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NBA PLAYOFFS

Bulls Finally Go Over Edge as Hawks Win

May 09, 1997|From Associated Press

CHICAGO — For the first time in two seasons, the Chicago Bulls look as if they can be beaten. And the Atlanta Hawks are only too happy to do it.

"Nothing comes better than this. Nothing comes better than this," Dikembe Mutombo said Thursday night after Atlanta pulled even, 1-1, in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals with a 103-95 victory. "We had the confidence going into the game that we were going to win."

Steve Smith scored 27 points and Mookie Blaylock added 26, including eight backbreaking three-point baskets, as Atlanta became the first visiting team in two years to win a playoff game at the United Center.

"We've been living on the edge the last four games and this time we got stung," said Michael Jordan, who had 27 points and 16 rebounds. "But that doesn't mean we can't turn this around."

The Bulls toyed with the entire league in winning a record 72 games and rolling to the NBA championship last season. Then they won 69 more this season. But they ended the year in a 1-3 slump and have played inconsistently throughout the playoffs.

"I'm not ready to push the panic button yet," Jordan said. "I'd advise you guys not to do that, either. In all the years we won championships, we lost games."

Scottie Pippen criticized his team's forwards and centers for their poor defensive help. He was especially critical of Dennis Rodman, who had only five rebounds before fouling out and picked up his seventh technical foul in five playoff games.

"If he's not going to lead us in rebounding, don't lead us in technical fouls, because we don't need those," Pippen said.

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