Truck Robinson is still trying to rid himself of the effects of a serious viral infection and Paul Westphal is struggling through his worst playoff series ever, but the Phoenix Suns keep rolling along.
A steady Walter Davis, a resurgent Alvan Adams, a healthy Garfield Heard and two unheralded guards, Don Buse and Rich Bratz, have picked up the slack and enabled the Suns to move to a 2-1 lead over the Kansas City Kings in their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series in the National Basketball Association playoffs.
The series will be resumed tonight in Kansas City.
The Seattle SuperSonics, with a 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the other Western Conference semifinal, will try to end their series tonight in Seattle.
Sunday's Phoenix-Kansas City game was played at Arizona State University because the Ice Capades occupied the Suns' regular home, Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Suns didn't do much complaining about the switch in sites, however, because a crowd of 14,301, 2,2000 more than had ever seen the Suns play at the Coliseum, was there to cheer them on.
The key to the Kings' success this season has been rookie guard Phil Ford and, by shutting him down, the Suns have been able to control this playoff series.
Buse has taken on Ford and his defensive plan has been to sag off Ford and not let him penetrate. when Ford has driven to the basket, Buse has tried to funnel him away from the middle.
What this has done is force Ford to take outside shots and he has not been hitting them.
Ford was one for seven from the field Sunday and three for 17 in the first game of the series, both Kansas City losses.
For the series, he is eight for 35, or 23 percent, and has averaged only eight points a game. He averaged 16 points in the regular season and shot 47 percent from the field.
"You know pressure doesnht bother Phil Ford or we wouldn't be where we are today," Kansas City coach Cotton Fitzsimmons said. "He hasn't shot the ball or handled it well."
Robinson is the Suns' big rebounder and Westphal and Davis are the primary Phoenix scorers, but the man who makes everything work offensively for them is the 6-foot-9 center, Adams.
The Suns use him much in the same way the Washington Bullets use their center, Wes Unseld.
Adams is not the rebounder or pick-setter Unseld is, but the Suns' offense nevertheless revolves around him. Most of their plays start with a pass to Adams at the high post.
"He's our key, no doubt," said Phoenix Coach John MacLeod. "When Alvan goes well, we go well. Look at Sunday's game. Westphal gets into foul trouble and scores only two points, but Alvan plays well and we win easily."
Sam Lacey, the King center who plays opposite Adams, agrees. "He (Adams) is involved with everything," Lacey said. "Everything they usually run off the offense comes to him and he's looking for cutters. You've got to force him out at least 20 feet from the basket instead of the 15 feet where he likes to set up. Those five feet can make a lot of difference."
Westphal the NBA's sixth-leading scorer this season with a 24-point average, scored only two points in Sunday's 108-993 Phoenix victory and is averaging 12 points a game for the Kansas City series.
Bratz, a 6-2 second-year man from stanford who became the Sun's third guard when Ron Lee was traded to New orleans in the Robinson deal, relieved Westphal and scored 16 points and had six assists.
The Suns paid dearly for Robinson-two No. 1 draft choices, Lee, Marty Byrnes and cash and they have yet to really mesh with Robinson in the lineuup.
The Robinson deal was supposed to make the Suns serious threats to the Bullets' NBA crown and they did finish with the third-best regular-season record in the league behind Washington and Seattle, but Phoenix has yet to reach what MacLeod ffeels is its full potential. Robinson's illness has had something to do with that. The Suns play an intricate offense and by coming to the team in midseason and then missing a month with the viral infection, Robinson is noy yet comfortable with the team.