Grant Hill discovered he couldn’t dunk over Dikembe Mutombo nor could he go around him.
Mutombo, the NBA’s defensive player of the year, came through with two brilliant blocks against the Detroit star in the final 1 minute 41 seconds, and the Atlanta Hawks moved on to the second round of the playoffs with an 84-79 victory Sunday over the Pistons at Atlanta.
“Everything we paid for Dikembe was worth it,” said Atlanta Coach Lenny Wilkens, tweaking those who questioned the five-year, $55 million contract that Mutombo received last summer. “He’s the anchor for the future.”
Thanks to Mutombo, that future includes a meeting with the defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls. After falling behind, 2-1, in the best-of-five series with the Pistons, the Hawks won the final two games and advanced to play the Bulls beginning Tuesday night at Chicago.
Mutombo was a dominating inside force for the Hawks throughout the series, but it was his final two plays that made the difference after a wild fourth quarter that included seven lead changes.
With the score tied at 77-77, Hill drove the baseline for a dunk, but the shot was deflected by Mutombo while Hill dangled from the rim empty-handed.
“Grant Hill didn’t really fool me, but I think he thought I got beat for a moment,” Mutombo said. “I think I took his mind away after I blocked his dunk.”
Atlanta ran the other way and Christian Laettner made a 17-footer as the 24-second clock expired to put the Hawks ahead to stay, 79-77, with 1:14 remaining.
But Mutombo wasn’t through. Hill drove around him at the foul line and headed to the hoop trying to pull the Pistons even, but Atlanta’s 7-foot-2 center caught Hill from behind and got a hand on the shot.
Steve Smith then made a three-point shot from the left corner as he was falling out of bounds with 41.7 seconds to go.
Miami 91, Orlando 83--The Heat withstood one last comeback by the Magic.
Orlando scored 10 consecutive points midway through the fourth quarter and reduced a 17-point deficit to three, but Miami held on for a victory in the deciding fifth game of its first-round playoff series at Miami.
Tim Hardaway shook off a shooting slump to make two baskets--an off-balance 20-footer and a three-pointer from 24 feet--in the final 43 seconds to clinch the victory. The Heat survived Penny Hardaway’s 33-point effort to win a playoff series for the first time in their nine-year history.
Miami, the Atlantic Division champion, advanced to the second round against Coach Pat Riley’s former team, the New York Knicks. The series opens Wednesday at Miami.
Miami missed nine consecutive shots before Tim Hardaway made his 20-footer while being closely guarded by Darrell Armstrong for an 86-80 lead with 43 seconds to go. He then answered Penny Hardaway’s three-point shot with a three-pointer of his own, making the score 89-83 with 14 seconds left.