The Washington Bullets are listing forward Cliff Robinson as questionable for tonight's game against the Detroit Pistons at Capital Centre because of what is now being described as a strained tendon in the knuckle of his right index finger.
The Bullets originally thought the injury was just a bruise. Robinson had swelling and soreness in the finger, and trainer John Lally said that further examination revealed the strain.
A team spokesman said Robinson had been playing with a sore finger for some time, but it apparently was aggravated in a victory over the New York Knicks last Saturday. He has had difficulty dribbling and shooting.
If Robinson cannot play tonight, he will be replaced in the starting lineup by Rick Mahorn, with Tom McMillen the first strong forward off the bench.
The Bullets return home after a disappointing 100-93 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which ended a three-game winning streak.
Washington Coach Gene Shue placed most of the blame for the loss on the four-day layoff between that game and one against the Knicks Dec. 29. "What I feared most came to pass," said Shue. "Long layoffs are the worst."
Beginning with tonight's game against the Pistons at 7:30, Shue will have still more opportunity to worry. Not only will the Bullets have two layoffs over the next week, they also will be playing teams that are considerably stronger than the 7-23 Cavaliers.
After the Detroit contest, the Bullets won't play again until Tuesday night in Milwaukee and then not again until Friday night. That game will be in Boston Garden against the Celtics.
Before the Cleveland game, the Bullets had been riding the wave of some outstanding marksmanship, topping the 50 percent mark in field goal shooting in each of their three previous victories.
Against Cleveland, however, the Bullets started out flat and struggled most of the night. At one point early in the second quarter, they had scored at the rate of a little more than a point a minute. That improved, but the team's final 45 percent mark was no prize.
"We had been shooting so outstandingly, everyone was in a good rhythm," Shue said. "When you're on a roll you don't want to rest, you want to keep on playing. We did everything we could to guard against this happening. We worked out often and hard, trying to simulate game conditions, but it didn't work."
Perhaps the brightest spot for the Bullets was McMillen's play. With Robinson back home in Washington, McMillen played 30 minutes and scored a season-high 16 points on six-of-nine shooting from the field.
But that effort was negated by the back court. Although Gus Williams led the team with 24 points, he was just 10 of 24 from the field. Jeff Malone, who had been averaging 20 points a game on 57 percent shooting since entering the starting lineup nine games ago, was just six of 18 from the field in scoring 13 points.
Numbers like those won't help matters against the Pistons, 17-15 but showing signs of shaking off the injuries and, perhaps, overconfidence that have characterized their season thus far.
The Bullets are 2-0 against the Pistons this season, including a 114-106 victory at Detroit Nov. 30. Detroit's top scorer is guard Isiah Thomas, averaging 23.7 points a game, followed by forward Kelly Tripucka, averaging 19.9. Center Bill Laimbeer is the second leading rebounder in the league, averaging 12 a game.