NBA: Hawks advance
By Paul Newberry
ATLANTA ó Joe Johnson was tired of all the double- and triple-teaming. So he put up a shot before Miami could get an extra defender on him. From about 30 feet away. Swish.
After a mostly disappointing series, Johnson finally showed up when the Hawks needed him most, making six 3-pointers and scoring 27 points to lead Atlanta into the second round of the playoffs with a 91-78 win over the Heat in Game 7 Sunday.
Atlanta got past the first round for the first time since 1999. Their reward? A matchup with LeBron James and top-seeded Cleveland beginning Tuesday night.
Johnson was held under 20 points in five of the first six games by the Heat, and he missed his first five shots Sunday.
Then, suddenly, he found his range. First, a 3-pointer from just outside the line. Then, on Atlanta’s next possession, he pulled up near the tip of the winged logo at center court ó a good 7 to 8 feet away from the arc ó and launched another one. Nothing but net, even after he got a bit of a hip check from a startled Dwyane Wade, who looked off toward the stands in disbelief.
“I was just trying to be more aggressive,” Johnson said. “I haven’t put up a 3 that long in a while. I said, ‘Forget it,’ and just launched it. Making that got me into a little rhythm.”
He finished 6-for-8 from beyond the arc, leading the Hawks to the final blowout in a series that was devoid of any drama. Every game was decided by at least 10 points.
“When Joe is hitting 40-foot 3s,” Wade said, “it’s one of those nights.”
There were only 15 lead changes in seven games ó not one after the opening period.
Things got ugly late when Zaza Pachulia 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.Miami is done, its finale epitomized by Haslem’s inglorious exit. He ripped off his jersey on the way to the locker room, throwing it into the crowd before he disappeared down the tunnel.
“I’m very encouraged by this season,” said Wade, who scored 31 points. “The team that won 15 games last year came back to win 43 games this year and took Atlanta to seven games in the playoffs. We’ve got something to build on.”
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