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Hawks lose to lowly Heat

POSTED: April 28, 2008 5:00 a.m.
The Associated Press/

Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith dunks against the Miami Heat on Wednesday in Miami.

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MIAMI — As time dwindled down, Jason Williams implored Pat Riley to take one last time-out. He wasn’t quite ready to see the season end.

“The cheerleaders have another routine,” Williams said, getting a hearty laugh from his coach.

Spirits were high Wednesday night in Miami, because if this was Riley’s final game, it was a victorious one.

Williams scored 17 points, Mark Blount and Daequan Cook each added 16 and the Heat ended their disappointing season with a 113-99 victory over the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks. Miami finished 15-67, matching the 1988-89 expansion team for the worst record in franchise history.

“This was a nice way to finish it,” Riley said. “It really was.”

The Heat had seven players in double figures, including Ricky Davis (15 points, nine assists, seven rebounds), Earl Barron (13), Stephane Lasme (12) and Chris Quinn (11).

Josh Smith scored 20 points for Atlanta, which got 17 points and five assists from Mike Bibby. Zach Pachulia and Salim Stoudamire each scored 14 for Atlanta.

The Hawks are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and off to Boston for what looks like a monumental first-round playoff mismatch. And for Hawks coach Mike Woodson, it’s hair today, gone tomorrow: He’ll shave his head Thursday to commemorate Atlanta’s spot in the playoffs.

“We can’t afford to look ahead to anybody,” Woodson said.

“We made a hell of a run to get into the playoffs, but it doesn’t stop there. You still have to play. You’ve got to keep rhythm and do the things that got you where you are.”

The Heat, though, begin an offseason of uncertainty, starting with whether Riley will be back for a 26th season as an NBA coach. Riley, a 2008 Hall of Fame enshrinee, will meet with Heat owner Micky Arison in the coming days and presumably make a decision.

“I’m a very proud man,” said Riley, who ranks third on the league’s all-time coaching wins list. “But I’m not proud of what we accomplished this year.”

Indeed, it has been a fall from grace unlike almost any in NBA history.

The Heat spent much of the season without Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Udonis Haslem, Shawn Marion and Dorell Wright because of injuries, and traded Shaquille O’Neal to Phoenix in February — the move that officially ushered in another rebuilding era in Miami.

By finishing with the NBA’s worst record, the Heat are assured no worse than the No. 4 pick in June’s draft.

In the two seasons since winning the 2006 NBA title, the Heat have a .360 winning percentage. Only the Chicago Bulls, who won 22.7 percent of their games in the two seasons following the departures of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson after the 1998 championship run, endured a worse stretch.

But the Hawks are proof that in the Eastern Conference, there’s always hope.

Atlanta was 13-69 in the 2004-05 season, and hasn’t finished a regular season with a winning record since 1988-99.

Still, the Hawks are the No. 8 seed on this year’s East bracket, and played their regulars Wednesday in what essentially was a meaningless game, at least in terms of the standings.

“We just have to go out and have fun and play hard,” Hawks guard Joe Johnson said.

“Everything else will take care of itself. This is a tremendous opportunity for us and we should cherish it. We have nothing to lose, but a lot to gain.”

The Hawks’ first basket came 5 seconds into the game on an alley-oop from Johnson to Smith, the start of a 16-8 run to open the contest.

But the Heat hung around, with Williams getting 11 points in the second quarter to help Miami stay within 61-55 at halftime.

Miami took control in the third period, with Blount scoring 11 points in the quarter to lead a 34-22 spurt that gave the Heat an 89-83 edge heading into the fourth.

Down by seven midway through the final period, Woodson reinserted his starters, to no avail.
Williams hit a 3-pointer with 51/2 minutes remaining, Cook connected again from beyond the arc on the next Heat possession, and Miami held Atlanta without a field goal for a five-minute stretch late to pull away and end the season on a rare high note.

“It’s always good to end it on a positive note,” Quinn said.

Notes: Davis was the only Heat player to appear in all 82 games. Blount played in 69, the second most on the injury-ravaged roster. ... Williams made a half-court shot while being fouled late in the first half, only to have it waved off by referees. So he made a 25-foot 3-pointer on the next possession. ... The Heat honored trainer Ron Culp, who is retiring after being with Miami for each of its first 20 seasons, with a touching halftime ceremony. ... Atlanta won the season series, 3-1.



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