A year ago the Detroit Pistons had already started to take control of the Central Division and were in the process of putting away the Chicago Bulls.
It may not be that easy this season.
Michael Jordan exceeded 30 points for the eighth game in a row Monday night at Chicago, and the Bulls rallied to beat Milwaukee, 110-97, for their sixth consecutive victory.
Although the Pistons have won 10 in a row, they trail the Bulls by half a game. The Bucks, who led the division until last week, lost their fourth in a row and are 1 1/2 games behind.
Scottie Pippen scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half, 11 of them in the third quarter when the Bulls took the lead for good.
Jordan had 34 points and nine assists.
A year ago, the Pistons were 25-12, while the Bulls were 23-13. The Pistons are a game better (26-11) but the Bulls are 26-10.
The Bulls, who finished four games behind the Pistons during the regular season, couldn’t stop the Pistons’ drive to their second consecutive NBA championship.
“Maybe, this will be the year for us,” said Pippen. “We are playing well right now. But, they must be, too. It should be some race. Winning the division gives a team the edge in the playoffs.”
Detroit 89, Dallas 81--Vinnie Johnson came out of a season-long shooting slump to score 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter at Dallas to lead the Pistons to their 10th victory in a row.
Johnson, for years one of the top sharpshooters coming off the bench but below 40% this season, sank four consecutive shots to quell a Dallas rally and wound up sinking eight of 16 shots.
Atlanta 96, New York 82--Moses Malone has lost his starting job, but the veteran center can still be a factor in a game.
He came off the bench to score 13 points in the fourth quarter and break open a tight game.
The Hawks, who stretched their home-court winning streak to 11, fell behind, 69-67, in the fourth quarter, but Malone made a three-point play and two free throws and the Hawks were rolling again.