NEW YORK TIMES 1983
The Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons took the floor for a routine game at McNichols Sports Arena on this date and scored the most points in pro basketball history. The following article appeared in The Times two days later.
NEW YORK – There was no defense in Denver Tuesday night. The game was pure run-and-gun, highlight-film basketball. Put away those zone traps, and sit back. Doug Moe loved it. Hubie Brown would have cringed. Actually, Moe would have liked it even more had his Nuggets won the record-setting, triple-overtime game against the Detroit Pistons. But to him, a noted proponent of offensive basketball, the game was the thing. Even though his team lost, 186184, Moe said: “It was a great game. I really got into watching it. It was exhausting for both teams but there were still so many outstanding plays that it was worth it.”
First, the records: The game, which lasted 3 hours 11 minutes, established three straight single-team marks. The Pistons’ point total surpassed the 173 the Boston Celtics scored against the Minneapolis Lakers on Feb. 27, 1959. Detroit made 74 field goals, surpassing the previous mark of 72 set by Boston in the 1959 game. The Nuggets established a record for points by a losing team, the previous standard having been 166 by the Milwaukee Bucks in a game against the San Antonio Spurs on March 6, 1982.
There were also three two-team records. The combined total of 370 points eclipsed the mark of 337 set in the Bucks-Spurs game. The teams hit 136 field goals, beating the mark also set in that game. The total of 93 assists broke the previous record of 89 set in a game between Detroit and the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 28, 1973. Dozens of other club records were set, and three players scored career highs. Denver’s Kiki Vandeweghe and Alex English had 51 and 47, respectively. Isiah Thomas of Detroit set his new high with 47. And his teammate, John Long, equaled his high of 41. “Everybody shot the lights out,” said Moe.
For a time, it did not seem as if it would be an unusual night. In the final seconds of regulation time, the Nuggets appeared to have the game won. They led, 145143, with 6 seconds left, and Bill Laimbeer, the Piston center, had missed the first of two free throws. After a timeout, Laimbeer missed the second shot intentionally and the rebound was grabbed by Thomas, who hit a lay-in to bring on the overtime.
Denver also seemed to be the winner in the first overtime period, leading by 157152 with 1:24 left. But Kelly Tripucka of Detroit hit a 16-footer with 32 seconds remaining to tie the score at 159-all and force a second overtime. This one was relatively uneventful. Neither team led by more than 2, and the Nugget guard Bill Hanzlik tied the score at 171171 by hitting 2 free throws with 17 seconds left. In the third overtime, they went to 179179 with 1:30 remaining. Long then scored on a pass by Laimbeer. As the Nuggets set up their play, Thomas stole the ball from Hanzlik and scored an easy layin. Thomas then hit two free throws to put his team ahead, 185179, with seconds remaining. That was it.
Ironically, no record was set for turnovers. The Pistons’ 13 and the Nuggets’ 24 were normal for regulation games. “But that was the only normal thing about it,” said Moe.