Basketball: Pippen's three-pointer pips Hawks as Chicago continue their run

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The Independent Online
Scottie Pippen scored 29 points, including a three-pointer that decided the match with 47 seconds left, to lift the defending NBA champions, the Chicago Bulls, to a 100-97 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in the opening encounter of the Eastern Conference semi-final series on Tuesday.

The Bulls overcame a 14-point deficit, the ejection of Dennis Rodman and a distinct lack of offensive threat from Michael Jordan in the final quarter to remain unbeaten in the play-offs.

Jordan scored 20 of his 34 points in the pivotal third quarter as the Bulls battled back from a 50-39 half-time deficit, but just one point in the fourth quarter.

Rodman was ejected - for the second time in four play-off games - with 5min 5sec7 left in the third quarter for slapping the Hawks centre Dikembe Mutombo in the face.

"It just didn't seem like things were going to go our way, but third quarter we fought hard defensively and got ourselves back in the ball game and it was a dogfight from that point in," Jordan said.

Mookie Blaylock had 31 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks, who were coming off a tough five-game series with the Detroit Pistons. But he committed two key turnovers and missed a three-pointer in the last two minutes as Atlanta failed to execute down the stretch, going scoreless for the final 3min 06sec.

Pippen's three-pointer, his sixth of the game, came after a back-court violation by Atlanta and broke a 97-97 tie. Chicago's Luc Longley missed two free throws with 33 seconds left, keeping the Hawks within one basket. But Blaylock stepped on the sideline as he received an inbounds pass for a costly turnover. "The call on Mookie out of bounds wasn't a very good one," complained the Hawks coach, Lenny Wilkens. "He was clearly bumped by Jordan."

After Jordan, amazingly, missed a lay-up, the Hawks had one last chance with 3.4 seconds left, but Blaylock's three-point attempt from the corner was long. Ron Harper scored 11 points and Jordan grabbed 11 rebounds for the Bulls. Steve Smith chipped in 19 points and Tyrone Corbin added 14 for Atlanta.

A Jordan dunk gave Chicago its first lead at 69-67 with 1min 43sec left in the third quarter. Three more baskets by Jordan extended the lead to seven points entering the fourth quarter as the Bulls outscored Atlanta 38-20 in the third quarter.

Chicago, who were coming off a lengthy lay-off after sweeping the Washington Bullets in the first round, host the second game tonight.