Hawks handle Heat
Atlanta faces Cavs; Denver dominates
Joe Johnson scored 27 points to make up for a mostly disappointing series and the Hawks won the first Game 7 ever played in Atlanta, beating Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, 91-78, yesterday to advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time in a decade.
Atlanta will play the top-seeded Cavaliers next, beginning tomorrow night in Cleveland.
After a back-and-forth first quarter that ended with Atlanta ahead, 20-18, the Hawks pulled out to a 49-36 halftime lead.
They might as well have started the celebration right then. There were only 15 lead changes in the seven-game series - not one of them after the opening period. Every game was decided by at least 10 points, and this one wasn't nearly as close as the final margin.
Johnson got off to a sluggish start but came alive when the Hawks needed him. His most dramatic shot was a long 3-pointer over Wade from out near Atlanta's winged logo at center court, which left the Miami star standing there with a look of disbelief.
Flip Murray hit a 3-pointer to give Atlanta its biggest lead, 85-66, in the fourth quarter, and both teams cleared their benches in the closing minutes as Miami's reserves outplayed the home team's substitutions to make the end result somewhat respectable.
Things got ugly in the closing minutes while the Hawks fans chanted "Hey, hey, hey, goodbye!" Zaza Pachulia, who provided more quality minutes off the bench, drove to the hoop and was collared around the neck by Udonis Haslem. The Miami forward was tossed out of the game for a flagrant foul, while Atlanta coach Mike Woodson charged onto the court to make sure no punches were thrown.
Wade scored 31 points but the majority of those came after the Hawks already had built a comfortable lead.
Nuggets 109, Mavericks 95 - Nene kept host Denver in it until his teammates could turn this one into another runaway.
Nene scored 18 of his career playoff high 24 points in the first half and Denver raced past Dallas to win the opener of their Western Conference semifinal series.
Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points, including a dunk off J.R. Smith's behind-the-back assist that rocked the Pepsi Center in the closing minutes. Smith added 15 points, leading a bench that outscored Dallas's reserves, 38-24, before both teams emptied their benches in the meaningless final minutes.
Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 28 points and 10 boards.
After Dallas trailed by as many as 9 points late in the third quarter, the Mavericks pulled to 82-80 in the first minute of the fourth quarter when Jason Terry sank a three and Nowitzki swished a fadeaway jumpers.
The Nuggets responded with a 15-4 run that iced it.