Atlanta holds Detroit under 70 points, takes 2-0 series lead
Posted: Tuesday May 11, 1999 08:23 AM
Mutombo set a personal playoff high with 28 points and the Hawks ran away from Detroit after halftime for their second straight 20-point victory, routing the Pistons 89-69 Monday night for a commanding lead in the best-of-5 series.
Detroit must figure out a way to stop Mutombo if it wants to avoid getting swept out of the playoffs. Game 3 is Wednesday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
"We're going to put all five guys on him," said Pistons coach Alvin Gentry, sounding downright serious, "and let someone else score."
So far, no one wearing a Detroit uniform has been able to control the 7-foot-2 Mutombo at either end of the court. Playing all but two minutes, he was 13-of-14 from the field, grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds and virtually shut down any thought by the Pistons of driving the lane.
"The playoffs are where the great athletes come to play," said Mutombo, who burned Detroit for 17 points, 19 rebounds and six blocks in the opener. "They've been throwing a lot of bodies at me the last two games, trying to get me tired, trying to get me fatigued. But my body feels great. I feel great."
Mutombo eclipsed his season high of 24 points and his playoff best of 26, set against Detroit in the first round of the 1997 postseason.
The Pistons, held to a team playoff low of 70 points in Game 1 Saturday, needed only two days to break the mark.
In fact, Monday's contest followed a nearly identical pattern as the first, won by the Hawks 90-70 after they held the Pistons to just 27 points in the second half -- including a scoreless streak of 7 1/2 minutes in the third quarter.
This time, Atlanta trailed 44-43 at the break, only to crush the Pistons by scoring the first 17 points of the second half. Detroit finally broke the run on Jerry Stackhouse's 16-foot jumper from the corner with 6:21 remaining.
By then, the game was over -- and Detroit's season might be, too.
"We didn't compete," Gentry said. "We never talk about wins or losses in the locker room. All we talk about is competing. The last two games, we've not done that. I don't know why."
Steve Smith, who added 21 points, led the Hawks during the deciding run by scoring nine of the 17 points, including two 3-pointers.
Detroit made a run at tying the lowest-scoring quarter in playoff history, sitting on six points in the final minute before Lindsey Hunter hit a jumper with 33 seconds remaining. Two free throws left the Pistons with a dismal 10-point period on 3-of-15 shooting.
They also had a chance for the lowest-scoring playoff half since the shot clock was instituted, scoring 25 points over the final two quarters. That was two more than Utah's record of futility against Chicago in last year's final.
"It's really hard to put your finger on what happened," Hunter said. "I wish there was one thing you could say. We just didn't do anything in the second half."
Atlanta overcame an injury to forward Chris Crawford, who suffered a minor separation to his right shoulder less than three minutes into the game and didn't return. The Hawks went to essentially a six-man rotation, but Tyrone Corbin filled in ably with 10 points and nine rebounds.
By the end of the game, the Hawks were able to empty their bench.
"We're very determined," coach Lenny Wilkens said. "Guys have been stepping up all year."
Not even Grant Hill could save the Pistons. After scoring 26 points in the opener, making him the only Detroit player in double figures, he was held to 15 points and went nearly 17 minutes in the second and third quarters without scoring.
Even with that subpar effort, he still led the Pistons in scoring.
Notes: Crawford was listed as day to day. ... Detroit has lost the first two games of a playoff series 10 times in franchise history. The Pistons have never recovered from such a deficit. ... The Hawks have never lost a series after going up 2-0, winning on six previous occasions with such a lead. ... Atlanta's last 2-0 lead was the first round of the 1988 playoffs against Milwaukee. The Hawks won the series 3-2. ... Alan Henderson, still suffering double vision from an abrasion to his left eye, did not play for the Hawks. ... Hunter, who took an elbow from Mutombo to the right eye in Game 1, scored only two points. ... The game was not a sellout, drawing 16,377 to the Georgia Dome.
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