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Heat crush Hawks in Game 3

POSTED: April 25, 2009 9:20 p.m.
Wilfredo Lee/The Associated Press

Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson (2) goes up for a shot against Miami Heat forward Jamario Moon, left, and guard Daequan Cook during the first quarter of Game 3 on Saturday in Miami.

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MIAMI — Dwyane Wade swished a 3-pointer, then turned and shook his hand like it was burning.

Yep, Wade and the Miami Heat are that hot right now.

Wade finished with 29 points and eight assists, Jermaine O'Neal added 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the Heat extended Atlanta's decade-plus road playoff drought, coasting to a huge halftime lead before beating the Hawks 107-78 Saturday night in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round matchup.

It was over early: Atlanta missed 17 of its first 19 shots, and a 25-6 Heat run to end the first half pushed their lead to 50-29.
Josh Smith, Al Horford and Mike Bibby scored 13 apiece for Atlanta, which is 0-12 in road playoff games since May 8, 1997, losing all but one by at least 10 points.

The Heat lead the series 2-1 and host Game 4 Monday night.

History says Miami, which has outscored Atlanta by 44 points over the last two games, just got a huge lift.
When teams split the first two games of an NBA series, the Game 3 winner advances 76 percent of the time. And in recent years, the edge has been even more pronounced — of the last 27 series that were tied at 1-1, the Game 3 winner ultimately prevailed on 22 occasions.

That's a bad sign for the Hawks.

Of course, just about everything Saturday was ominous for Atlanta, which has lost its five road playoff games over the past two seasons by an average of 26.4 points.

Before the game, the Hawks learned starting small forward Marvin Williams would sit out with a wrist injury. Their first shot of the night was from Horford, a 15-foot jumper that fell 2 feet shy of the rim.

It only got worse from there, especially with Wade at his highlight-reel best.

Defensively, he set the tone with a two-hand erasure of a shot by Mo Evans in the opening minutes, then a high-rising effort to swat an offering from Zaza Pachulia into the most expensive seats late in the third. Plus, he had dunks over two of the Hawks' biggest challengers — Smith got out of Wade's way, and Horford offered little resistance on another.

But just like in Game 2, when Miami took home-court advantage, Wade hardly had to go it alone. Mario Chalmers scored 15 points, Udonis Haslem came through with 12 points and 13 rebounds, and James Jones finished with 11 for the Heat.

Miami hit 12 shots from 3-point range — giving the Heat 27 in the last two games — and outrebounded Atlanta 48-35. For good measure, the Heat were a perfect 17-for-17 from the foul line.

The sellout, noisemaker-clanging, black-clad crowd had some cause for mild concern late in the third, when Bibby hit a 3-pointer and Horford followed with a dunk in the final minute to get Atlanta within 72-61.

The Heat regained control — quickly.

Wade set up Jones for a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in the third, found Chalmers for another 3-pointer to open the fourth, and it soon became a full-fledged rout.

The Hawks started the fourth 0-for-7, and when Smith got one to finally drop with 4:50 left, it only cut the deficit to 95-70.

Notes: Atlanta's 29-point showing was the third-lowest scoring first half in Hawks playoff history, and the best defensive first half in Heat playoff history. ... Celebrities included tennis star Venus Williams, Miami Dolphins Ronnie Brown and Will Allen, and former Heat players Tim Hardaway, Eddie Jones and Earl Barron. ... Haslem had nine rebounds before the game was 9 minutes old. ... The Heat lost F Jamario Moon (abdominal strain) in the second quarter. ... Smith missed his first seven shots.



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