ATLANTA — In less than three hours, the Atlanta Hawks added two much-needed wins to their record.
The Hawks held off hapless Miami in the replay of a protested game, then defeated the Heat in the regularly scheduled contest 97-94 as Joe Johnson matched a season high with 39 points Saturday night.
Atlanta, vying for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, started the night with a 114-111 overtime victory. The teams had to replay the final 51.9 seconds of a Dec. 19 game, which was protested by the Heat after the home team’s stat crew mistakenly ruled Shaquille O’Neal had fouled out in the extra period.
O’Neal wasn’t even around for the do-over, having been traded to Phoenix last month.
Johnson hit 15 of 27 from the field and doled out eight assists, helping the Hawks hold off the league’s worst team twice in the same evening.
Miami had several chances to force overtime on a night that began with bonus play. Ricky Davis, who led Miami with 27 points, and Dwyane Wade, who added 24, both missed 3-pointers in the final minute.
The Heat had one more chance after Salim Stoudamire missed a free throw with 3.9 seconds left.
Daequan Cook got off yet another 3 just before the buzzer, but it clanked off the rim and the Hawks escaped.
The teams had some extra business to get out of the way before their regularly scheduled game. The NBA ordered the teams back to the court after upholding Miami’s protest of a 117-111 loss to the Hawks on Dec. 19. The stat crew said O’Neal fouled out with 51.9 seconds left in overtime when he actually had only five fouls.
“Come on Hawks fans, it’s overtime!” the Hawks announcer yelled to the crowd. “Let’s make some noise!”
The replay took a little over 2 minutes to play, and neither team scored. Miami had the ball first, but Mark Blount missed a turnaround jumper in the lane. Johnson could have clinched it for the Hawks, but his bank shot rolled off the rim with 19 seconds to go.
Atlanta, trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, desperately needed to win both games. They were among a half-dozen teams within three games of the final postseason spot in the East.
“It’s huge for our ballclub in a sense because if we’re able to handle our business tonight, then we move up in the eight spot,” Woodson said beforehand. “That’s what’s more important than anything.”
Miami (11-50) has the worst record in the NBA, its postseason hopes long since abandoned. If Riley had known how this season would turn out, he probably wouldn’t have bothered protesting the December loss.
NBA commissioner David Stern ruled the Hawks were “grossly negligent” in keeping stats during the December contest, and also fined the team $50,000. Atlanta officials said it was an honest mistake and thought the league was too harsh in its punishment.
The protest was the first granted by the NBA since December 1982, when then-commissioner Larry O’Brien upheld a request for a replay by the San Antonio Spurs after their 137-132 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The teams finally finished the game in April 1983, with San Antonio winning 117-114. The Spurs won the regular game as well.
“Two for the price of one,” the Hawks’ Web site said, urging fans to come out for the doubleheader. “History will be made tonight.”
Back in December, the Hawks were leading 112-111 in overtime when O’Neal was called for a sixth foul that was actually his fifth. The mistake stemmed from a foul with 3:24 remaining in the fourth quarter that was called on Udonis Haslem but mistakenly credited to O’Neal at the scoring table.
Al Horford made two free throws after O’Neal’s disputed foul. The Hawks were allowed to keep those points, giving them a 114-111 lead for the replay.
Taking into account that O’Neal had been traded and the Hawks dealt away four players for point Mike Bibby at the trade deadline, the league allowed both teams to use players acquired since the disputed game.
Shawn Marion, who came to Miami in the O’Neal trade, was in the Heat’s lineup, meaning he will officially go down as having played for two different teams on the same day — and losing both times. He scored 23 points for the Suns in their Dec. 19 loss at Dallas; he gets credit for 52 seconds (and a rebound) playing for the Heat.
“I’m a little confused with all the rules,” Riley quipped. “I believe the NBA just made ‘em all up.”