Hawks take down Heat to clinch East’s final playoff spot
Jeff Teague scored 25 points, Lou Williams had 18 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and the Atlanta Hawks earned the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot with a 98-85 victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday night.
Atlanta’s third straight victory eliminated the New York Knicks from playoff contention. Williams scored the Hawks’ last 12 points.
LeBron James finished with 27 points and Dwyane Wade, in his first game since missing nine straight with a sore left hamstring, scored 24 for Miami.
The two-time defending champion Heat, who have lost three of four, gave up the ground they gained in the standings Friday by beating Indiana at home and taking a one-half game lead over the Pacers. Miami and Indiana are now tied atop the Eastern Conference with 54-26 records. The Heat’s 85 points were their third-fewest this season.
James and Chris Bosh returned to the floor with 6:42 remaining and Miami trailing 81-72, but DeMarre Carroll stole the ball from Bosh and Mike Scott’s fastbreak dunk matched Atlanta’s biggest lead at 11 with 6:09 remaining.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called timeout to settle down his team, but James missed a jumper and Teague hit a free throw to make it 84-72.
James hit a 3 two possessions later, but Teague drove to the rim again for an 11-point lead, and Miami never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
Miami began the game by hitting 21 of its first 29 shot from the field, taking its biggest lead of the half at seven on James’ fadeaway turnaround jumper late in the second.
But the Heat missed their last five shots of the first half, and Teague, as he did all night, took advantage by driving for a layup on Chalmers, drawing a foul and finishing a three-point play to make it 49-all at halftime.
Teague finished the first half with 14 points.
Wade finished the first half with 16 points, going 7 for 7 from the field in just 11 minutes. He began the third quarter with an offensive foul, a missed jumper and hit one of two free throws.
There were six lead changes in the first half, but the Hawks never trailed after Teague’s 12-footer made it 53-51 early in the third.
When Carroll hit a 3 to make it 58-52, the Heat had missed 11 of their last 12 shots. Miam was outscored 20-13 in the third.
Carroll finished with 17 points, and Paul Millsap added 11. Scott scored 12 points in a reserve role, joining Williams to help Atlanta’s bench outscore Miami’s 35-8.
Bosh finished with 11 points.
Miami visits Washington on Monday and end the regular season at home Wednesday against Philadelphia. The Pacers host Oklahoma City on Sunday and visit Orlando on Wednesday to close the regular season.
Atlanta hosts Charlotte on Monday and visits Milwaukee on Wednesday
NOTES: A moment of silence was held before the game following the death Friday of Lou Hudson, the six-time All-Star with the Hawks who retired in 1979 and still ranks as the franchise’s third-leading scorer. … The Hawks are wearing a black stripe on their uniform to acknowledge Hudson’s passing. … The Heat dropped to 22-18 on the road. … The Hawks improved to 24-16 at home.