MILWAUKEE, JAN. 7 -- Milwaukee Bucks Coach Del Harris rattles the numbers off as if he's memorized them, which he probably has.

"Everyone's memory is basically short," he said. "Nellie's {former coach Don Nelson} last year here, we had 200 games missed by players. My first year we were at 195, my second year 191 and my third year 235. It's not something that was just last year."

If you're looking for any one reason why the Bucks have gotten out of the gate this season with a 24-8 mark, second best in the Eastern Conference, are 17-0 at home and lead the Midwest Division by 2 1/2 games awaiting Tuesday's visit from the Washington Bullets, you can start here: The M*A*S*H unit at Bradley Center is empty.

Other than three games missed by sixth man Ricky Pierce with a groin pull, every player has been available. And the mix of three standout guards -- Pierce, Jay Humphries and Alvin Robertson -- with four interchangeable big men in Jack Sikma, Fred Roberts, Frank Brickowski and Danny Schayes gives the Bucks chameleonlike adaptability.

"We're better rested. It's more quality time on the court," said Sikma, who still shoots from outside (33 three-pointers) as well as any 7-foot, 250-pounder ever.

"We just have more people," he said. "When we need to go inside, Brickowski has shown this year that he's very effective in there. We can go to him. We can post up a guard. I can go in sometimes. We're just fitting in real well."

After leading the league in man-games lost last season -- more than six teams' combined totals -- Milwaukee now goes 10 players deep.

"Before," Harris said, "if we were fortunate enough by this time to have 10 guys, you can be sure that I'd have one or two assistant coaches running around." Assistant Mike Dunleavy, now the Lakers' coach, played seven games the last two years because the Bucks were hit so hard by injuries.

"Obviously, they're playing very well," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said. "They're very confident. They've got one of the best guard {trios} playing, if not the best. It's going to be a nice challenge for us. I'm interested to see how we're going to respond."

Milwaukee has won seven in a row. The Bucks are 15-7 against Eastern Conference foes and they're equally adept at running the ball as they are in a slowdown game -- or "walking the dog," as Harris puts it.

First of all, the Bucks can shoot. They're one of two teams in the league (San Antonio is the other) in the top 10 in all three shooting categories: field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw percentage.

All three guards are good three-point shooters. But they also can post up opponents underneath the basket. They all rebound well and play solid defense. And Robertson, who signed a multiyear contract extension last week, is off the charts this season in steals. His 4.22 average would destroy his own 3.67 mark set in 1985-86 -- and get him a $20,000 bonus.

"We've been doing it for years," Humphries said. "Ricky's been doing it for years. If you look at all of our numbers, except maybe Alvin in steals, {they} are exactly where they were last year. But we just didn't get recognized for the same things we're doing this year."

Still, it's not quite the same squad. The additions of Brickowski (acquired from San Antonio for veteran swingman Paul Pressey) and Schayes (from Denver for the draft rights to first-round pick Terry Mills) have bolstered the frontcourt.

It's true that Milwaukee won 45 games last season playing Brad Lohaus and Greg "Cadillac" Anderson for big minutes. That may have been more of a testament to Harris's coaching than anything. For the Bucks wasted little time bringing in Brickowski and Schayes, who hit the boards much better.

That allows Sikma to roam defensively and step outside offensively, giving Milwaukee the ability to use all of his unique talents. Add Robertson's ballhawking skill and you see why the Bucks have held opponents under 100 points 16 times.

It also has lessened the strain on Sikma's 34-year-old body.

"Last year, early, Cadillac went down," Sikma said. "It was me and Fred Roberts and Jeff Grayer on the front line. We did, I think, a great job, but we were small and teams attacked us all the time. I couldn't deal with it for as long as I had to. The {playing} time was too much.

"By the end of the season I was worn out. I had a back problem. I wasn't very effective at all. I just wasn't enjoying it. You start wondering if it's worth it anymore, if you can help the team anymore."

But he's healthy now. Brickowski is shooting .543 from the field, almost all of it in the lane or closer. And Schayes does much the same.

"He no longer feels he has to pace himself," Harris said of Sikma. "Now he doesn't have to play but about 30 minutes, whereas before, in the big games, he was going to have to go 40, 42 minutes. Big or small now, we just take him out."

Saturday night the Bucks shot 41 percent from the field, but they held Phoenix to 29.7 percent in the second half and held on, 88-86. It was Harris's 300th career victory. The next milestone for Milwaukee is the league-record 31 straight home wins by the 1985-86 Celtics.

The Bucks have the respect of the rest of the league, though they occasionally get miffed at their lack of name recognition. And no NBA team, Harris points out, has won more games than the Bucks in the 23 years since they came into being.

"Players know what we're capable of doing," Humphries said. "What's more important is that it's not really that important to us. We want to win ballgames. We want to play the best ball that we're capable of playing."