Atlanta downs Detroit 87-75
Hawks close out Pistons' season, Dumars' career
Posted: Monday May 17, 1999 11:19 AM
ATLANTA (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons shouldn't have given up on Grant Long.
Long, who spent two miserable years in Detroit, struck back against his former team with a career playoff-high 26 points, leading the shorthanded Atlanta Hawks into the second round of the playoffs with an 87-75 victory over the Pistons in the decisive Game 5 Sunday night.
"He had a tough two years here in Detroit and some people thought his career was over," said Grant Hill, overshadowed by the other man named Grant. "It looks like he had a rebirth here in Atlanta. He was tremendous."
The Hawks, getting only two points from their bench, advanced to meet the New York Knicks, who upset top-seeded Miami in another five-game Eastern Conference series. The best-of-7 second round begins Tuesday night at the Georgia Dome.
"This is a great opportunity," Tyrone Corbin said. "But New York is a quality team. They're going to be hard to beat. If we look over them, we'll be making a tragic mistake."
The victory was particularly satisfying for Long, who rarely played while spending the previous two seasons in Detroit.
"Having not gotten a chance in Detroit, then to come back and play well against them, was a great, great feeling," said Long, who also had 11 rebounds and two steals.
Dikembe Mutombo guaranteed an Atlanta victory in Game 5, even though the Hawks suffered two straight double-digit losses in Detroit. Long made sure those words were prophetic.
"Grant Long gave them a tremendous lift," Detroit coach Alvin Gentry said. "He was actually the difference in the game, I thought. We did a decent job on Steve Smith and a decent job on Mookie Blaylock."
Joe Dumars scored three points in the final game of his 14-year career. He left the court to a standing ovation from the Hawks' crowd and hugs from players and coaches on both teams.
Hill scored 10 of the first 14 points for the Pistons, but managed only 11 the rest of the game. He has never won a playoff series with Detroit, which last advanced to the second round in 1991.
"Ultimately, I'd like to win a championship," Hill said. "I'd like to get out of the first round."
Since moving from St. Louis in 1968, the Hawks have yet to move beyond the second round of the playoffs, being knocked out seven times.
The Hawks played virtually the entire series without three forwards. LaPhonso Ellis already was out for the season after a hernia operation, Alan Henderson played only four minutes in Game 1 because of an eye injury, and Chris Crawford suffered a separated shoulder early in the second game.
Long played the entire 48 minutes, as did Smith. The other starters -- Blaylock, Mutombo and Corbin -- all were on the court for at least 40 minutes.
"You don't even think about it," Corbin said. "You're tired when you sit on the bench, but once you get out on the floor, you're so focused that you don't even think about the fatigue."
Every Hawks starter scored in double figures, while Anthony Johnson provided the lone output from the bench with two points in 10 minutes. Mark West was the only other player who saw action for the Hawks, playing two minutes to give Mutombo a brief rest.
The Hawks were cruising in the series after winning the first two games at home by 20 points apiece. But the Pistons bounced back at Detroit, extending the best-of-5 series with a 79-63 victory in Game 3 and a 103-82 rout in Game 4.
Coming back to Atlanta, Mutombo spoke boldly and came through in Game 5 with 12 points and 18 rebounds, giving his team a 42-26 dominance on the boards.
Blaylock had 17 points while Smith and Corbin scored 15 apiece.
"You can't feel any pressure," Mutombo said. "All I needed was to relax and enjoy myself. I didn't relax and enjoy myself enough in Game 3 and Game 4."
The most poignant moment of the night came with less than a minute remaining, Dumars leaving the court for the final time after the Hawks had sealed the victory.
Each of the Atlanta players came over to give him a hug, as did Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens. Dumars, a key player on the "Bad Boys" championship teams, finally retreated to the bench, burying his head in a towel.
"I'm disappointed," Dumars said. "I don't know what else to say."
Hill tried to carry the Pistons offense, but shot only 10-of-27 against persistent double-teaming by the Hawks. Bison Dele scored 17 before fouling out, while Jerry Stackhouse was the only other player in double figures with 11.
The Hawks outscored the Pistons 19-11 in the fourth quarter and held Detroit without a point for the first four minutes. The Pistons, who shot just 5-of-16 in the fourth, never got closer than seven in the final eight minutes.
Atlanta shot just 3-for-16 from the field in the fourth quarter but went 13-for-16 at the free throw line, including 8-for-8 by Long.
"I felt good about our chances," said Gentry, whose team trailed 68-64 going to the fourth quarter. "Then we went through that dreaded streak where we just couldn't score. And every time we do that, it just ends up costing us."
Notes: The Hawks set a team record for fewest points allowed to a playoff opponent in the fourth quarter. ... Game 2 of the Hawks-Knicks series also will be at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night. Games 3 and 4 will be at Madison Square Garden next Sunday and Monday. ... Dumars had been with the Pistons longer than any other player and played in 1,018 regular-season games. He scored more than 16,000 career points, the 61st NBA player to reach that mark. ... The Hawks had to play Game 5 at Georgia Tech's 9,300-seat arena because the Georgia Dome was booked for a concert. The attendance was only 8,460.
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