The absence of a couple of starters can be fatal to most National Basketball Assn. teams, but it hasn't stopped the Detroit Pistons.
The team with the best record in the NBA was missing playmaker Isiah Thomas and power forward Rick Mahorn Saturday night at Pontiac, Mich., but its winning streak was not in jeopardy after the first few minutes against the injury-riddled New Jersey Nets.
Adrian Dantley, returning from a one-game suspension, scored 7 of his 35 points in a 15-0 Piston burst at the outset as they breezed to a 110-75 victory, their 10th in a row. The Pistons are 17-5.
The Nets, playing without injured regulars Otis Birdsong (hamstring), Buck Williams (ankle) and Orlando Woolridge (foot), never were in the game. They didn't score until Mike Gminski made two free throws, almost four minutes after the opening tip-off. After the Pistons sank their first 10 shots, the Nets trailed, 23-4, and were on their way to their 10th road loss without a victory.
Mahorn is out with back spasms, and Thomas sprained his ankle on Christmas in New York. Dantley missed the New York game after pushing a referee in a game last week. The layoff merely seemed to make him more eager.
When the Pistons, who showed they had championship ability in the playoffs last spring before playing giveaway against Boston, are healthy, they bring John Salley, Dennis Rodman and Vinnie Johnson off the bench. One of them almost always plays a major role.
This time Salley and Johnson started, and when Rodman came in, he took charge, playing 28 minutes, with 18 points and 18 rebounds.
Indiana 106, Chicago 92--Michael Jordan and the Bulls are in a slump. With Jordan making only 6 of 22 shots at Indianapolis, the Bulls lost their fourth in a row.
One of the reasons for the Bulls' fast start (12 wins in their first 15 games) was that Jordan was shooting less, but shooting better. He went into the season with a 49.3% average, but was sinking 53% of his shots until the last two games.
He is only 11 for 37 in the last two games (29.7%).
Without Jordan leading them, the Bulls were no match for the Pacers, who led by 20 points after three quarters.
Atlanta 125, New York 98--The Hawks are another team with a strong bench. In this game at Atlanta, they were again without ailing power forward Kevin Willis.
His backup, Cliff Levingston, was more than adequate. Levingston had a career-high 29 points and 17 rebounds in an easy win, the Hawks' seventh in their last eight.
Dominique Wilkins, apparently recovered from a nagging toe injury, had 37 points.
Cleveland 120, Portland 117--The Cavaliers, the last-place team in the Central Division, cooled off one of the hottest teams in the West in this game at Richfield, Ohio.
They spotted the Trail Blazers, who had won five in a row, a 16-point lead in the second quarter, then fought back. Craig Ehlo sank the go-ahead basket with 27 seconds left, and Phil Hubbard made two free throws to put it away and give the Cavaliers a 12-13 record.
San Antonio 105, Golden State 96--Mike Mitchell, who has missed all but four games this season because of knee surgery, came through for the Spurs. He scored 17 points in the fourth quarter at San Antonio to bring the Spurs from behind.
Though Ralph Sampson had 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, the Warriors lost their 12th on the road without a victory.
Dallas 105, Houston 100--Rolando Blackman made a 20-foot jumper, two free throws and blocked a shot in the last 40 seconds at Dallas to help the Mavericks win a close battle.
Milwaukee 102, Washington 97--Jack Sikma scored 6 of his 25 points in a 10-5 run at Milwaukee that closed the game after the Bullets had tied the score, 92-92.
Sacramento 112, Phoenix 110--Otis Thorpe scored 28 points, and Reggie Theus sank a decisive jumper with 35 seconds left at Phoenix.
Denver 115, Seattle 111--Lafayette Lever scored 16 of his 25 points in the third period at Denver to help build a 14-point lead, and the Nuggets hung on for the victory.