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1999 NBA Playoffs

Houston takes off

Knicks guard gets 34 to shoot down Hawks in Game 1

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Posted: Wednesday May 19, 1999 01:41 AM

  The Knicks' Latrell Sprewell cut through Steve Smith and the Hawks' defense like a hot knife through butter. AP

ATLANTA (AP) -- Allan Houston didn't let the biggest shot of his career quickly become a forgotten memory.

Two days after hitting a last-second basket that gave New York a stunning victory over Miami in the first round, Houston set a career playoff-high with 34 points Tuesday night as the Knicks defeated the Atlanta Hawks 100-92 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"I wanted to stay hungry out there," said Houston, who shot less than 42 percent during the regular season and struggled to mesh with the revamped Knicks. "I didn't want to stop until I left the floor."

Latrell Sprewell added 31 points, giving the Knicks a youthful, lightning-quick duo that was simply too much for the older Hawks to handle.

"Those guys were shooting so well, it didn't matter who was guarding them," said Atlanta's Steve Smith, hampered in the second half by foul trouble. "Unfortunately, they were shooting well together. Usually, it's just one guy shooting that well."

The Hawks went nearly seven minutes without a field goal in the third quarter and New York rebounded from an eight-point deficit to lead 80-73 by the end of the period.

Then, Atlanta failed to make a basket for the first 6:33 of the final quarter. By the time Ed Gray hit a jumper for the Hawks, New York had put the game away with a 12-3 spurt.

The Knicks tightened their defensive noose around the Hawks after Chris Crawford ignited Atlanta with 20 points in the first half, eclipsing his career high before the teams went to the locker room.

New York's Patrick Ewing, playing with myriad injuries, spent most of the game in foul trouble but it didn't matter. Houston and Sprewell handled the load at the offensive end, while the Knicks limited Atlanta to 11-of-36 shooting in the second half.

Houston was 13-of-20 from the field -- and three of his misses came outside the 3-point line. He scored 15 points in the third quarter to turn the tide in favor of the Knicks.

"They shot well," Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo said. "I've got to give them credit. That third quarter was amazing."

Sprewell scored 17 points in the first half, then helped put the game away with a 10-point effort in the fourth quarter.

"We didn't want to have a letdown after Miami," Sprewell said. "We're playing well right now. Regardless of all that's been said, we can play together."

New York, only the second No. 8-seeded team to beat a No. 1 in the opening round, has stolen the home-court advantage from the fourth-seeded Hawks. Game 2 in the best-of-7 series is Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.

The expected duel of former Georgetown centers Ewing and Mutombo didn't materialize.

Ewing picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, then got a technical for arguing the call. He played only 17 minutes, scoring 12 points and grabbing six rebounds after his courageous performance in Game 5 against the Heat.

But Ewing came through with two big baskets in the final 1:28 after the Hawks twice cut their deficit to seven points.

"I would rather have been out there playing," he said. "It was frustrating to sit -- especially for calls that I didn't think were good calls. It was very frustrating."

Mutombo, who had 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks, wasn't able to dominate in the middle as the Knicks kept cutting through the lane and creating open looks. New York shot 51 percent (39-of-77) from the field, igniting a crowd that included thousands of Knicks fans.

Crawford, playing for the first time since separating his right shoulder in Game 2 of Atlanta's five-game victory over Detroit in the first round, led the Hawks with 26 points. He scored 17 in the second quarter, hitting consecutive 3s that capped a 13-0 run.

But Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens kept Crawford on the bench for the first seven minutes of the second half. By the time the second-year forward got back on the court, the momentum had swung to New York.

"He had a great hand off the bench," Wilkens said. "We wanted to have something coming off the bench. That's why we did it."

Smith added 25 points for the Hawks, who haven't gotten past the second round since moving to Atlanta in 1968. The Knicks are playing in second round for the eighth consecutive year.

Atlanta won two of three regular-season meetings, even though the Hawks never shot above 36 percent in any game. This time, their poor shooting caught up with them.

"They stole one from us, but we know we can win in New York," Smith said. "We've done it before."

Notes: Houston had 33 points in a playoff game twice before. ... Sprewell also set a personal high for the postseason, eclipsing a 27-point effort during his lone playoff appearance with Golden State in 1994. ... Crawford's previous career best was 18 points. ... The Hawks and Knicks have met only one other time in the playoffs. In 1971, New York won a best-of-7 quarterfinal series in five games. ... After drawing less than 9,000 at Georgia Tech for their decisive victory over Detroit in the first round, the Hawks returned to the Georgia Dome and attracted a crowd of 18,513. ... Despite some optimism expressed by the players, Atlanta general manager Pete Babcock said there is no chance forward Alan Henderson (eye abrasion) will play again this season.

 
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Allan Houston's 34 were a dream for the Knicks, but didn't particularly impress the Hawks.
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