Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Soaring with Confidence Hawks Say They Can Compete against Powerhouse Bulls

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Soaring with Confidence Hawks Say They Can Compete against Powerhouse Bulls

Article excerpt

CHICAGO -- Difficult, yes. Impossible? No.

That's how the Atlanta Hawks view their task against the

defending NBA champion Chicago Bulls in the best-of-7 Eastern

Conference semifinal playoff series beginning tonight at 8 in

the United Center.

The Bulls own four of the last six NBA championships. They won

69 games this season, despite age and nagging injuries, and they

have beaten the Hawks 11 of the last 12 times the teams have

played.

Michael Jordan, who is getting paid $30 million, and Scottie

Pippen are superstars. Dennis Rodman has won the league's

rebounding title six times. The Bulls are experienced, deep and

rested after completing their first-round sweep of the

Washington Bullets last Wednesday. Still, the Hawks say they can

win. Of course, that's what they're supposed to say. But they

really seem to believe that the experts -- most of whom are

picking the Bulls in four or five games -- are wrong.

"If we can bring the fire and passion we had against Detroit

into this next series, and a few of our guys can get hot, we'll

make things very interesting," forward Christian Laettner said.

"Chicago is the best team in the NBA," offered guard Steve

Smith. "But we won 56 games, and we survived a very tough series

against Detroit. We deserve to be here, and we're going to show

that."

Forward Ty Corbin was only joking when he rated his team's

chances, but his sarcasm reflected the Hawks' loose nature after

overcoming a 2-1 series deficit to knock off Detroit 84-79

Sunday.

"Well, it's going to be a tough series, so we'll sweep 'em if

we can," Corbin said. "But if we don't win it in four, well,

seven games is OK, too."

The Hawks are drawing confidence from the fact they played

Chicago tough twice during the regular season, winning 108-103

at The Omni Dec. 26 and losing 89-88 at home Feb. 14. Chicago

won the other two games easily, by 28 and 20 points at the

United Center.

Bulls coach Phil Jackson concedes that Atlanta presents some

matchup problems. Dikembe Mutombo and Laettner give the Hawks a

potential advantage inside against Luc Longley and Rodman, and

Smith could trouble Jordan with his 6-8 height. …

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