It was supposed to be a battle for supremacy in the tough Central Division Tuesday night at Atlanta.
Neither the Hawks nor the Detroit Pistons even looked the part of contenders. They shot as if the basket were a moving target.
The Hawks prevailed, 81-71, largely because one player, Cliff Levingston, played up to his ability. Levingston was 7 for 11 from the field, had 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to play a major role in the Hawks' sixth victory in a row.
The win gave the Hawks a 2 1/2-game lead in the division.
Both teams were as tight as if this were a championship round playoff game. Dominique Wilkins made 4 of 13 shots, and Isiah Thomas was 5 for 19. Vinnie Johnson, usually a hot shooter off the bench for the Pistons was 7 for 16. John Battle, who has been the Hawks' hot shooter, was 5 for 19.
The 71 points were the lowest in Detroit history. The Pistons shot only 36.9%. Take away Levingston and the Hawks shot 39.2%
Levingston is a 6-foot 8-inch, six-year National Basketball Assn. veteran who spent his first two seasons with the Pistons. He moved into the starting lineup when 7-0 Kevin Willis was injured.
Levingston has been prominent in the winning streak. He has averaged 16 points a game and has led the club in rebounding twice.
Willis returned to play seven minutes, but he may have trouble beating Levingston out of the starting job.
"I'm surprised we could only score 31 points in the second half," Piston Coach Chuck Daly said. "That's a quarter score for us. That is a sign of their great defense."
The Pistons went into the game with an average of 116.9 points per game, second-highest in the league.
The Pistons get a chance at revenge tonight when the teams play at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.
Chicago 93, Indiana 77--Michael Jordan missed getting his second consecutive triple-double by one assist at Chicago, but he and the Bulls seem to be out of their slump.
Jordan had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists, leading the Bulls to their second win in a row after five straight losses.
"Tonight, I wasn't aware that I was close to a triple-double," Jordan said. "I've been concentrating more lately because of that five-game losing streak. I want to try to do some other things (besides score)."
While the Bulls were making half their shots, the cold Pacers were shooting only 37.2%.
Washington 101, New Jersey 97--Wes Unseld, who had never coached at any level, made one move in his coaching debut and it paid off at Landover, Md.
Unseld moved Bernard King, mostly a disappointment since joining the Bullets, into a starting role. For three quarters, it didn't seem to be much of a move.
But King found his touch in the fourth quarter, scored 15 of his 27 points and helped the Bullets end a five-game losing streak.
King scored 13 consecutive Bullets' points. He broke a tie with a jumper, banked in a jumper and added a dunk to give Washington an 84-78 lead with 4:13 left.
Just 14 seconds later, there was an altercation between Buck Williams of the Nets and Terry Catledge, and both were ejected.
The Nets are 0-12 on the road.
Phoenix 100, New York 95--Walter Davis sank a jump shot with 77 seconds left at New York to break a tie and send the Suns on their way to a victory.
Davis added three free throws in the closing seconds to prevent the Knicks from winning a third game in a row.
Portland 126, Seattle 114--Terry Porter scored a career-high 31 points as the Trail Blazers shot 48% from the field at Portland, Ore., after a team-low 28% performance in Sunday's 98-81 loss to the Lakers.
The defeat ended a three-game winning streak for the SuperSonics, who were led by Dale Ellis' game-high 32 points.
Golden State 129, San Antonio 119--Ralph Sampson had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and rookie Winston Garland had a career-high 18 points at Oakland as the Warriors won for only the fifth time in 26 games. They are 2-6 since making the trade for the 7-4 Sampson.