ATLANTA — It didn’t feel like just another preseason game to the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks wanted to show LeBron James and the Miami Heat they aren’t ready to be pushed aside in the Southeast Division.
James scored 38 points but the Miami star had too little help as Joe Johnson led Atlanta’s more balanced attack with 27 points in the Hawks’ 98-89 exhibition victory over the Heat 98-89 on Thursday night.
It didn’t look like a preseason game in the stands. Celebrities in the crowd included NBA legend Julius Erving, who lives in Atlanta, and Atlanta Braves All-Star Jason Heyward.
Attendance was 15,197, about double the previous preseason average for Atlanta’s home preseason games.
“The energy in the building was more like a regular-season game,” said Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford.
Only two Miami scorers joined James in double figures. Chris Bosh had 14 points and 14 rebounds and Udonis Haslem added 10.
James wasn’t complaining about the lack of support.
“Every time I play basketball I’m having fun,” James said. “I enjoy the game of basketball. I enjoy competing against the best. This is everything that I wanted and more, to be out here and playing for this franchise and just trying to play at a high level every night when I go on the court.”
The Hawks, who won only one of their first five preseason games, looked ready for the season.
“We want momentum going into the regular season, and this is how you get it,” said first-year coach Larry Drew.
The Hawks won 53 games last season, finishing second in the Southeast, behind Orlando and ahead of Miami. After adding James, Bosh and others, the Heat are the popular preseason pick to rise in the Eastern Conference.
“I think it was two teams just trying to make a statement,” Johnson said. “It was fun to kind of get in the mode of the regular season.”
Many in the crowd apparently showed up to boo James. He was booed in pregame introductions, the first time he touched the ball and again after his first rebound. There were even louder boos when he re-entered the game after a rest.
Miami’s Dwyane Wade has been out with a hamstring injury and has also been dealing with a trial that’ll decide custody of his two young sons. The team also was without Mike Miller, who was waiting to learn the severity of a thumb he injured in practice Wednesday.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade will join the team on Friday for its final preseason game against the Orlando Magic.
“He will not likely play, but he will get a nice workout with us and be with the team,” Spoelstra said after the game.
Spoelstra said he had no update on Miller.
Atlanta had five scorers in double figures. Mike Bibby had 13 points, Al Horford added 12 and Josh Smith and Crawford each had 11.
“I think we’re a team that can put six, seven, eight guys in double figures on any night,” Crawford said. “That’s tough for an opposing team to contend with.”
Bibby’s 3-pointer tied it at 88, and the veteran point guard added another basket for a 90-88 lead the Hawks would not lose. Marvin Williams, who had nine points and 11 rebounds, iced the win with a 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining.
James had 11 rebounds and made 13 of 19 free throws. He played the full first period, scoring 15 points, and had 21 at halftime.
Miami suffered its third straight loss.
Atlanta closes its preseason schedule at Charlotte tonight.