Bulls hold on to edge Hawks


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Michael Jordan gives Christian Laettner that rejected feeling.
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With Steve Smith in his mug, Jordan cans the jumper.
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Scottie Pippen hits Jason Caffey for a driving jam.
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Defense wins championships, as Michael Jordan is quick to point out. (Courtesy: NBA/NBC Sports)
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Jordan praises Scottie Pippen, who got the Bulls off to a quick start. (Courtesy: NBA/NBC Sports)
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Phil Jackson isn't fond of playing on back-to-back days in the playoffs. (Courtesy: NBA/NBC Sports)
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Dikembe Mutombo isn't ready for the season to end with Game 5.
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Dennis Rodman doesn't understand why the referees are making so many calls.
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Box score | Game recap | Game flow

ATLANTA -- Michael Jordan scored 27 points Sunday, Scottie Pippen added 26 and the Chicago Bulls turned away a late comeback by the cold-shooting Atlanta Hawks for an 89-80 victory and a commanding 3-1 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Opportunity knocked out: Atlanta shot just 31 percent from the floor. "We missed shots, we missed layups, we missed a lot of good opportunities," coach Lenny Wilkens said.

The forgotten man: Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo, who had been averaging 17 points per game in the playoffs, only took three shots and finished with seven points.

After combining for just 38 points during a Game 3 win, Jordan and Pippen resumed carrying the offensive load for the Bulls. Chicago won both games in Atlanta and can close out the series with a home win on Tuesday.

"Our mission coming in here was to get both wins," Jordan said. "We're playing better basketball, although we didn't finish the way we wanted to."

"I think we got our edge back, and that's what was missing," Bulls guard Steve Kerr said. "We came down here and won two. Why not finish them off Tuesday?"

Pippen scored 13 points in the first quarter as the Bulls raced to a lead they never relinquished. Pippen had 18 points by halftime and 26 by the end of the third quarter.

"Scottie set the tone," Jordan said. "I like to finish it up."

Jordan scored 10 points in the final period, including two free throws and a dunk in the final minute after the Hawks had sliced a 24-point deficit to three, 83-80.

"Scottie was the standout, no question," Bulls coach Phil Jackson said. "Michael pitched in, especially down the stretch. Michael really picked his spots. He paces himself well in the back-to-backs."

Michael Jordan, left, grabbed eight rebounds Sunday and is averaging 11 per game during the series.

"I wanted to conserve my energy to have something left for the final minutes," Jordan said.

Christian Laettner scored 21 points and Steve Smith and Mookie Blaylock added 16 apiece for Atlanta, which shot 27 percent (16 for 60) from the field through three periods and 31 percent (25 for 81) overall.

"We had a lot of good looks at the basket and we missed the shots," Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens said. "They've been making those all year. I encourage our players to keep taking them."

Bulls forward Dennis Rodman did not start for the second game in a row. He was the sixth player off the bench and played just 11 minutes, grabbing one rebound and committing four fouls.

"It's obvious Dennis can't play many minutes because his foul-to-minute ratio will be 1-to-1, and the rest of us have to take up that slack," Bulls forward Brian Williams said.

Rodman was called for a technical foul early in the fourth quarter and has nine technicals in the playoffs, with at least one in each game.

"Dennis isn't getting an opportunity to play. They pretty much hold a microscope to him," Jason Caffey, who is starting in Rodman's place, said of the referees.

The Bulls limited the Hawks to six-for-20 shooting in the second quarter and led 55-42 at halftime. They really turned up the defensive pressure in the third period, holding Atlanta without a point for nearly six minutes.

Chicago outscored Atlanta 20-11 in the third period and entered the fourth quarter with a 75-53 lead.

Jordan hit a jumper to give Chicago an 81-64 lead with 5:18 left in the game, but Atlanta scored 16 of the next 18 points and closed to 83-80 on Laettner's basket with 54 seconds to play.

Jordan made two foul shots with 40 seconds left and Ron Harper added two more 10 seconds later for an 87-80 lead. Jordan made a steal and clinching dunk with 26 seconds remaining.

"Atlanta made a run for it in the fourth quarter, but we were just able to hold them off," Jordan said.

"We didn't quit in the fourth quarter," Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo said. "I think the Chicago Bulls really learned something about us today. We didn't quit and we're not going to quit on Tuesday."

Toni Kukoc scored nine points and Caffey eight for the Bulls, who shot 49 percent (34 for 70) from the field. Pippen and Jordan grabbed eight rebounds apiece.

Eldridge Recasner scored all 11 of his points in the final period for the Hawks.

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