The Chicago Bulls made a number of changes this season designed to take some of the burden off Michael Jordan.
They brought in veteran center Artis Gilmore to add rebounding strength and added two promising rookies, Scottie Pippin and Horace Grant.
One thing remains the same. When the going gets tough, Jordan takes charge.
Although Dominique Wilkins won the individual scoring battle with Jordan Tuesday night at Atlanta, Jordan led the Bulls to a 105-95 victory over the cold-shooting Hawks.
Jordan, last year's scoring champion, had 29 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Wilkins scored 35 points, making 16 of 31 field goal attempts, but his teammates were only 19 of 60.
With Jordan taking to the air early, the Bulls built a 32-20 lead in the first quarter and kept the game under control until Spud Webb led a fourth-quarter surge that cut the lead to six points before Jordan took charge in the last two minutes.
"Anybody who saw us tonight doesn't have to ask if we are really an improved team," Jordan said. "It's an important season for the Bulls and for me.
"We've played well at home for a couple of seasons, but on the road we need intense motivation. To night we had that."
Although the Hawks played without guard Doc Rivers, they were impressed by the Bulls.
"Chicago is a much better team than last year," Wilkins said. "We just weren't ready to play tonight, even though we had a sellout crowd."
Indiana 121, Detroit 118--The improvement of guard Joe Dumars is one of the keys to the Pistons' success in the last two seasons.
He improved in every department last season, and the Pistons just missed knocking the Boston Celtics out of the playoffs.
Coach Chuck Daly is looking for continued improvement. But there are unhappy moments for even the best, and Dumars isn't likely to forget the one he had in this game at Indianapolis.
With the Pistons trailing, 119-118, Dumas had the ball with 13 seconds left. He dribbled along the sideline looking for a man open underneath the basket. Inadvertently, he dribbled on the out-of-bounds line and the Pacers won the game.
And they won without flu-ridden Wayman Tisdale and Herb Williams, who was injured four minutes into the game.
Steve Stipanovich and Chuck Person took up the slack. Both had 25 points, and Stipanovich had 11 rebounds. Rookie Reggie Miller played 27 minutes and scored 11 points.
Milwaukee 115, Washington 100--The Bucks, missing their two best guards, injured Sidney Moncrief and holdout Ricky Pierce, are turning more and more to 7-foot center Randy Breuer.
Breuer, Paul Pressey and Jerry Reynolds led a third-quarter surge at Milwaukee that broke open a tight game and gave the Bucks their second win in three games.
Breuer outplayed Moses Malone, outscoring the Bullets' big man, 22-16, and outrebounding him, 16-14.
"We have changed our offense because of the guard situation," Breuer said. "Last year, I'd get two or three post-ups a game. I'm getting quite a few more. That's the big difference."
Phoenix 123, Golden State 109--Walter Davis scored 30 points and Eddie Johnson 25 at Phoenix as the Suns gained their first victory in three games under rookie Coach John Wetzel.
Chris Mullins had 25 points for the Warriors, who have lost all three games in the young season.
Johnson scored 18 of his points in the first quarter to help the Suns build a 36-19 lead. Early in the second the lead increased to 42-19, and the Warriors never got even.
Sacramento 134, Denver 123--At home, Bill Russell's Kings are a fast-breaking, sharp-shooting winner. On the road, they are a slow-moving, poor-shooting loser.
In handing Denver its first loss, the Kings (2-1) scored 46 points in the first quarter and went on to win their second straight home game.
Otis Thorpe scored 27 points for the Kings. In two home games, he has 58 points. In the road loss, he had 6.
Alex English had 30 points for the Nuggets.
Dallas 117, Seattle 101--Mark Aguirre scored 25 points and Rolando Blackman had 24 at Seattle to lead the Mavericks to victory.
The Mavericks, knocked out of the playoffs by the SuperSonics last spring, turned a 25-6 spurt in the second quarter into a 65-46 lead and were never headed. Last year in the regular season, the Mavericks had a 3-1 edge.
Houston 118, Portland 111--Ralph Sampson scored 25 points, and World B. Free scored 6 points in the last two minutes at Portland, Ore., to bring the Rockets from behind.
Free's two free throws and a basket put Houston ahead to stay with 74 seconds remaining.
Akeem Olajuwon had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets.