Originally created 11/13/97

Hawks soaring high on streak



INDIANAPOLIS -- The Atlanta Hawks' winning streak reached milestone proportions Wednesday night.

The Hawks improved to 8-0 by beating the Indiana Pacers 89-86 for the best start in franchise history. Atlanta surpassed the 7-0 start by the franchise in 1967-68, its last season in St. Louis.

"At different times this whole year we feel like we are just not going to lose," Steve Smith said. "We keep hanging and hanging in there."

Four of Atlanta's wins have come on the road, three of those were the second game in a back-to-back and the last four were decided by three points or less.

"I'm really pleased with our focus. It's just great effort," Atlanta coach Lenny Wilkens said. "The great thing about this team is they trust each other. Different guys hit the big shots."

But the guys aren't too different as the Hawks return the same starting five for the fist time in Wilkens' four years at Atlanta.

"Part of it is maturity," Smith said. "People asked why we didn't go out and get a big free agent. Well, having the same five back has turned out to be a big plus."

The Hawks, the last unbeaten team in the Eastern Conference, have yet to allow 100 points in a game.

Dikembe Mutombo had 25 points, 15 rebounds and kept Indiana's inside players shooting jumpers all night.

Smith had 21 points, 10 in the fourth quarter, and five of those came in the final two minutes, including a pair of free throws after making a fake that fouled Reggie Miller out with 1:21 to play.

Mookie Blaylock had 18 points, including a 19-foot jumper with eight seconds left that finished off the Pacers.

Miller had 30 points for Indiana before fouling out for the second time in the last three seasons.

Rik Smits added 21 points for the Pacers, who have won just two games and have lost two of three at home.

"You've got to get tough at the end of games. We know we are going to do it," Pacers coach Larry Bird sadi. "We've just got to get better at it."

Indiana erased Atlanta's nine-point halftime lead by the end of the third quarter as Smits put back a miss by Jalen Rose to tie the game at 65-65 just before the end of the period.

The Hawks built their first-half lead by shooting 54 percent from the field to Indiana's 31. Mutombo led the way with a 10-for-14 shooting, 21-point first half.

The Hawks, who had a 27-15 rebounding advantage in the first half, also benefited from eight offensive boards -- five by Mutombo.

"The key was the first half. We didn't defend very well, nor did we shoot very well," said Dale Davis, who had 11 rebounds. "We put too much pressure on ourselves."