Dwayne Wade may have returned to the lineup for the first time in nine games, but it made little difference as Atlanta was able to top the defending champion Miami Heat 98-85, securing the Hawks the eighth and final Eastern Conference Playoff spot on Saturday.
As has been the case lately, it was a team effort by the Hawks to take down the two-time defending NBA Champs. The Hawks forced 20 Miami turnovers while committing just 12 themselves. Atlanta and Miami each shot 19 free throw attempts but the Hawks converted 16, compared to nine made by the Heat.
Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 25 points, but he was far from the only impact player for the Hawks. Five Hawks, including three starters, scored in double figures. Lou Williams finished with 23 points, making seven of his nine field goal attempts including a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. Williams believes this win against Miami should not be considered a fluke.
“It doesn't make a difference [who the opponent was]. That was our second time beating them this year, and we gave them an overtime run [in Miami],” Williams said. “It's a team we've played well against ... you could see the focus. Guys were talking, scrambling to the ball. I think we got 95 percent of the 50-50 balls."
LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Wade may have combined for 62 points against the Hawks, but Atlanta simply shut down the rest of the Heat, allowing just 23 additional points from the seven other Miami players. The Big Three took 44 shots from the field and converted 25 of them. They were responsible for eight of the nine made Miami free throws as well.
This is the seventh straight season Atlanta has clinched a playoff appearance. With Miami going through a slump of their own, this loss knocks them out of the top seed, giving Indiana the current nod as the number one team in the east. Atlanta plays Charlotte this Monday for their final regular season home game of the season before ending the regular season in Wisconsin.