Originally created 04/17/99

Hawks fly past Magic



ATLANTA -- With Steve Smith back in the lineup, Mookie Blaylock got a lot better view of the basket.

Blaylock, taking advantage of Smith's return from the injured list, scored a season-high 30 points Friday night to push Atlanta to a 91-79 victory over the Orlando Magic, improving the Hawks' playoff position.

"When you've got two guards playing well, it's hard to control any team," said Smith, who had 20 points after missing eight games with a sore left knee.

Smith, the Hawks' leading scorer, teamed with Blaylock and Chris Crawford (15 points) to carry an anemic offense that ranked next-to-last in the NBA in scoring.

"It takes a lot of pressure off us," Blaylock said of Smith's return. "The other team is always going to double him, so everybody else gets good, open looks."

The Hawks broke open the game by shooting 9-of-14 (64 percent) in the third quarter, extending a seven-point halftime lead to a commanding 75-56. Smith hit three shots from beyond the 3-point line during the period, while Crawford and Blaylock both banked in shots from outside the arc.

Penny Hardaway had 16 points for the Magic, who shot only 30-of-79 (38 percent) from the field.

"We were completely outplayed," Magic coach Chuck Daly said. "They were really sharp and we looked very sluggish."

The most troubling stat from Daly's perspective was a 15-of-28 performance at the foul line. Hardaway was a prime offender, going only 3-of-8.

"Sometimes when you struggle offensively, it's significant when you can make free throws," Daly said. "It's hard to win playoff games unless you can make free throws."

Blaylock, shooting just 36.5 percent, was 12-of-20 from the field, including four 3-pointers. Crawford, who had scored a career-high 17 points in the previous game against Boston, finished this game with a soaring dunk that resulted in a three-point play.

"Chris is playing great," Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens said. "I think he's getting tired of me yelling at him to shoot more and run more. He's quicker than people think. When he's running on the break, you have to foul him to stop him."

The victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Magic was vital for Atlanta, which had lost four of its last five and was trailing Milwaukee by percentage points for the fourth playoff berth and home court advantage in the first round.

"This is an important stretch for us," Wilkens said. "It's great to have Steve back in there so we could kind of get our rhythm back."

The Hawks made only one of their first eight shots, then went through a streak where they couldn't miss. Atlanta hit 11 straight to transform a seven-point deficit into a 27-19 lead late in the opening period. Blaylock made five in a row, including three from outside the 3-point arc.

The Hawks led 31-16 at the end of the first, their highest-scoring quarter since a 32-point effort in a victory over Indiana on March 24. But they missed the final two shots of the period and eight more to begin the second, finally breaking through on Blaylock's jumper nearly 4« minutes into the quarter.

The Magic failed to take advantage of Atlanta's 33 percent shooting in the second, shooting only 35 percent themselves and never regaining the lead.

"It all starts with me," said Hardaway, hampered by a sore wrist. "Where I go, the Magic goes, and I didn't have it tonight. We had nothing to fight with."