Dominique Wilkins scored 22 of his 32 points in the second half Friday night to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 103-98 victory over the defending champion Detroit Pistons in the first game of their first-round playoff series.
Game 2 of the best-of-five Eastern Conference quarterfinal series will be played Sunday. The series moves to Atlanta for Game 3 Tuesday.John Battle, who came off the bench to score 16 points, snapped a 93-93 tie with a baseline jumper with 2:27 left. Kevin Willis followed with a desperation shot from the left corner as the shot clock expired. Battle added a pair of free throws with 55 seconds to go to boost Atlanta's lead to 99-93.
Detroit, which beat Atlanta in all five regular-season meetings between the two teams, cut the margin back to 3 points on a 3-point goal by Joe Dumars with 50.7 seconds to go, but Isiah Thomas missed two free throws with 23.3 seconds left. Dennis Rodman got the rebound after the second miss and fed Dumars for a 3-pointer, but it fell short. Wilkins grabbed the ball, was fouled and made the first of his two free throws to seal the victory.
Dumars led Detroit with 20 points and Mark Aguirre came off the bench to add 19. Spud Webb had 18 points for Atlanta.
Webb hit three baskets, two of them 3-pointers, in the last 2:03 of the first half to help the Hawks take a 54-51 halftime lead.
Rodman drew his third foul early in the third quarter and Wilkins took advantage of his absence to score 14 of Atlanta's first 20 points in the second half.
A steal and layup by Doc Rivers with 2:05 remaining in the third quarter boosted the Hawks' lead to 78-67. A free throw by John Salley and Aguirre's put-back brought Detroit to 78-70, but Battle dropped in two free throws to sent Atlanta into the fourth quarter with an 80-70 advantage.
Wilkins hit two free throws to open the final quarter to boost the Hawks' lead to 82-70, their biggest of the game.
A basket by Salley triggered a 15-5 spurt by the Pistons that brought them to 89-87 with 5:14 left when Thomas fed Salley for a slam dunk.
Detroit's Bill Laimbeer was ejected for throwing a punch at the Hawks' Moses Malone with 9:01 left in the fourth quarter.