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NBA PLAYOFFS

Atlanta Starters Not Forced to Fly Alone

Pro basketball: Hawk bench finally contributes, and added to Smith's 28, produces 94-82 victory over Pistons and Game 5.

May 03, 1997|From Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Lenny Wilkens used to play by instinct. He coached that way Friday night, and it kept the Atlanta Hawks alive.

Wilkens anticipated a big night from his reserves, and his much-maligned bench players scored 17 points to go along with Steve Smith's 28 as the Hawks defeated the Detroit Pistons, 94-82, to even their best-of-five series, 2-2.

"I played by feel, and now I coach by feel," Wilkens said. "Yesterday in practice, the bench was really aggressive and really took it to the first team, so I decided to give them a chance tonight."

In Game 3, Wilkens used his regulars all but 18 minutes. Smith, Mookie Blaylock and Dikembe Mutombo each played 45 of the 48 minutes. Christian Laettner played 44 and Tyrone Corbin played 43.

Detroit, by comparison, got 35 minutes from its bench and the difference was telling. Atlanta's bench had been outscored, 50-8, in the first three games, but Alan Henderson had nine in Game 4 and the Hawk bench chipped in with 45 minutes.

"Tonight, we got to play more minutes, and we came through," Henderson said. "We knew that's what we needed to do."

Grant Hill scored nine of his 28 points in the fourth quarter for Detroit, but the game had long been decided by then. The Hawks took a 73-57 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Hawks had a 50-35 edge in rebounding and held the Pistons to 39.2% shooting from the floor.

Detroit had a 23-22 lead after the first quarter, but it was all Hawks after that.

Smith took over to start the second quarter, making three three-point shots and two free throws to engineer an 11-4 run that put Atlanta up, 33-27.

"This is just how I dreamed this game would go, except I had myself scoring that many points in both halves, not just the first," Smith said.

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