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Smith Returns To Down Hawks

Steve Smith capped his return to Atlanta with the perfect ending.

Smith, traded by the Hawks before the season, scored 21 points and the Portland Trail Blazers were unstoppable in the final five minutes, holding off Atlanta 97-90 Friday night.

Smith hit a key basket with 1:23 remaining and rubbed a little salt in his old team's wound by making a wide-open 3-pointer at the buzzer when the game already was decided.

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  • "It was great to see my friends again," said Smith, who played five seasons with the Hawks and kept his home in Atlanta after he was traded to Portland for Isaiah Rider and Jim Jackson. "I didn't ask to be traded. I played my heart out the five years I was here."

    The Hawks gave Smith his old jersey, which hung in the visiting locker room on this night. After the final basket, Alan Henderson came over to give his ex-teammate a bump in the chest as Smith walked off the court with a big grin.

    "I told him I didn't appreciate that," Henderson said, managing to keep a straight face. "I was just messing around."

    Atlanta's all-star center, Dikembe Mutombo, said he appreciated Smith's shot at the end.

    "It showed that he wants to beat you," Mutombo said. "We have to come out with a hunger like that."

    After losing in New York the previous night, Portland jumped to a 14-point lead in the first quarter, then looked sluggish over the next two periods.

    The Hawks fought back to tie the score six times in the final quarter before taking their first and only lead, 78-77, on Mutombo's hook with 3:47 remaining.

    "We were able to jump out on them fast in the first half," Portlad's Damon Stoudamire said. "I think that playing last night, we had a lot of players fatigued. At the same time, we gave the Hawks life by letting them get easy buckets and things like that."

    Portland pulled out of its malaise, scoring on 11 of its last 12 possessions to bury Atlanta.

    "Coming down the stretch, we made every play," Stoudamire said. "That's what a good team is supposed to do."

    With his team leading 84-82, Smith got loose along the baseline and scored off a pass from Stoudamire with 1:23 to go. Jackson, who scored 25 points to lead the Hawks, threw the ball away on Atlanta's next possession, leading to Stoudamire's runner in the lane with 45.7 seconds left for an 88-82 lead.

    Finally, after the Hawks closed to 88-85, Scottie Pippen sealed the victory by hitting a 3-pointer with 23.1 seconds to go.

    "I'm glad I had a chance to go to a team that has a good chance to win," Smith said after the Blazers pushed their league-leading record to 35-11.

    As for the Hawks, they dropped to 17-27 despite winning four of five games before Friday.

    Rider was heckled by the Philips Arena crowd after making only 4-of-16 shots for 10 points. He spent the final minutes sitting by himself along the baseline advertising board, a white towel covering his face.

    "I was never in rhythm," he said. "I think I was playing a little flat. That's the reason I had a bad night."

    The Hawks made only 7-of-26 shots in the first quarter, falling behind 24-10 before scoring the final four points of the period. The Trail Blazers led 43-33 at the half.


  • Portland swept the season series, routing Atlanta 131-95 at the Rose Garden in November.
  • Lenny Wilkens, the winningest coach in NBA history, failed to pick up his 300th victory with the Hawks.
  • Atlanta's 14-point first quarter was its worst offensive showing since managing only 12 points in the third period of a loss at Philadelphia on Jan. 19.
  • The Hawks led 22-6 in second-chance points, but Portland's running game led to a 20-10 advantage in fast-break points.
  • Four players managed double-doubles: Sabonis had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Pippen 13 and 10, Mutombo 14 and 13, Rider 10 and 10.

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