Bulls blast suddenly-slumping Hawks

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CHICAGO -- Scottie Pippen scored 11 of his 17 points in the first half as the Chicago Bulls raced to a 15-point lead en route to a 99-79 victory Saturday over the suddenly slumping Atlanta Hawks.

Michael Jordan gets a shot off over Dikembe Mutombo and Steve Smith.

Luc Longley had 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while holding All-Star center Dikembe Mutombo to four points on 1-of-6 shooting. Pippen added seven rebounds and seven assists.

"I have not seen us perform this badly all season," said Mutombo, who was held scoreless in the first half and did not have his first basket until the opening minute of the fourth quarter. "I think we're close to this Bulls team and all others when we go and play and prepare for our game. We just weren't there from the start tonight."

"It's nice to be home after a long East Coast trip," Longley said. "My shot was working for me. (Mutombo) wasn't getting much of the the ball. It really wasn't working for him tonight. It's nice when you can keep Mutombo that quiet."

Michael Jordan was held to a season-low 10 points in 29 minutes for the Bulls, who avoided losing three times during any five-game stretch over the last two seasons. Randy Brown scored 11 points and Dennis Rodman added 10 and 14 rebounds for Chicago, which reduced its magic number for clinching home-court advantage throughout the playoffs to 10 games.

"We varied our tact a little tonight and put Michael out as a defender on their small guard (Mookie Blaylock)," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "That set the tone for the day with what our ball club has to do."

Christian Laettner scored 22 points and Steve Smith added 20 for Atlanta, which suffered its third straight loss following a five-game winning streak. The Hawks have lost 11 of the last 12 meetings with the Bulls.

After Blaylock hit a 3-pointer to close the Hawks to 10-8 midway through the first quarter, Jordan dunked to ignite a 24-9 run. Jordan scored six points, Pippen added five and Longley had four during the surge. Jason Caffey converted a three-point play to cap the burst and give the Bulls a 32-17 advantage with 8:20 left in the first half.

After Atlanta closed within 53-44 on a pair of free throws by Blaylock, Chicago's Ron Harper hit a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 run. Rodman made a layup to cap the run and give the Bulls a 62-44 bulge with 4:42 left in the third.

The Bulls extend their lead to 75-53 after three quarters and led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter.

Chicago took an 11-point lead into the second quarter after holding Atlanta to 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting in the opening 12 minutes.

Rodman was ejected with 1:02 left in the third quarter after arguing with referee Michael Smith over an incident with Mutombo.

"I think Rodman was fighting me to join his class and I would not join and he was upset," Mutombo said. "I don't need him as a teacher."

"The ref said that Dennis cursed him," Jackson added. "There was obviously a double-foul situation. It was not an appropiate call. Mutombo hit Dennis in the face and Dennis reacted. It was obvious that they are going in the direction of watching things very closely with Dennis."

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