Since coming back from the All-Star break, the Detroit Pistons have shown an amazing ability to adjust.
They lost their best scorer, Adrian Dantley, with a sprained ankle, and their playmaker, Isiah Thomas, is hampered by a brace he has to wear to protect an ailing back.
The Pistons have switched from one of the better offensive teams to a sensational defensive team.
Despite 27 points by Michael Jordan, the Pistons held the Chicago Bulls to a season-low 73 points and battled to an 82-73 victory Saturday night at Pontiac, Mich., their fourth win in a row featuring defense.
Before the All-Star game, the Pistons had given up almost 110 points a game. In the four games since they have been without Dantley, the Pistons have given up only an average of 81.5 points per game. Tuesday night, they beat the Bulls, 89-74 (a low for the Bulls at the time). Then, they beat New York, 98-87, and Atlanta, 108-92.
Dennis Rodman, a better defensive player than Dantley, also contributed offensively. Rodman, Dantley's replacement, had 8 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. The Pistons won easily although they scored only two points in the last five minutes.
"Isiah's just a little better than 50%," Coach Chuck Daly said. "With Adrian out, we have had to adjust. Maybe, it will turn out to be good for us.
"I don't see anyone complaining about us not scoring 100 points in most recent games. It was getting to be a big concern for a while, but if we get 80 and they get 70, so be it. I kind of like it that way myself." Rodman, a second-year pro from Southeastern Oklahoma, is so versatile the Pistons often use him to defend against Jordan.
In addition to leading his team in scoring, the 6-foot 8-inch Rodman led all rebounders with 19.
Since his sensational All-Star weekend, Jordan has not been playing well. Except for the last few minutes in the first half, when he scored the last 10 Bulls' points, it was another quiet game. The Bulls have lost three of their last four. In all three defeats, they were held to less than 85 points.
Atlanta 105, Washington 103--Dominique Wilkins scored 45 points at Atlanta, but it took a 20-foot jumper by Glenn Rivers with two seconds left for the Hawks to subdue the Bullets.
The Bullets, still without their ace, Moses Malone, played the Hawks to a standstill, although their top shooter, Bernard King, sank only 9 of 26 shots from the field.
Wilkins, who played 43 minutes, shot the ball almost once every minute (39 times). He and Rivers scored the last 24 Atlanta points, 15 by Wilkins, to overcome a 10-point deficit in the last 7 1/2 minutes.
Malone chipped a bone in his left wrist in the All-Star game and is expected to be out another week. In his absence, Manute Bol does well on defense, but he didn't take a shot in 20 minutes.
New York 120, Cleveland 103--If the Knicks could play as well on the road as they do at home, they would make the playoffs.
With Patrick Ewing scoring eight points in a 24-7 spurt in the fourth quarter, the Knicks won their seventh game in a row at home. They are 16-8 at New York but 2-21 on the road.
The Cavaliers rallied from a 73-64 deficit to catch up, 96-96. Then, Ewing made a reverse layup and a breakaway dunk that started the winning rally.
Ron Harper made 14 points in the first quarter to get the Cavaliers going in a hurry, and Phil Hubbard hit nine field goals in a row, but the Cavaliers faded against the tough Knicks' defense.
Phoenix 116, Sacramento 114--Walter Davis hit a 15-foot shot with two seconds left to give the Suns a victory over the Kings at Sacramento.
Eddie Johnson scored 25 points, Armon Gilliam 22 and Jay Humphries 18 as the Suns snapped their eight-game losing streak on the road.
Otis Thorpe had 29 points, and Reggie Theus 22 for the Kings.
Golden State 109, Seattle 95--Rod Higgins scored 32 points, and Chris Mullin added 22 to lead the Warriors past the SuperSonics at Oakland.
The Warriors outscored the SuperSonics, 11-1, at the start of the final period, which started with the score tied, 77-77.