Hawks topple Heat in Game 7, advance to face Cavs

The Sports Network

5/3/2009 7:08:33 PM

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Joe Johnson drained six of his eight attempts from three-point range, and the Atlanta Hawks finished off a series filled with blowout wins with a 91-78 drubbing of the Miami Heat in the deciding Game 7 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup.

Johnson finished with 27 points and five steals overall for the Hawks, who won a playoff series for the first time since 1999 and won a best-of-seven playoff series for the first time since 1970. Atlanta will move on to face the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, who had no trouble sweeping the eighth-seeded Pistons.

Atlanta led by as many as 29 in this game before coasting to the finish in the fourth quarter.

The Hawks had lost their previous six Game 7s, dating back to 1961, when the franchise was located in St. Louis. This was the first Game 7 at home since the team moved to Atlanta, and the hosts made sure the fans enjoyed the experience.

Josh Smith contributed 21 points and nine rebounds, and the Hawks ensured that none of the seven games in this series would be decided by a single-digit margin. This was only the second time that feat was ever accomplished in a series, as the Lakers defeated the Suns in seven games in 1970 while the average margin of victory was 16.6 points.

The series featured just 15 lead changes altogether, including zero after the first quarter in each of the final three contests.

Dwyane Wade was unable to muster the magic that helped him will the Heat to a Game 6 win with 41 points, scoring 31 for the Heat on 10-of-25 shooting Sunday. He was not very accurate from three-point range either, making 2- of-9. Udonis Haslem had 14 points and 13 rebounds before being ejected with 3:51 left after committing a flagrant-two foul on Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia. Michael Beasley had 17 points in the loss.

The Heat had never played a Game 7 on the road in their history. They fell behind by 13 at halftime and never got closer than 10 the rest of the game. The team shot just 41.3 percent from the field and went 4-of-19 from beyond the arc.

Miami began the game by scoring eight of the first 10 points, but Atlanta jumped in front with a subsequent 12-2 run, led by six points from Mike Bibby.

The Heat scored the next eight points, taking an 18-14 lead as the Hawks went 5 1/2 minutes without scoring. Atlanta managed to score the last six points of the quarter, though, as a pair of free throws from Bibby put the hosts ahead by two, 20-18, after the opening period.

The Hawks started to heat up from beyond the arc in the second. Three straight three-pointers, with the last being from Johnson from about 30 feet away, put Atlanta ahead by 11, 33-22, and a 7-0 run later in the quarter put the team ahead by 15 with five minutes to go in the half.

Miami, which went 0-for-7 from three-point range in the opening half, could only cut its deficit to 49-36 at the break.

A Haslem jumper got the Heat to within 10 nearly five minutes into the third, but a Johnson three and an Al Horford floater made it a 60-45 game with close to five minutes left in the frame.

Wade's three-ball made it an 11-point game late in the quarter, but Johnson answered with a jumper, then his fifth three of the game, as the Hawks carried a 68-52 cushion to the fourth.

Flip Murray sank a pair of free throws in the opening minute of the fourth to put Atlanta ahead by 20, 72-52, and back-to-back three-pointers from Johnson and Murray gave Atlanta its 29-point margin moments later. The hosts never looked back from there.

Game Notes

Miami is 2-2 all-time in Game 7s at home...The Hawks were playing in their second first-round Game 7 in as many years, as the team lost to eventual NBA champion Boston in 2007-08...Horford, who sat out the Hawks' Game 6 loss with a sprained ankle, returned to play 32-plus minutes and scored seven points. Marvin Williams, who missed Games 3-5 and played in under five minutes in Game 6 with a sprained wrist, did not play...The Hawks franchise is now 3-8 all- time in Game 7s...The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the Hawks won a deciding Game 5, 102-91, in Atlanta to advance to the second round in 1993-94...Miami's Jermaine O'Neal, who missed Game 6 due to a concussion, played under one minute and was held scoreless...Throughout the series, the Hawks average margin of victory was 16, while Miami's was 23.3...Murray finished with 15 points for Atlanta, while Bibby had 11.