ATLANTA - Former Clemson star Elden Campbell was having the time of his NBA career filling in for injured center Shaquille O'Neal. That is, until he ran into the Atlanta Hawks' Dikembe Mutombo on Friday night.
Campbell managed only nine points, including two in the second half, and the Hawks beat the Los Angeles Lakers 86-75 at The Omni.
"It was frustrating - I had some open looks and didn't put the shots down," said Campbell, a 6-foot-11 natural power forward who made only three of 15 shots and had seven rebounds. "I think we were a little tired (after playing at Washington a night earlier). But you can't make that excuse in the NBA."
Mutombo scored a season-high 27 points and added 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. A spotty shooter on most nights, the 7-foot-2 Mutombo hit several jumpers away from the basket.
"We went to Dikembe early, and tried to alternate him and Christian (Laettner) on the block," said Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens. "And Dikembe hung in there. I thought he did a terrific job. He had a couple of big blocks in the (second half). He got into the basket real strong. It was huge for us."
Campbell, a six-year pro, moved to center after O'Neal went on the injured list Feb. 13 with a hyperextended left knee. O'Neal is expected to miss eight to 10 weeks.
In the Lakers' first seven games without Shaq, Campbell averaged 26 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.43 blocked shots. Campbell has equaled or eclipsed his career high of 35 points three times - including a 40-point performance last Sunday against New York and a 38-pointer against Washington.
"After looking at a couple of tapes of the way he had been performing the past few games, I decided to concentrate on my own game and find a way to beat him," Mutombo said. "That was the reason why I came out trying to establish myself early by being physical with him. I just kind of took him away from his game."
Mookie Blaylock also dominated his matchup at point guard against Nick Van Exel, scoring 27 points to Van Exel's four.
Atlanta never trailed after falling behind 5-3 on a Campbell jumper in the paint. After pulling out to an 11-point midway through the second quarter, though, the Hawks settled for only a 44-43 halftime lead.
Mutombo keyed a 15-6 run to start the third quarter, and the Hawks took a 59-46 advantage. Steve Smith thwarted a Laker surge late in the final period by sinking three-pointers at the 2:52 and 2:03 marks.
Smith had 17 points and played troublesome guard Eddie Jones (17 points) even. Corie Blount was the only other L.A player in double figures with 12.
"I think they were tired," Blaylock said. "They played last night, and coach (Lenny) Wilkens was telling us we had to go in and put the pressure on. That was our game plan - to go in and run them and get them tired. That really didn't happen because they're a good team that doesn't quit, but we won."
The game was a sellout (16,378), but there were several thousand missing seats on a rainy night in which the star attraction was missing. The Hawks hadn't beaten the Lakers since Nov. 10, 1993, and the victory ended a six-game losing streak against the Western Conference foe.
The Hawks play at Detroit tonight and are home with Cleveland on Tuesday night. Next Friday night is "NASCAR Night" at The Omni. Show cars will be displayed, and drivers Ricky Craven and Geoff Bodine are scheduled to appear.
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