It was the sixth loss in a row and 10th in their last 11 for the Pistons, fueling rumors that Coach Chuck Daly's firing is imminent.
The Pistons, after a solid start this season, are a team in disarray. They won 12 of their first 18 games but only 3 of their last 16, and are in fourth place in the Central Division. They are 7 1/2 games out of first place.
Nobody seems to understand why the Pistons have collapsed. They were the best rebounding team in the NBA last season and the third-best scoring machine. They were young and figured to get better, maybe even challenge Milwaukee for the division title.
Suddenly, the Pistons, despite the addition of rugged giant Rick Mahorn, have lost control of the boards. In their six consecutive defeats, they have dominated the rebounding in only one of them----against the crippled New York Knicks.
They reached a low point at Chicago Thursday night, when they were outrebounded, 50-27, in a 131-122 loss. Also, the Pistons have often played well for three quarters, then faltered in the closing minutes. The reason for this may be that playmaker Isiah Thomas and sharpshooter Kelly Tripucka are both hobbled by knee injuries and wear out late in the game.
The Hawks led most of the way in this one, but with 9:49 left in the game, a jumper by Tripucka tied it at 92-92. With Doc Rivers scoring five and Wilkins the other four, the Hawks ran off nine straight points to regain command.
"It's no fun being in a slump like this," Daly said. "We played hard tonight, but once again we didn't play well on defense. We lost it again on the boards."
The Hawks, with Kevin Willis getting 13, outrebounded the Pistons, 59-50. The Hawks also led in blocked shots, 11-3, six by Tree Rollins.
Boston 129, New Jersey 117--Last season, Larry Bird was off to a fast start, but he seemed to be worn out by the final round of the playoffs. It may be that the star forward is going to pace himself this season.
The 6-9 veteran can still turn it on when he wants to. In this game at Boston, Bird scored 17 of his 29 points in the second half to lead the Celtics to their fourth consecutive victory. Bird also had 10 rebounds and eight steals in a brilliant performance.
The Celtics were without guard Danny Ainge, but they didn't miss him. Jerry Sichting, his replacement, had 17 points, making eight of his nine shots. The other guard, Dennis Johnson, was 11 for 21 and scored 24 points.
The Nets were again without suspended guard Micheal Ray Richardson and they did miss him. Richardson, their playmaker, is undergoing treatment for substance dependency and is suspended.
Milwaukee 107, Washington 100--Terry Cummings, who had a 4-for-25 game in his previous appearance at Capital Centre, made amends. The sharpshooting forward scored a season-high 31 points, making 14 of 23 shots, to lead the Bucks to their fifth win in a row.
Sidney Moncrief, who was even colder in his last game at Landover, Md. (2 for 15), improved (6 for 14) and scored 17 points.
The Bullets, who were throwing in baskets from all over the court Thursday night in New York, shooting 61.3%, turned cold overnight. They shot only 43.0%. Guards Gus Williams and Jeff Malone were 31 for 42 against the Knicks but only 10 for 33 against the Bucks.
Portland 133, Phoenix 104--Clyde Drexler came off the bench for the second time this week to score a triple double and lead the Trail Blazers to an easy victory at Portland. Drexler had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Kiki Vandeweghe had 30 points for Portland.
Seattle 117, Denver 107--Jack Sikma scored a season-high 32 points and had 14 rebounds at Seattle to help the SuperSonics end a two-game losing streak.
The Sonics fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter. Sikma had 13 points in the third quarter as Seattle pulled even.