Originally created 01/17/97

Atlanta wins 8th straight



ATLANTA - Christian Laettner scored 22 points, Dikembe Mutombo dominated at the defensive end and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Orlando Magic 78-67 Thursday night for their eighth consecutive victory.

The Hawks tied the Chicago Bulls for the longest current streak in the NBA, and won their 15th in a row at the Omni.

The Magic, which had a three-game winning streak, led 38-37 at halftime, but Atlanta took control with a stifling defensive effort in the third quarter.

The Hawks scored the first 12 points of the period before Orlando broke through on a 3-pointer from Anfernee Hardaway with 6:01 remaining. Atlanta nearly set a team record for the fewest points allowed in a quarter (eight), but Derek Strong converted a fluky three-point play with 1.3 seconds left to give the Magic nine points in the period.

Atlanta led 54-47 heading to the fourth and protected their advantage the rest of the way.

Orlando hit only 2-of-15 shots in the third and finished the game at just under 30 percent from the field (24-of-81). The Hawks had a lot to do with the dismal shooting - especially Mutombo, who had five blocked shots to go along with 14 points and 16 rebounds.

Mutombo, who ranks second in the league in blocks, was particularly impressive on two of his trademark plays. He stuffed an attempted dunk by Gerald Wilkins in the third period, then swatted the ball away from Dennis Scott late in the game even after the Magic forward switched hands trying to avoid Atlanta's 7-foot-2 center.

Spurred on by Mutombo, Laettner had three blocks and even 6-1 Mookie Blaylock came up with one.

Orlando, the third-lowest scoring team in the league at 88.8 points per game entering the night, was held to its second-lowest total of the season, eclipsed only by an 84-57 loss to Cleveland on Dec. 4.

Strong and Hardaway led the Magic with 17 points apiece, but, quite appropriately, both made miserable shooting games. Strong was 6-of-15 and Hardaway managed only 5-of-17.

The Hawks won despite a poor game by their backcourt. Steve Smith had 17 points on 4-of-15 shooting, though he did have a season-high 10 assists, and Blaylock was 1-of-10, missing all seven of his 3-point attempt.

Atlanta shot only 38 percent (29-of-77) and was 2-of-19 from beyond the arc.

Notes: Magic center Rony Seikaly didn't play for the second game in a row because of a muscle strain in his back. ... Orlando also was missing Horace Grant (groin strain) and David Vaughn (flu), neither of whom dressed out. ... Atlanta is closing in on the team record of 22 straight home wins, set in 1990-91, and is within one of the second-best mark, 16 consecutive wins in 1978-79.