed their minds, we said, 'No, no thanks.' "
The Bullets reneged on the deal when Indianapolis, picking just before Washington, took UCLA guard Reggie Miller, the player Washington wanted to replace Malone at the off-guard spot.
In Monday night's game, Schayes led all scorers with 21 points, while Lever, continuing his fine 1986-87 season in which he led the NBA with 16 triple-doubles, had 18 points with 15 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Jeff Malone's shooting has been erratic of late, a byproduct, he said, of a swollen, twisted finger he suffered in the Bullets' 114-110 loss to Milwaukee on Feb. 15. That game was Washington's last home contest before this eight-game Western Conference road trip. The Bullets are now 1-3 on the swing; Malone has had 20-point nights but has shot less than 50 percent from the field.
The game against the Lakers would be as good a time as any for Malone to become more effective. The Pacific Division leaders won seven straight contests entering Tuesday's game and were winners in 31 of the last 34 games.
The defending NBA champs still feature last season's most valuable player, Magic Johnson at guard, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the front court, but have found yet another offensive force from a year ago -- guard Byron Scott, who is averaging 20 points per game.