The Central Division is probably the most competitive in the National Basketball Assn. With the possible exception of young and injury-riddled Cleveland, every team thinks it can win the title.
Even Milwaukee, which is missing its two best guards, wants to be counted in the race.
The Bucks, who dominated the division all this decade until last spring when Atlanta won, has had to make adjustments because Sidney Moncrief is injured and Ricky Pierce, his backcourt running mate, is an unhappy holdout.
From a guard-oriented offense under Don Nelson, the Bucks have switched to a forward-oriented offense under Del Harris.
For the moment, at least, it is working.
Terry Cummings scored 27 points and Jack Sikma 23 Sunday night at Milwaukee to lead the Bucks to a 112-103 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. The big men dominated on offense and, with help from Paul Pressey held high-scoring Dominique Wilkins to seven points. Wilkins had been averaging 27 points a game.
Wilkins was 3 of 14 from the field. As a result, the Milwaukee front line of Cummings, Sikma and Randy Breuer outscored Wilkins, Kevin Willis and Jon Koncak, 62-32.
Despite the coaching change, the threat of old age and all the injuries, the Bucks are 4-2 and are tied with the Hawks behind the Chicago Bulls, who are 4-1.
"I think this is going to be the tightest race, " Harris said. "I also think we will be in the race all the way."
The Bucks, who shot only 43.4% from the field in the first five games, shot 63.4% in the first half while building a 63-55 lead and shot 57.5% for the game. The starting trio up front was 24 for 35, so it didn't much matter what the others shot.
Boston 103, Indiana 98--The Celtics are off to their best start since 1972, but Coach K.C. Jones isn't satisfied.
After the Celtics (6-0) built a big early lead at Indianapolis and held on to beat the Pacers, Jones said, "We've got to be more consistent. We took some bad shots out there and shot selection really worries me."
Larry Bird scored 13 of his 24 points in the first 14 minutes to help the Celtics build a 43-29 lead.
Then, hot-shooting rookie Reggie Miller came off the bench for the Pacers. Miller, in 34 minutes, had 23 points. His layup with 6:46 cut the Boston lead to 91-90, but the Pacers then went 3 1/2 minutes without a field goal and lost all chance.
"We aren't playing as well as I think we're capable of playing," said guard Danny Ainge after going 3 for 8 on three-point tries. "But we are playing as hard as we can and that makes it fun to play for all of us."
Washington 113, New Jersey 109--Moses Malone had 28 points and 17 rebounds at East Rutherford, N.J., to make certain the Bullets weren't the first team to lose to the hapless Nets.
The Nets, the only winless team in the NBA, twice pulled to within one point in the closing minutes, but Malone made a basket to thwart the first rally. John Williams sank four consecutive free throws after Mike Gminski's jumper cut the Bullets' lead to 110-109.
Jeff Malone had 25 points for the Bullets and Bernard King, who was 10 for 18 from the field, had 21.
Houston 108, Seattle 106--Rodney McCray sank a 20-foot jumper at the buzzer at Houston to give the Rockets their fourth victory in a row.
The Rockets trailed, 106-102, with 99 seconds remaining. McCray made two free throws and Akeem Olajuwon tied the score with a basket. The SuperSonics missed for the third time in a row coming down the floor. With four seconds left the Rockets called time out. McCray took the inbounds pass, dribbled twice and fired.