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Hawks one win away from clinching series with Heat

POSTED: April 30, 2009 12:21 a.m.

ATLANTA — Dwyane Wade banged his head on the court. Al Horford hobbled to the locker room. Jamaal Magloire doled out a shove, and Josh Smith pushed back.

On a night of hard fouls, plenty of banging and staredowns galore, the Atlanta Hawks moved closer to reaching the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time in a decade, beating Miami 106-91 Wednesday to take a 3-2 lead in the series.

They can only hope they’ve got enough players left to finish off Wade and the Heat.

Joe Johnson had his best game of the postseason with 25 points, and the Hawks took control during a couldn’t-miss second quarter that pushed them to a 63-40 halftime lead. Flip Murray added 23 points off the bench.

Wade had 29 points but didn’t get going until the game was already decided.

While the outcome was never really in question, there was plenty of extracurricular activity to spice up the fifth straight game decided by a double-figure margin.

Early on, Wade collided with Smith and banged the back of his head on the floor, leaving him sprawled out for several minutes. He finally staggered to the locker room for treatment, holding a towel to his head. Not long after the NBA’s leading scorer returned, Horford was fouled hard by James Jones and fell into Wade on the way down, landing awkwardly on his right foot.

Horford managed to shoot two free throws, but it quickly became apparent he couldn’t go on. The Hawks’ second-year center was helped to the locker room, his arms draped around two trainers, and didn’t return. Instead, he began treatment for what was described as a moderate ankle sprain.

After all, Game 6 is Friday night in Miami.

The Hawks already were missing starting forward Marvin Williams, who sat out his third straight game with a sprained right wrist. When Mike Bibby picked up his fourth foul, Atlanta played much of the third quarter with only two regular starters on the court. Solomon Jones and Mario West got extensive minutes after playing sparingly during the regular season.

Wade was already bothered by back spasms that contributed to a dismal 9-of-26 shooting performance in Game 4, which the Hawks won 81-71 to reclaim home-court advantage. Still groggy from his blow to the head, Wade made only 1-of-6 shots in the first half as Atlanta pulled away.

The Hawks made 13-of-16 from the field in the second quarter, including their last 12 attempts, to push a 24-20 lead to a commanding 23-point margin by halftime.

With NBA commissioner David Stern looking on, both teams turned up the intensity level — and things nearly got out of hand in the first half.

When Jones doled out a hard foul on a driving Wade, the two players tumbled into the basket support and stared each other down. Magloire jumped in and shoved Jones. Smith took offense and shoved Magloire. The referees stepped in before any blows were thrown, though all four players were given technicals.

Then, with Maurice Evans going in for a layup, Wade slammed into the Atlanta player from behind and sent him tumbling to the court. Again, the teams bowed up, but Evans mere flashed a disgusted stare at Wade — who was called for a flagrant foul — before getting up to shoot his free throws.

Zaza Pachulia, coming off a 12-point, 18-rebound effort in Atlanta’s Game 4 win in Miami, caught Jermaine O’Neal in the face with an elbow while driving to the hoop. O’Neal crumbled to the court, then got up to deliver a shot across Pachulia’s head the next time he ventured into the lane.

Pachulia, already sporting a black eye from a shot he took in an earlier game, certainly looked the part for this game.

"We’re not going to let anybody beat up on us anymore," Bibby said at halftime.

Josh Smith dunked his way to 20 points for the Hawks and even hit a rare 3-pointer. The Hawks also pounded the boards, outrebounding the Heat 37-29.

Wade didn’t get much help from his teammates. Michael Beasley had 18 points and O’Neal 14.Notes: Johnson averaged just 13.8 points over the first four games. ... The Hawks led by as many as 23 points. ... The closest game in the series was Atlanta’s 10-point win in Game 4.



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