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Hawks tie series, gets first playoff road win since 1997

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The Sports Network
4/28/2009 12:45:12 AM
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Miami, FL (Sports Network) - Zaza Pachulia led a powerful charge with 12 points and 18 rebounds, and the Atlanta Hawks won their first road playoff game since 1997, beating Miami, 81-71, to even their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series after four games.

Mike Bibby scored 15 and Joe Johnson tallied 14 points for the Hawks, who had lost their 12 previous postseason contests. It was their first away victory in the playoffs since May 8, 1997 when they beat Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"We switched the home-court advantage back to us. It's a three-game series now," said Bibby.

Josh Smith tallied 13 points, Flip Murray 11 and Maurice Evans 10 for Atlanta, which hasn't won a playoff series since 1999, against Detroit in the first round. Their last series triumph in a best-of-seven format came in 1970, in the West Division semifinals vs. Chicago.

Atlanta lost the previous two games of the series by a combined 44 points, but never trailed on Monday, even though the Hawks nearly let a 21-point lead get away in the first half. They hung on in the fourth quarter, to send the series back to Atlanta tied with Game 5 looming Wednesday.

"Our energy was sky-high," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "I mean we played out of desperation, really. We didn't want to go back to Atlanta down 3-1."

Dwyane Wade battled back spasms and finished with 22 points and seven assists for the Heat, who also got 20 points from Jermaine O'Neal. James Jones notched 19 points, a playoff career-high, before fouling out in defeat.

"You could tell he wasn't himself tonight," Jones said of Wade. "I think any other player would have sat out, but it meant that much to him and us as well. When your captain is down, you have to try to step up and we just didn't do a good job of lifting him tonight."

Atlanta scored six of the game's first seven points, and even though Miami trimmed its deficit to one, Atlanta surged in the final two minutes of the stanza to claim a 24-17 lead going to the second.

Evans took over early in the second, scoring six straight points at one juncture for a 36-19 difference. An Evans jam followed by a Pachulia tip-in widened the margin to 44-23 with just under four minutes left, but Miami came charging back.

Jones put the Heat on his back by notching 10 consecutive points, including a four-point play after he was fouled while making a shot from the left corner by Bibby with 2:15 to go.

The Hawks continued to wilt under the pressure, and Udonis Haslem's dunk off some quick passing had the hosts within 46-42 with 20.9 seconds left. It remained that way at the half.

"Twenty points in three minutes is unheard of," said Bibby. "We kept our composure after that and played together. The reason why I think we won is because we played together on both ends."

Atlanta came out aggressive in the third, but saw a double-digit lead trimmed to 55-52 after an O'Neal bucket with less than four minutes to go in the period.

Murray nailed a big three-pointer down the stretch and canned two free throws to provide a 63-55 difference moving to the fourth.

Smith's three-point play stretched the lead to 70-57 with 9 1/2 minutes remaining, and Miami couldn't get closer than seven points the rest of the way. Wade's bucket had the score 72-65, but Bibby countered with a big three- pointer with nearly five minutes remaining.

After Wade hit another shot, the Hawks emphatically sealed the win when Smith saved the ball from going out of bound and found a cutting Murray for a layup and a 77-67 cushion.

"It's a good team we played tonight and tonight was a hard-fought battle," said Wade. "I hope that everyone understands that this is the playoffs, this is how it's going to be. We have to go up to Atlanta, in a hostile environment, and play the same way we've been playing. That's the main thing, to keep being consistent."

Game Notes

Miami shot 37.7 percent from the field, including a 9-of-26 effort from Wade...Smith also had seven rebounds...Haslem had nine boards...Hawks forward Marvin Williams was out due to a sprained right wrist, while Heat forward Jamario Moon was sidelined with a strained lower abdominal muscle and a sore groin.

Zaza Pachulia (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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