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HAWKS 96, HORNETS 64: Playing with energy and emotion that was missing their first two games, the Hawks avoided elimination in the first round and routed Charlotte 96-64. The Hornets matched the lowest-scoring playoff game in history.

Charlotte, leading the series 2-1, tied the record for fewest points set by Portland in a 1996 post-season game at Utah and equaled by Orlando against Miami last year.

The Hawks, led by Mookie Blaylock with 16 points and Steve Smith with 15, had their largest playoff victory since the franchise moved to Atlanta in 1968. The record was a 23-point rout of Indiana in 1994.

Game 4 is Friday night at the Georgia Dome. If the Hawks win again, the deciding game is Sunday at Charlotte.

Off the court, Atlanta's Steve Smith, who donated $2.5-million to Michigan State, his alma mater, was chosen as winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.

PISTONS: The team took the interim from Alvin Gentry's coaching role. Gentry took over the Pistons after Doug Collins was fired Feb. 2. Detroit went 16-21 under Gentry, including victories over playoff teams Chicago, Indiana, Miami, San Antonio and Atlanta. The Pistons were expected to offer Gentry at least $1-million a season for two years with an option for a third.

CAVS: Pressures of paternity and child-support obligations, not alcohol, were to blame for Shawn Kemp's problems with the Sonics last year, Sports Illustrated reported this week.

In a story on professional athletes fathering children out of wedlock, the magazine reported that paternity-related issues weighed heavily on Kemp.

The unmarried Kemp, who is with Cleveland, has fathered seven children, Gerald Phillips, a lawyer who represented Kemp in a paternity suit filed by Charlotte Osuna, told Sports Illustrated.

At a news conference before the playoffs last year, Kemp denied reports he had a drinking problem, blaming his behavior on unspecified "personal problems."

MURPHY INVESTIGATION: Houston Mayor Lee Brown told new City Parks and Recreation director Oliver Spellman Jr. to conduct a performance audit of the department, starting with the youth sports program headed by basketball Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy. The audit was prompted by allegations that Murphy was charging the city for hours he spent _ in many cases out of town _ providing color commentary for Rockets games. Murphy is paid $50,000 annually by the city through a temporary-employee services agency. Murphy reports the number of hours he works each week for the city on a time sheet to the agency. Copies of the sheets obtained from the parks department show Murphy reported working for the city at times that overlapped the time he spent broadcasting Rockets games.

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