Detroit stays alive
Pistons blow out Hawks, force Game 4 on Friday
Posted: Wednesday May 12, 1999 11:08 PM
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- For the third straight time, there was a blowout in the Atlanta-Detroit series. Only this time, the Pistons came out on top.
Detroit, which lost the first two games by 20 points each, routed the Hawks 79-63 Wednesday night to stay alive in their best-of-5 series.
"We knew the Pistons weren't going to lay down," said Atlanta guard Steve Smith, who scored 15 points. "Now we have a fight on our hands."
The 63 points were the fewest ever scored by the Hawks in a playoff game and the second-lowest in NBA history, topped only by the 54 points by Utah in last year's finals against the Chicago Bulls.
The Hawks' previous low was 71 in 1950 when they were the Tri-Cities Black Hawks. Still, the Hawks, with a 2-1 lead, can finish off Detroit in Game 4 at The Palace on Friday night.
"They were facing the prospect of going home if they lost," Atlanta guard Mookie Blaylock said. "They came out and did the job they had to do, and I tip my hat to them."
Dikembe Mutombo, who dominated the first two games, was held to eight points by Dele and the rest of Detroit's defense -- aimed at shutting Mutombo down. Ty Corbin led Atlanta with 16 points.
"They played a scrambling defense, and we sort of helped by shooting poorly," Smith said. "We made a little run, but we were too far behind."
With Dele playing his best quarter of the playoffs, the Pistons took a 22-13 lead and extended it to 44-27 by the half.
"Dele was all right," Smith said. "he played with more energy. But, if we make shots, it's a different game."
Detroit held the Hawks to 24-of-64 shooting (37.5 percent) and outrebounded Atlanta 41-29.
"With that team and all the weapons they have, you have to choose your poison," Detroit coach Alvin Gentry said. "We knew that if we doubled Dikembe, they were going to hit some 3-pointers, but that was the chance we decided to take."
The Hawks began a comeback early in the second half. A free throw by Mutombo pulled the Hawks to 50-40 with 6:22 left in the third quarter. But Joe Dumars hit a 3-point basket and Jerry Stackhouse scored four points as Detroit took a 62-48 lead into the fourth quarter.
Laettner took over the rest of the way with eight fourth-quarter points.
"The two games in Atlanta, we didn't play Pistons basketball," Laettner said. "We just played good basketball tonight."
Hill went scoreless in the first quarter, picking up his second foul with 5:44 left in the quarter. There was 10:10 left in the second period when Hill returned.
"That was a gut-check for us tonight," Hunter said. "Our backs were to the wall and we had nothing to lose."
Dele had no points and four fouls while playing just 11 minutes in Game 2. Wednesday night, he had six points in the first quarter. Just as important was Dele's work in holding Mutombo to two points in the quarter.
Atlanta's 27 points in the first half was the lowest half in Hawks' playoff history. The club's previous low-water mark was 28 in the second half against Chicago on May 10, 1997.
The Hawks scored just 13 points in the first quarter, the team's second-worst playoff quarter and just four points better than the club record of nine at Boston on May 13, 1988.
Notes: Previously, the Hawks' worst first half was 30 points in 1956 at Minneapolis when the Hawks played out of St. Louis. ... Detroit and Atlanta have met in the playoffs four times, including 1997 when the Hawks won a first-round series in five games. The Pistons have eliminated the Hawks twice from the playoffs. ... The Palace, with a capacity of 21,454, appeared about two-thirds full at best.
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