When the Atlanta Hawks found themselves trailing Chicago by 17 points in the first half, they didn't panic. No need to against the Jordan-less Bulls.
Steve Smith scored 21 points, including a clinching 3-pointer with 1:17 remaining, and the Hawks overcame a sluggish performance to beat the Bulls 93-81 Friday night.
"You could tell we're a veteran team," Smith said. "Nobody was panicking. We just knew we had to start playing defense."
The Hawks put together a 17-0 run at the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third to get back in the game. Still, they allowed the Bulls to hang around until the final two minutes.
Down 85-79, Chicago had a chance to close the gap, but Brent Barry missed two free throws with 1:34 remaining. At the other end, Smith worked himself open behind the 3-point arc and connected on the shot that finally buried the Bulls.
"Those things happen, especially when you're playing a team you're supposed to beat bad," Dikembe Mutombo said. "When you don't find a way to push out the lead, frustration goes through your mind. You've got to be mentally strong to fight through that. That was something we were able to do."
Chicago, playing without the injured Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc, led 68-66 going to the final quarter, but Atlanta won for the first time in 10 games this season when trailing after the third.
The Bulls went more than three minutes without scoring, a stretch that featured some of the trademarks of the post-Michael era a backcourt violation and stepping on the baseline when driving to the basket.
Already shorthanded, it didn't help when guard Randy Brown went down with a sprained right ankle in the second quarter after scoring 10 points in 19 minutes.
"We're really proud of our guys' effort," coach Tim Floyd said. "The triangle (offense) desn't look quite the same when Randy's out of there. ... I hope it isn't for a lengthy period of time because we definitely felt the effects of it. He had a heck of a line going."
Mutombo, who struggled early in the season, continued his recent resurgence with 18 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Rookie Kornel David had a career-high 14 points to lead the Bulls.
The Hawks scored the first six points of the game, then slept through most of the first half. Standing around on offense and pressured at the defensive end, Atlanta shot only 33 percent in the opening period and went nearly six minutes of the second without a field goal.
At one point, Atlanta coach Lenny Wilkens stomped the court and yelled "Pressure!" his voice reverberating throughout the Georgia Dome as his team and the fans went through the motions.
The Bulls outscored the Hawks 12-1 to begin the second period for a 37-20 advantage. Atlanta finally responded with a 12-0 spurt of its own, keyed by Mookie Blaylock's two steals, and scored the final seven points of the half to trail only 48-44.
"They got us into playing their game," Wilkens said. "They were pressing and trapping and we got in a frenzy instead of just reading the situation. At halftime, we talked about it."
Atlanta then scored the first 10 points of the third quarter for a 54-48 lead.
Notes: Hawks reserve guard Ed Gray, who spent the previous night in jail after being charged with drunken driving and marijuana possession, was in uniform but did not play. ... The last time Chicago played at the Georgia Dome, a record crowd of more than 62,000 turned out for Michael Jordan's final Atlanta appearance. The attendance Friday night was 10,878. ... Alan Henderson scored 13 points to give him 2,009 for his career. ... The Bulls were playing for the third night in a row. ... The Hawks are 3-1 against Chicago this season, the first time since 1988-89 they have more than two victories in a season series.
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