NBA Roundup : Bucks, Finding a Prize in Pierce, Rout San Antonio, 126-97
In his early years as coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, Don Nelson had a big team that stressed a slowdown offense and a tough defense.
When ponderous center Bob Lanier retired before last season, Nelson began to shift his team to a fast-breaking game. The Bucks are really on the run now.
With Ricky Pierce coming off the bench to score 26 points Tuesday night at Milwaukee, the Bucks overwhelmed the San Antonio Spurs, 126-97, to take over first place in the Central Division.
Nelson, who spent much of his career as a player under Red Auerbach at Boston, has finally patterned his team after the Celtics. They always had a talented sixth man coming off the bench to get things rolling.
Pierce, a fourth-year professional from Rice, plays that role on Nelson’s fastbreak team.
“We need someone to come off the bench, keep the momentum going and give Terry (Cummings) a rest,” Pierce told the Associated Press. “My role is to get a rebound here, score there and keep the momentum going.”
Nelson said he is happy with Pierce and really happy with the Bucks’ defense.
“Ricky’s been sensational for us ever since he has been healthy,” Nelson said. “We’re really looking forward to him having a good year.
“I’m so proud of our defense tonight because even with a big lead we held them under 100 points.”
After a close first quarter, the Bucks broke the game open early in the second quarter when they outscored the Spurs, 18-7, to open a 56-41 lead.
By early in the second half Nelson had most of his regulars on the bench and the Bucks were breezing. Pierce, who was 10 for14 from the field, scored his 26 points in 32 minutes.
Although he made only six shots in 18 attempts, Mike Mitchell topped the Spurs’ weak attack with 17 points.
Denver 128, Atlanta 113--In winning their first four games, the Nuggets managed to fall behind by at least 10 points in each of them.
In this game at Denver, they spotted the Hawks the first six points, then raced to a rather easy victory. The 5-0 start is the best for the Nuggets since they opened with eight wins in a row in 1976-77, their first in the NBA.
Alex English, the leading scorer in the league, scored 33 points, 15 of them in the first quarter.
Denver, trailing, 34-32, near the end of the first quarter, scored 15 points in a row.
It may have been a costly victory. Calvin Natt, the hard-working forward, sprained his ankle in the second quarter and is out indefinitely.
With the Lakers losing to Cleveland, the Nuggets and the Clippers, also 5-0, are the only teams still unbeaten in the NBA.
Houston 127, Portland 113--Akeem Olajuwon scored 27 of his 41 points in the first half at Houston, but the Rockets needed a big second half by John Lucas to put away the Trail Blazers.
Lucas scored 15 points and had eight assists in the second half as the Rockets built on a 57-56 lead.
Olajuwon added 18 rebounds in 42 minutes. He had to play more because the other Twin Tower, Ralph Sampson, got into early foul trouble.
Sampson played only 28 but scored 12 points and had 13 rebounds as the Rockets improved their record to 4-2.
New Jersey 112, Washington 106--Buck Williams is the earlyseason leader in rebounds, but when the Nets need scoring, he can provide that, too.
Williams scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter to make sure the Nets continued to be perfect (4-0) at home.
“We don’t always play aggressively from the start,” Williams said. “At home, we seem to be able to pick it up in the second half, but it’s not that easy on the road.”
The Nets (4-3) trailed by as much as 14 points in the second period and trailed by 10 at halftime. Kelvin Ransey scored four points in a 10-2 spurt late in the third period that put the Nets in front. Then Williams took over.
Although the Bullets shot 54.9% from the field, they were guilty of 27 turnovers, nine of them in the third period.
Utah 118, Golden State 99--Although Adrian Dantley, with 27 points, led the scorers at Salt Lake City, it was the Jazz bench that was responsible for the victory.
Thurl Bailey came off the bench to score 13 points and the Utah substitutes outscored the Warrior reserves, 53-28.
Bailey scored 11 of his points in a six-minute spurt in the second quarter that enabled the Jazz to wipe out a three-point deficit and take a seven-point lead.
Seattle 84, New York 80--The Knicks wound up a five-game trip West in this game at Seattle and remained one of two teams that has not won. Phoenix (0-4) is the other.
Rookie Xavier McDaniel scored 21 points and had 14 rebounds as the SuperSonics, in winning for the second time in five games, handed the Knicks their sixth loss in a row.