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NBA Roundup : Improving Bucks Beat the Bullets, 113-102

February 05, 1989|DAN HAFNER

Don Nelson is receiving accolades for his coaching of the Golden State Warriors. He has the undersized Warriors playing very well.

But what of his old team, the Milwaukee Bucks? Surprisingly, the Bucks are doing fine without him.

A year ago, when the Bucks went through a traumatic season without the man who led them to six straight division titles followed by a strong third-place finish, they had only a 42-40 record.

After the first quarter of this season, there was talk that Del Harris, Nelson's successor, would soon be gone. The Bucks were only 11-10 and apparently going nowhere.

The Bucks have turned it around, however, and are among the National Basketball Assn. elite. A freak back injury suffered trying to help an elderly man who fell in a restaurantforced Harris to return to Milwaukee. Assistant Frank Hamblen took over Friday night at Indianapolis and is 2-0.

Ricky Pierce scored 9 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter Saturday night at Landover, Md., to lead the Bucks to a 113-102 victory over the slumping Washington Bullets. With their 18th victory in the last 22 games, the Bucks have moved to within half a game of second place in the Central Division. Their 29-14 record is the fourth best in the league.

In handing the Bullets their third consecutive loss, the Bucks shot poorly in the first half, but trailed by only 4 points. Terry Cummings and Larry Krystowiak found the range in the third quarter, and Pierce took over in the fourth.

"Del had just been named coach of the month, and I didn't want to be named bum of the month," Hamblen said. "He had done such a great job getting the Bucks on the move. The pressure on me is to make sure they keep playing that way.

"I'm sure Del will be back running the club Monday. I will be very happy to retire with a 2-0 record."

New York 113, Indiana 106--Patrick Ewing's shot-blocking checked a blistering fourth-quarter rally by the Pacers at Indianapolis.

His teammates missed 8 straight shots to allow the Pacers to rally and take a 94-93 lead midway through the fourth quarter. But 2 blocks and 2 dunks by Ewing put the Knicks in charge again.

The Pacers, in getting their fifth straight loss, failed to take advantage of two Knick cold spells. In the second quarter, New York was only 9 for 25.

Ewing had 19 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocks. He also had a bumping incident with Indiana's Greg Dreiling. Both benches emptied but no punches were thrown.

Atlanta 118, Phoenix 116--The Hawks figured to be tired. They were playing their sixth game in nine nights and were without their best player, Dominique Wilkins.

Yet, they made two strong comebacks, the last in overtime, to pull out the victory.

Moses Malone, in the absence of Wilkins, had 37 points and 20 rebounds in spearheading both rallies.

With 1:49 left in regulation, Atlanta trailed, 108-101, but forced the overtime when John Battle made a jumper with 4 seconds left to tie it, 100-100.

The Suns scored the first 6 points in overtime in just 84 seconds, but never scored again as the Hawks scored 8. Fittingly, Malone scored the winning basket on a jumper.

Wilkins tore ligaments in his right thumb and is out indefinitely.

Denver 127, Utah 126--Walter Davis knocked the Jazz out of first place in the Midwest Division when he made a jumper with one second left at Denver.

But the Nuggets were in the game because Danny Schayes had the best game of his career. Schayes, whose father, Dolph, is in basketball's Hall of Fame, had a career-high 37 points and 8 rebounds.

Portland 137, San Antonio 100--Bouncing back at Portland after being humiliated by the Lakers, the Trail Blazers built a big early lead and coasted.

Former Laker Adrian Branch scored a career-high 28 points and Kiki Vandeweghe had 26. The Blazers built a 51-28 lead.

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