for this game

Heat end long season with win over playoff-bound Hawks

Apr 17, 2008 - 5:03 AM By Michael Snyder PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MIAMI (Ticker) -- Jason Williams scored 17 points off the bench as the Miami Heat avoided setting a franchise record for futility by defeating the playoff-bound Atlanta Hawks, 113-99, on Wednesday night.

Mark Blount and Daequan Cook each added 16 as every Heat starter reached double figures.

Josh Smith led the Hawks with 20 points, but didn't score in the final period, and Mike Bibby added 17 for Atlanta.

The Heat finished 15-67, the same as in their inaugural 1988-89 season.

"There wasn't any (pregame) conversation about that," Williams said of avoiding setting a record. "We just wanted to come out, play hard and just try and get a win and give our fans something to enjoy."

Atlanta was attempting to sweep the season series from Miami for the first time since the 1990-91 campaign.

Despite a losing record this season (37-45), Atlanta secured the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs when Indiana lost to Washington on Monday. Atlanta is heading back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and will open the postseason against top-seeded Boston (66-16), the team with the league's best record.

"It's big, not only for the organization, but for the city of Atlanta as well," Smith said. "We were always on the bottom of the totem pole of Atlanta sports. It used to be baseball, then football, then us. It feels good to be at the top in Atlanta and we feel we can do something special."

Miami outscored Atlanta 34-22 in the third quarter and led 89-81 on a Chris Quinn jump shot with 26.6 seconds left.

Williams nailed a 3-pointer with 5:23 left to push Miami's lead to 103-94, and the Hawks never seriously challenged after that. Williams finished 5-for-8 from beyond the arc.

"I knew he (Miami coach Pat Riley) wasn't going to take me out, so I was just going to let it go and if I saw an opening I was going to shoot it," said Williams, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

"I don't like the way we played the last two games, and it (doesn't) matter who plays, you still have to play the right way and play with

some high energy," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "And I don't think we have done that the last two outings."

Atlanta led by as many as eight early, but the Heat - playing with a roster far different than the one that started the season - stayed close.

Miami tied the game at 50 on a jumper by Blount, one of many players Miami is thought to be looking to dump in the offseason, with 2:48 to play in the half.

But Bibby, one of Atlanta's catalysts in its playoff push, hit two baskets - after Williams had tied the game at 55-55 with a 3-pointer. After a steal by Joe Johnson, Smith's alley-oop dunk gave the Hawks a 61-55 advantage at the half.

Blount hit back-to-back threes to give Miami its first lead, 66-63, with 7:46 to play in the third quarter.

"These games don't matter," Johnson said. "We've accomplished our goal and these last two games, just throw them in the bag and don't even worry about them. We just have to be ready and get up for the playoffs."

There is hope for Miami for next year and beyond though. The Heat has the best chance at snagging the top pick in the upcoming draft lottery, will have a healthy Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Shawn Marion back in the fall and need look no further than Atlanta to see that it doesn't take forever to turn things around.

The Hawks are only four years removed from a 13-win season.

"It was a real tough season," Heat forward Ricky Davis said. "No one expected us to be last in the league. You have your ups and downs and you have to live with it. A lot of guys were hurt this year. ... It's a great feeling leaving on a positive note."

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