It may turn out that the National Basketball Assn. All-Star weekend has hurt the Chicago Bulls' chances of winning the Central Division title.
Going into the break, the Bulls were only three games out of first place and, with Michael Jordan, loomed a title contender.
Apparently, Jordan spent himself emotionally and physically while stealing the All-Star thunder. Since returning to regular-season play, Jordan and the Bulls have suffered.
Jordan failed to score in the first 16 minutes Wednesday night at East Rutherford, N.J., and, although he finished with 34 points, the Bulls lost to the lowly New Jersey Nets, 93-84. It was the second loss in a row for the third-place Bulls, who dropped 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Hawks.
Jordan, who won the slam dunk contest Saturday and was the most valuable player in the All-Star game Sunday, admitted returning to regular play was a letdown.
"We've run into a couple of solid defenses," he said, "but really, I'm completely drained. I have to get myself motivated again."
The Bulls need Jordan at his best. In the two defeats, they scored only 158 points.
Charles Oakley made two free throws to give the Bulls an 83-81 lead with 3:04 left. But their only point the rest of the way was a free throw by Jordan in the final minute. Meanwhile, Roy Hinson scored eight points in the last three minutes as the Nets won going away to improve their record to 11-35.
Cleveland 118, Washington 102--Kevin Johnson and Tyrone Corbin came off the bench in the fourth quarter at Richfield, Ohio, to lead the Cavaliers to victory.
Johnson scored nine points in a 16-4 spurt that broke open a close game, and Corbin scored seven in the fourth quarter, but it was their defensive play that meant the most.
Playing without injured Moses Malone, Jeff Malone and Bernard King paced the Bullets' offense. Malone had 34 points, but Johnson limited him to 2 in the last 12 minutes. King finished with 31, but only 3 came against Corbin in the last quarter.
The Cavaliers are 24-23, making every team in the Central Division above .500.
Detroit 98, New York 87--In the absence of leading scorer Adrian Dantley, who has a sprained ankle, the Pistons have had to rely on defense.
In this game at Pontiac, Mich., a tough defense provided the Pistons with their second victory in two nights.
The Knicks, who are 1-21 on the road, had a 10-8 lead after three minutes, but once they fell behind, they never caught up.
Boston 136, San Antonio 120--In this game at San Antonio, it was a monumental mismatch up front. The Celtics' Larry Bird (39), Kevin McHale and Robert Parish had 92 points among them.
The Spurs' starters up front--Walter Berry, Frank Brickowski and Greg Anderson--combined for only 21.
In addition to his 39 points, Bird had 17 rebounds and 10 assists in 41 minutes.
Utah 93, Dallas 80--Back-to-back victories over a good team in the NBA are rare. After trouncing the Jazz Tuesday night at Dallas, the Mavericks fell behind early at Salt Lake City and never threatened.