Ever since an injury to playmaker Craig Hodges forced the Milwaukee Bucks to make some lineup changes, the team has struggled.
Hodges suffered a severe dislocation of the index finger on his right hand in late December and is still out. Hodges' loss made it necessary to move 6-5 Paul Pressey, who had been impressive as a small forward, back to his original position, guard.
This left Coach Don Nelson without a forward to go with talented Terry Cummings. He has tried several players, including former UCLA star Kenny Fields, with only so-so results.
In the Bucks' easy 117-92 victory over the Indiana Pacers Friday night at Indianapolis, Nelson may have found his other forward.
Charles Davis, a 6-7 fifth-year pro from Vanderbilt, had his best game. He came off the bench to score 24 points and pull down a career-high 13 rebounds in just 22 minutes.
Davis replaced rookie Jerry Reynolds at the start of the second quarter, and the Bucks immediately took charge of the game. Davis, averaging just 5.8 points in his career, had 11 points in a 35-point second period that broke the game open and gave the Bucks a 64-40 lead.
Davis, who spent three seasons as a sub with the Washington Bullets, was picked up as a free agent early last season.
Atlanta 117, New York 100--Even though they lost their fourth game in a row on the road, it was not all bad news for the Knicks.
Bill Cartwright, who had been out with a foot injury since the end of the 1983-84 season, played 17 minutes and reported no ill effects. The 7-footer made three of his four field-goal attempts and wound up with 11 points.
But the Hawks are hot. Since the new year began, they have lost only to the Boston Celtics. A key reason has been Dominique Wilkins. In another of his string of outstanding games, Wilkins scored 36 points, 8 during an 11-4 spurt in the third quarter that put the Hawks in charge.
The Hawks have won 10 of their last 12 games and remain just 3 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the Central Division.
Boston 135, Golden State 114--The Celtics, even though they are without the injured Kevin McHale, are flying high.
In this game at Boston, Larry Bird scored 25 points, going over 20 for the 15th game in a row, and McHale's replacement, Scott Wedman, had 22 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
The Celtics, winning their seventh game in a row, took the lead in the opening minutes and rolled over the Warriors, who haven't won in Boston since March 3, 1977.
Philadelphia 121, Cleveland 114--The 76ers are another hot team. Maurice Cheeks had a season-high 30 at Richfield, Ohio, to lead the club to its 17th win in the last 19 games.
Moses Malone, who has been prominent in the 76ers' surge, had 28 points and 10 rebounds.
Cheeks made all of his eight shots in the first half to help the 76ers build a 63-56 lead. The Cavaliers fought back and led, 91-89, early in the fourth quarter. But Julius Erving led a 12-2 76er spurt that clinched it.
The victory set the stage for Sunday at Boston, where the 76ers will play the Celtics.
Detroit 129, Dallas 120--Isiah Thomas went on a tear in the fourth quarter at Dallas to lead the Pistons to victory.
With the Mavericks leading, 98-94, Thomas outscored them, 17-7, and the Pistons maintained the lead the rest of the way.
Thomas finished with 28 points and 12 assists, while Kelly Tripucka scored 32 points for the Pistons. Despite Mark Aguirre's 35 points, the Mavericks lost their third in a row.
San Antonio 113, Denver 98--After rolling to a 66-46 halftime lead at Denver, the Spurs were caught in the fourth quarter at 91-91.
But Mike Mitchell scored 12 of the Spurs' last 22 points, 6 in a 13-1 spurt that spoiled the Nuggets' rally.
Artis Gilmore scored 23 points and had 19 rebounds to lead the Spurs.
Mitchell scored 22 points and was largely responsible for the Spurs holding Alex English, the league's leading scorer, to 14 points.