Hawks make champs look vulnera-Bull


Blaylock a near-lock from long range

Bulls step up intensity of 'Rodman Watch'

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Brian Williams did not return after an awkward meeting with Toni Kukoc.
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Scottie Pippen slips a sweet bounce pass to Michael Jordan on the back-door cut and Mike lays it in.
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Dikembe Mutombo makes Robert Parish look old in the paint.
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Mookie Blaylock explains why the Bulls couldn't handle the Hawks' pick-and-roll.
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Box score | Game recap | Game flow

CHICAGO -- The slow starts and lackluster play finally caught up with the Chicago Bulls.

In three of its playoff wins, Chicago trailed in the second half before rallying to win. Here's a look at the Bulls' comebacks -- both successful and failed -- in the 1997 playoffs:
Game Deficit Result
5/8 vs. Atl. 16 in fourth L, 103-95
5/6 vs. Atl. 15 in third W, 100-97
4/30 vs. Was. Nine in fourth W, 96-95
4/27 vs. Was. Seven in third W, 109-104
4/25 vs. Was. Tied in third W, 98-86

After making a habit of coming from behind in the second half to win during a 4-0 playoff start, the Bulls fell into a hole they couldn't climb out of Thursday night.

Mookie Blaylock hit six of his eight 3-pointers in the first half to help the Atlanta Hawks build a 16-point lead en route to a 103-95 victory, the Bulls' first loss of the playoffs and their first in the postseason at home since May 18, 1995.

Atlanta, which held an 11-point halftime lead in Game 1 before Michael Jordan rallied the Bulls for a 100-97 victory, tied the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series at 1-1.

Games 3 and 4 will be in Atlanta on Saturday and Sunday.

Scottie Pippen issued a solemn warning to his teammates.

"Unless we do the things we did all season to get 69 wins," Pippen said, "we're not going to pull another win out of this series."

Christian Laettner muscles his way around Toni Kukoc.

Added Jordan, "We've been living on the edge the last four games, and this time we got stung. But that doesn't mean we can't turn this around."

Blaylock finished with 26 points for the Hawks, who take the homecourt advantage back to the Omni, where they were 36-5 during the regular season.

Jordan had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and Pippen added 24, but neither could rescue Chicago in the second half as they had in the team's four previous playoff games.

The Bulls, who won 69 regular-season games but finished in a 1-3 slump, haven't looked at all like the team that went 72-10 last season and rolled through the playoffs to their fourth title in six years. The Bulls were a perfect 10-0 at the United Center in the 1996 playoffs.

Chicago went 39-2 at home each of the last two seasons and was 13-0 at home in the playoffs over that span -- a combined 81-4 -- before losing to the young, aggressive Hawks.

On a roll with the screen-and-roll: The screen-and-roll offense served two big purposes for the Hawks. First, it gave Mookie Blaylock a lot of open looks, allowing the sharpshooting guard to can eight 3-pointers and score 26. Second, it forced Michael Jordan to use up energy running around picks. Even MJ admitted, "Physically, I was a little tired."

Out in the cold: The Bulls settled for too many outside jumpers, and it showed in the box score. Chicago hit only 41 percent from the field (38-for-92) and took a whopping 30 3-point attempts, making 11.

Missing Worm: Dennis Rodman, who averaged more than 16 boards a game in the regular season, pulled down only five boards fouling out. MJ picked up the slack by grabbing 16 rebounds -- also explaining why His Airness was fatigued in the fourth. That's asking too much of one guy -- even if it's Michael.

"I'm not ready to push the panic button yet," Jordan said. "In all the years we won championships, we lost games."

Atlanta trailed 68-67 with three minutes left in the third quarter before it used a 19-3 run to take the lead for good at 86-71.

Steve Smith scored 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter to help Atlanta hang on.

Dikembe Mutombo dominated the low post with 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks, who dealt the Bulls their first home playoff loss since Game 6 of the 1995 Eastern Conference finals against the Orlando Magic.

"Nothing comes better than this. Nothing comes better than this!" an elated Mutombo said. "We had the confidence going into the game that we were going to win."

The Bulls were hurting in the frontcourt. Rebounding leader Dennis Rodman was not ejected as he was in Game 1, but fouled out with only two points and five rebounds. Forward Brian Williams left in the second quarter with a strained right knee and did not return. Center Luc Longley picked up three fouls in the first quarter.

Blaylock fell one 3-pointer shy of the playoff record set earlier this year by Phoenix guard Rex Chapman. Blaylock added nine assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

"We stayed aggressive. We were going to the basket," Blaylock said. "The other night, we got timid and stopped looking at the basket."

Atlanta, which lost twice at Chicago by a combined 48 points during the season, took control with a 9-0 burst late in the third quarter. A tip-in by Robert Parish gave the Bulls their last lead at 68-67 with 3:07 remaining before Christian Laettner scored four points and Mutombo five, giving the Hawks a 76-68 lead.

Jordan closed the third quarter with a jumper, but Atlanta opened the fourth period with an 11-1 spurt. Blaylock made his eighth 3-pointer and Smith hit a jumper for an 11-point lead.

After a Bulls free throw, Mutombo made a hook shot, Smith sank a 3-pointer and Laettner hit a free throw, giving the Hawks their largest lead at 87-71 with 8:58 remaining

A look at the Bulls' home playoff records this year and during their four NBA title runs:
Year W-L
1997 3-1
1996 10-0
1993 8-2
1992 9-3
1991 8-1

Atlanta went cold, managing just six points over the next 6½ minutes, and a 3-pointer by Toni Kukoc pulled the Bulls to 93-86 with 2:16 remaining. But Laettner made a layup and Smith sank two free throws, pushing the lead to 97-86 with 1:26 left. Chicago got no closer than seven points thereafter.

An angry Pippen chided his teammates, especially Rodman, after the loss.

"We've got to have a big effort from Dennis," Pippen said. "He's got to avoid the technical fouls. He's just got to play the game.

"There's a lot of other things that Dennis can do on the court. If he's not going to lead us in rebounding, don't lead us in technical fouls, because we don't need those."

Laettner scored 18 points for the Hawks, who shot 52 percent (37 of 71) from the field, overcoming 14 missed free throws.

Kukoc and Ron Harper scored 15 points apiece for the Bulls, who shot 41 percent (38-of-92) and were outscored 20-8 at the line. Jordan was 12-for-29 from the field.

Blaylock, who missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of Game 1, made his first five treys Thursday. He had four in the second quarter and finished the first half with 20 points, helping Atlanta to a 53-51 lead.

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