The Indiana Pacers developed a habit last season of building leads, then blowing games in the closing minutes. Nobody seemed to want the ball in crunch time. It probably cost Coach George Irvine his job.
Although the season is barely under way, new Coach Jack Ramsay has found a player who not only wants the ball in the clutch, but who knows what to do with it.
He is Chuck Person, the 6-8 rookie forward from Auburn. The fourth player chosen in the draft last spring is developing into a regular Mr. Clutch.
Person sank a 33-foot three-point basket at the buzzer Saturday night at Indianapolis to give the Pacers a 104-103 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
It was the second game in a row in which Person threw in a three-pointer in the clutch. Thursday night at East Rutherford, N.J., he made a shot from the corner that sent the game with New Jersey into overtime, and the Pacers went on to win.
The Bucks, who rallied from a 12-point deficit, took a 103-101 lead when Paul Pressey sank a short jumper with three seconds left.
After a timeout, Person threw the inbounds pass to Herb Williams, who threw it right back.
"When it left my hands," Person said, "it looked pretty good. I was praying as it was going toward the basket."
The Pacers' 5-3 start is the first time they have been two games over .500 since 1982.
Boston 118, Detroit 111--Other teams with a full complement of players find it difficult to perform efficiently playing a string of games in a short space of time.
But the injury-riddled champion Celtics, forced to use virtually an ironman five because of injuries, just keep rolling along.
They bounced back from a tough win Friday night at Chicago to outlast the Pistons at Pontiac, Mich. They won both without Coach K.C. Jones.
Robert Parish, not known for exceptional stamina, led the Celtics to their sixth win in eight games. The veteran center scored 34 points, had 19 rebounds and 9 assists. For the second night in a row, he played all but three minutes.
In the consecutive road games, the Boston starting five missed only a total of 36 out of 480 minutes.
Atlanta 109, New Jersey 90--Randy Wittman and Dominique Wilkins scored four points apiece in a 14-2 spurt at the start of the second half at East Rutherford, N.J., and the Hawks went on to win for the seventh time in eight games.
It was the fifth time in the last six games the Hawks held their opponents to 100 points or less.
New York Knicks 104, Washington 97--Bill Cartwright and Kenny Walker each scored six points in a 14-1 Knicks' spurt that closed out the game at New York.
The Bullets led, 96-90, with 4:18 left, but never scored another basket.
Cartwright finished with 23 points.
Dallas 111, Cleveland 96--The young Cavaliers have been away from home so long they may have trouble finding their way back.
In this game at Dallas, their sixth on a trip that began Nov. 5 at Salt Lake City and ends tonight in Houston, the Cavaliers were too tired to put up much of a fight. They trailed from the outset and never threatened.
Seattle 127, Golden State 123--Tom Chambers scored 14 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter at Oakland and the SuperSonics held on for the victory.
The SuperSonics trailed in the third quarter when Coach Bernie Bickerstaff was ejected. With assistant Bob Kloppenburg, former Marshall High and USC star, in charge, they pulled it out.
Phoenix 116, San Antonio 109--Mike Sanders came off the bench to score 17 points at San Antonio and help the Suns come from behind to win their first road game in six tries.
Utah 111, Denver 103--Seldom-used Carey Scurry and Mark Ivaroni combined for 15 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Jazz safely in front. The Nuggets, who scored 142 points Friday night, made only 35.4% of their shots in this one.