Home Columns Blogs On this day (in 1984): Spurs outgunned Nuggets in regular-season finale

On this day (in 1984): Spurs outgunned Nuggets in regular-season finale

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On April 15, 1984, in a regular-season finale, there were 17 double-digit scorers in a wild Nuggets-Spurs encounter in San Antonio. The hosts outgunned Denver 157-154, including 48-43 in the pivotal fourth quarter at HemisFair Arena.

It was an entertaining way to finish the season.

Frontcourt mates Alex English and Kiki Vandeweghe paced the Nuggets with 30 points apiece, while Danny Schayes poured in 23 points. All but one of Denver’s nine players reached double figures in points in the Sunday showdown. Shooting guard T.R. Dunn had two points on 1-for-5 shooting in 17 minutes.

The Nuggets (38-44), led by head coach Doug Moe, shot 55.5 percent (61-for-110) from the floor in the high-scoring affair. They were 3 of 6 from 3-point range, and sank 29 of 32 free-throw attempts. Denver finished with 38 assists and 16 turnovers. Point guard Rob Williams had a team-best 11 assists.

For San Antonio, nine players put 10 or more points on the board, including rookie John Paxson (25), Gene Banks (24) and Mark McNamara 22.

The Spurs (37-45), guided by bench boss Bob Bass, shot 66-for-104 (63.5 percent) from the floor. They attempted one 3-pointer, a Ron Brewer miss. They converted 25 of 34 from the charity stripe, and also chalked up 50 assists against 18 turnovers.

The catalyst

In the regular-season finale, veteran point guard John Lucas, a crafty southpaw playmaker, came off the bench and orchestrated the San Antonio offense, dishing out a jaw-dropping 24 assists (two turnovers) in 28 impressive minutes. He attempted one shot, and didn’t score. (Orlando Magic guard Scott Skiles set the single-game assist record (30) against the Nuggets in December 1990.)

Lucas handed out a league-record 14 assists in the second quarter. He doled out eight more in the fourth to push the Spurs past the Nuggets.

The high-scoring regular-season finale was a mirror image of the teams’ season. Denver finished No. 1 overall in scoring (123.7 points per game, followed by San Antonio (120.3).

In a San Antonio Express-News feature, published in 2015, Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore recalls teammate Lucas’ fired-up personality during the 1983-84 season.

“In one of his first games at the old HemisFair Arena, Lucas’s excitement got the best of him after a made free throw by fellow lefty and Spurs center, Artis Gilmore,” Jerry Briggs wrote.

“Gilmore, who helped lead the ’83 Spurs to the brink of the NBA Finals, remembered that Lucas ‘was jumping up and down and hugging me like we had won the championship. But I still had one free throw to shoot … Yes, that was pretty interesting.’ ”

Playoff story

After the wild regular-season finale, Denver advanced to the playoffs as the Western Conference’s No. 7 seed. The Utah Jazz eliminated the Nuggets in the best-of-five first-round series winning 3-2.

The Spurs failed to qualify for the playoffs, doing so for the first time in 11 seasons.

The Boston Celtics captured the 1983-84 NBA title, beating the Los Angeles Lakers 4-3 in the Finals.

The Nuggets reached the Western Conference finals the next season, falling to the Lakers in five games.

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