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Hawks put Wade on ice, even series

POSTED: April 28, 2009 12:39 a.m.
Wilfredo Lee/The Associated Press

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade loses control of the ball as he goes up for a shot against Atlanta Hawks forward Maurice Evans during the first period of Game 4 of a first-round Eastern Conference playoff series Monday in Miami.

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MIAMI — That notion suggesting the Atlanta Hawks cannot win on the road at playoff time?

Forget it.

The Hawks put that one to rest — saving their season as well.

Zaza Pachulia — with a black right eye for his trouble — finished with 12 points and 18 rebounds, and Atlanta raced out to a huge first-half lead and frustrated Dwyane Wade endlessly in beating the Miami Heat 81-71 Monday night, tying the first-round Eastern Conference playoff series at two games apiece.

"It’s not over," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "We’ve got to go home now. We survived this trip and we’ve got to go home and handle our business at home in Game 5."

Mike Bibby scored 15 points, Joe Johnson added 14 and Josh Smith 13 for the Hawks.

Wade scored 22 points, doing so on 9-for-26 shooting and wincing at times from back spasms that started in the first quarter and continued the rest of the night. Jermaine O’Neal scored 20 points and James Jones added 19 — 10 of them coming in a spectacular first-half spurt — for the Heat, who shot 38 percent and never led.

"This is the playoffs," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We just have to focus the next 48 hours on getting healthy, getting our minds right, getting prepared and going up there and getting a game."

It was Atlanta’s first road postseason win in nearly 12 years, a stretch spanning 13 games, and ended a slide where the Hawks had gotten pounded by a combined 132 points in their most recent five playoff games played outside Georgia’s capital city.

Now the series returns to Atlanta on Wednesday for Game 5, and all the Hawks need is to defend their home court twice to get a second-round shot against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"We knew if we didn’t come in here and take care of business today, that the season could definitely come to an end," said Hawks guard Flip Murray, who scored 11 points. "This team is too good to give three chances to close you out."

Bibby’s 3-pointer with 4:57 left was the final dagger, giving the Hawks a 10-point lead and stopping Miami’s last real shot at a rally.

Knowing the Hawks would want no part of a 3-1 deficit, the Heat expected Atlanta’s best shot.

They got it.

Weren’t ready, either.

The Heat shot 5-for-23 in the first 21 minutes, digging a 21-point hole. At one point, Miami nearly had as many fouls (15) as points (19), Wade had four airballs (arguing he was fouled on two), and the Heat were unraveling.

"He’s still going to score points but we made him work on every play," Murray said. "A total team effort. Every time he got past one guy, there was another guy there to contest."

When Pachulia tipped in Murray’s missed 3-pointer for a 44-23 lead, he looked at his teammates on the Atlanta bench and started punching the air.

"Zaza was huge throughout the whole game," Woodson said. "I mean, 18 rebounds, 12 points for us, and we needed all that tonight to survive."

Coincidentally, when Pachulia started punching, Miami started to fight.

A 19-2 run closed the half, with Jones needing only 41 seconds to get 10 points — the last eight coming in (probably) never-before-seen fashion, with a pair of four-point plays 11 seconds apart.

The Heat sharpshooter made a 3-pointer with 2:26 remaining, got fouled by Solomon Jones and swished the free throw. Miami immediately got the ball back when Bibby ran over Mario Chalmers, and with 2:15 left, James Jones struck again.

He connected from the left side, got fouled by Bibby, made that free throw as well and Miami clawed within 46-42 at halftime.

Even the Elias Sports Bureau, which tracks nearly every stat imaginable, didn’t know if Jones’ feat had been done before.

Either way, it was for naught. Atlanta’s lead was never smaller than three after halftime, and the Hawks led by as many as 13 points in the final quarter.

"What the message is really how difficult it is to win one game in the playoffs," Spoelstra said. "Each possession, you have to compete and have an edge to you like it’s your last possession."Notes: The Heat granted reserve C Mark Blount a leave of absence to tend to personal matters related to the death of a close relative in Haiti. ... Seven players had two fouls before the game was 13 minutes old. ... Game 6 is Friday in Miami and Game 7, if necessary, would be Sunday in Atlanta.



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