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Chase is on
Smith leads Hawks past Celtics in race for home court
Posted: Thursday April 22, 1999 11:03 PM
ATLANTA (AP) -- With an eye on the playoffs, the Atlanta Hawks knew they couldn't afford to slip against a team like Boston.
Steve Smith scored 26 points and the Atlanta Hawks held Boston without a field goal for nearly seven minutes in the third quarter, going on to beat the Celtics 106-94 Thursday night.
The Hawks, fourth in the Eastern Conference, closed to within two games of Indiana for the Central Division lead as they try to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
"We're looking to move up as far as we can," Tyrone Corbin said. "We need to take care of our business and who knows what might happen with Indiana. Even if they don't slip up, we want to feel good about how we're playing going into the playoffs."
The Hawks got a lecture from coach Lenny Wilkens at halftime, then took control by starting the third with a 10-0 run.
"I reminded them of why we were here," Wilkens said. "This was an important game for us. We could not afford to fool around with this team."
Smith scored half of his points in that period. He was 5-for-5 from the field, including a 3-pointer, and hit two free throws as well.
"At halftime, we got a good speech from Lenny," Smith said. "We came out in the third quarter with more intensity."
The Celtics actually began to lose control in the final seconds of the first half when they led 49-43 and were in position to take the last shot of the half.
Then, Boston's Dana Barros was called for traveling, giving the Hawks another chance. Smith was fouled on a drive to the basket with less than a second to go and made both free throws, cutting what should have been at least a six-point deficit to 49-47.
"We had a shot," coach Rick Pitino said. "They took us a little lightly, and then they came out really playing hard and made it very difficult for us to score. ... They turned up the heat, and that's a credit to their defense."
The Hawks dominated the third quarter by hitting 12-of-17 shots (71 percent) from the field, including a couple of 3-pointers. Boston shot less than 30 percent in the period and didn't make a shot until Vitaly Potapenko hit a spinning layup with 5:23 left.
"We aren't playing as smart as we should," said Paul Pierce, who led the Celtics with 23 points. "It's the little things like right before the half. ... We push it up and take a shot when we're up by six, and we should have held the ball."
Atlanta led 77-62 at the end of the third and built the lead as high as 19 points in the final quarter. The Hawks have put together consecutive games with more than 100 points since the first time since the opening two games of the season.
Notes: Hawks forward Alan Henderson missed his fourth game in a row with a bruised tailbone. ... The Hawks have won three straight over Boston this season and five in a row overall. ... The Celtics' losing streak climbed to three. ... Atlanta is one victory shy of its equaling its longest winning streak of the season. ... Battie was called for a technical in the second quarter when he hung on the rim after a dunk.
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