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Kukoc carries load as other Hawks stars struggle

3/2/2002

ATLANTA (AP) -- Shareef Abdur-Rahim had a subpar game. Jason
Terry was shooting bricks. Still, the Atlanta Hawks won.

They can thank Toni Kukoc.

Scoring 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter, Kukoc led the Hawks back from a dismal start for an 84-81 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.

Kukoc, who has missed 23 games this season because of injuries, seemed as surprised as anyone to finish just one point below his season high.

"I got in a rhythm, which is the most important thing for me," he said. "I had plenty of energy. I don't know where that came from, but I actually did."

The Hawks, who trailed by 15 after the first quarter, came back
despite getting just 17 points from their top two scorers.

Abdur-Rahim was held to 14, and Terry managed only three on
1-of-14 shooting.

"We all know Toni can play that way," Abdur-Rahim said. "It's been tough for him, with all the injuries he's had, to keep the rhythm. But when he plays like that, it helps everybody. When teams focus on me, we have another guy who can step up and help."

Kukoc hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 3:22 remaining to put
the Hawks ahead to stay, 79-77. He made another key basket with
1:08 to go, working in the lane to drop in a shot and give Atlanta
an 83-79 lead.

"For some reason, I had energy and got my legs under every shot," Kukoc said. "When you shoot 3-point fadeaways and they're going in, something is right."

Kukoc finished 9-of-11 from the field, his only two misses coming outside the 3-point arc. But he made four other shots from long range.

"When you get the minutes and the coach believes in what you're doing out there and you're getting open shots, you take them," Kukoc said.

Cleveland had a chance to tie after Terry made only one of two
free throws with 6.9 seconds left. But href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/profile?statsId=2630">Lamond Murray's 3-point attempt was blocked by Abdur-Rahim.

"It shouldn't have come down to that in the first place," said
Murray, who led the Cavaliers with 29 points.

Cleveland hardly missed in the first quarter, hitting 15 of 21
shots to race to a 33-18 lead. Murray scored 15 points as the
Cavaliers continually worked inside for easy shots.

But it was a different story the rest of the game. The Cavaliers
made only 14 field goals in the last three quarters, winding up at
just under 43 percent on 29-of-68 shooting.

"We had control of the game and let it get away," Andre Miller
said. "Turnovers down the stretch cost us the game."

The Hawks shaved their deficit to 46-41 at halftime and finally
went ahead for the first time, 49-47, on DerMarr Johnson's jumper
with 10:12 left in the third quarter.

Cleveland coach John Lucas, clearly disgusted, simply leaned against the scorer's table with his arms folded. It was a sloppy game befitting teams that are tied for sixth in the Central Division.

"It was like a turnover-fest for both teams," Murray said. "It was like playground basketball."

Game notes
The Hawks announced just before the game that G Dion Glover would miss the rest of the season with a mild stress fracture in his right foot. Glover sustained the same injury a year ago in his other foot, missing 16 games. ... The Cavaliers got only seven points from their reserves, as opposed to 41 by Hawks reserves. "Our bench was awful," Lucas said. "Ten turnovers and seven points." ... Johnson played with a unique hairstyle. Instead of
his normal braids, Johnson pulled up his hair in a couple of small balls, resembling the ears of a teddy bear.