Hawks 95, Nets 85
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ No one has been more anxious for Dikembe Mutombo to do well for the Atlanta Hawks than Dikembe Mutombo, even though he has often been his own worst enemy.
That was not the case Friday night when the 7-foot-2 center had 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots, helping the Atlanta Hawks defeat the New Jersey Nets 95-85.
``I am always trying to do too much,″ Mutombo said. ``Tonight I had a good game because I didn’t push myself.″
The Hawks needed a solid effort not only from Mutombo, but from veterans Christian Laettner and Mookie Blaylock to snap a road slide that saw Atlanta drop three games in a row and five of six.
``Christian (24 points and 11 rebounds) and Mookie (22 points and 10 rebounds) played well, but Dikembe broke out,″ Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens said. ``He played very well and helped keep the Nets off the boards.″
The Nets, who have dropped three in row, stayed close through most of the first three quarters, but fell behind down the stretch when Mutombo, Blaylock and Laettner combined for all but five of the Hawks’ 26 points.
``I’m disappointed because I thought this was a game we could win, not before the game but during the game,″ Nets coach John Calipari said. ``Kendall Gill made a good point when he said the difference in talent in this league is marginal, and it all comes down to how hard you play.″
The Nets matched Atlanta’s intensity for much of the game, but the Hawks made the plays down the stretch.
The Hawks led 71-67 early in the fourth quarter when Laettner sparked a 9-0 spurt that gave Atlanta an 80-67 lead.
Blaylock started the run with a fast-break layup, Laettner followed with two free throws and a layup and Eldridge Recasner hit a 3-pointer to give the Hawks a 13-point edge with 7:53 to play. The Nets were unable to get closer than seven the rest of the way.
``You have to win on the road, and this was a big one for us,″ Wilkens said.
New Jersey scored the first two points of the game, but Atlanta came back with an 11-2 spurt, including five points by Steve Smith, to take the lead for good.
Gill led all scorers with 28 points for the Nets, while Shawn Bradley had 18 points and 12 rebounds.