The Atlanta Hawks defeated the Miami Heat Saturday night to clinch their seventh straight playoff berth. With the 98-85 victory at Philips Arena, Atlanta (37-43) clinched the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference and eliminated the New York Knicks from postseason contention.
Despite 27 points from LeBron James and 24 points from Dwyane Wade (playing in his first game after missing nine straight with a hamstring injury), the Hawks led throughout in a game that can only further boost Atlanta's slim hopes in the first round of the playoffs. There are two games left in the regular season before the playoffs begin this weekend.
The Hawks will be facing either Miami or Indiana in the first round. The Hawks crushed the Pacers earlier this week by 19 points to gain a 2-2 split in their season series with Indiana. The Hawks split their season series with Miami 2-2, as the home team won all four games, but Atlanta did almost steal a win in Miami earlier this year prior to Horford's injury, losing 121-119 in overtime.
Lou Williams scored 18 of his 23 points for Atlanta in the fourth quarter, including the Hawks' last twelve points. Jeff Teague led the Hawks with 25 points. All-Star Paul Millsap did not have a huge night, but filled the boxscore line with 11 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals. DeMarre Carroll added 17 points and six rebounds as well.
The offensive output for Miami, aside from James and Wade, was pretty poor. The point total of 85 points for Miami was their third-lowest on the season - and they couldn't make the excuse of resting their key players in the effort, either. The Heat are now 1/2 game behind the Pacers for the top spot in the East with two games left. While the top seed will face the Hawks, the #2 seed will get wither the Charlotte Bobcats (41-39) or the Washington Wizards (42-38) in the first round.
The Hawks, on the other hand, are just happy to be in the postseason considering the grueling year they've faced. Between season-ending injuries to Al Horford and Gustavo Ayon, a lineup held together seemingly with duct tape for a couple of months, and a 1-14 stretch in February, this team still has managed to get into the postseason for the seventh straight season. That streak is now the longest active streak in the NBA.
"We worked so hard all year. Injuries and everything that can happen to a team happened. We were able to still make it to the playoffs...I'm happy for the guys," said PG Jeff Teague.
The Hawks' last two games are at home against Charlotte tonight and Wednesday in Milwaukee (15-65).