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Pistons 99, Hawks 93

March 5, 1996

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) _ Despite Grant Hill’s sixth triple-double of the season, he still was apologizing for a subpar effort.

Moments after his 17 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds led the Detroit Pistons to a 99-93 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night, Hill was promising a better effort tonight in Toronto.

``I’ll really be ready for that one,″ Hill said. ``I really concentrate on not having bad games on back-to-back nights.″

Hill did struggle in the first half Monday, scoring just four points on 1-for-8 shooting. His lowlights included a jumper that completely missed the rim and a blown dunk.

``I felt really sluggish out there,″ Hill said. ``I don’t want to make excuses, but things that are usually easy for me were really difficult.″

Detroit coach Doug Collins agreed with Hill’s tough assessment of himself.

``Grant had a triple-double in probably the worst game he has played in a long, long time,″ Collins said. ``He still had 17, 12 assists and 11 rebounds, which really shows you what a great player he has become.″

Collins knew his team might be sluggish after a 4-2 West Coast road trip, so he was thrilled by the win.

``This was big, because we could have been happy with ourselves,″ he said. ``But we worked hard, played well and got a big win. This ties us with the Hawks in the loss column.″

Detroit’s play also impressed Atlanta coach Lenny Wilkens.

``I thought they played really well on the road, but that first game back is really tough,″ he said. ``But Doug has them believing in themselves, and they stepped it up.″

Steve Smith, who grew up in Detroit and played college ball at Michigan State, hit two big shots to give the Hawks a chance in the last minute, but Hill and Joe Dumars finished it off.

``We got a little tired, but give them credit,″ said Smith, who led Atlanta with 25 points. ``They executed at the end, and they played well.″

The Hawks now lead Detroit by just a half-game in the battle for the Eastern Conference’s sixth playoff seed.

``That’s an up-and-coming team, just like we are,″ Smith said. ``Both of us have a lot of good, young talent, and both of us are just missing that big fella in the middle.″

Hill, whose rookie season ended in Detroit’s third straight lottery finish, is excited to be in a playoff chase this time.

``It’s great to be watching the box scores and keeping track of the other team’s records,″ he said. ``Last year at this time, I didn’t even know our record.″

Collins was annoyed by the relatively small and quiet Palace crowd.

``The fans were a disgrace tonight,″ he said of the 16,225 people who turned out on a snowy night. ``There’s no excuse for us to be coming off a 4-2 western trip and to come into a building like this. I don’t know what they are waiting for this team to do.″

Guard Lindsey Hunter agreed with his coach.

``They are always kind of quiet here, but tonight it was like watching a tennis match for a while,″ he said.

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