ATLANTA: The Atlanta Hawks clinched the eighth play-off spot in the Eastern Conference yesterday as Jeff Teague scored 25 points in a 98-85 win over the defending champion Miami Heat.
Lou Williams scored 23 points for Atlanta who claimed the final playoff berth in their conference.
Atlanta had a 25-21 record on February 4 but went into a 6-20 tailspin before winning six of its last eight National Basketball Association games.
“It’s satisfying to get a win and be in a groove that we’re in,” Williams said.
The Hawks qualified for the postseason for a seventh straight season. They scored 29 points off 20 Miami turnovers.
Dwyane Wade scored 16 first-half points on a perfect seven-for-seven shooting. He finished with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting for the Heat, who are tied with the Indiana Pacers for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Wade missed his last nine games because of a hamstring injury. LeBron James posted 27 points, eight rebounds and five assists in defeat. The game was tied 49-49 at halftime and 51-51 before DeMarre Carroll capped a 7-1 surge with a three pointer from the left side for a 58-52 Hawks lead with 7:26 left in the third quarter. Miami never got within four the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half and Monta Ellis tallied 37 as the Dallas Mavericks beat Phoenix 101-98 to clinch a play-off berth yesterday.
By winning their final home game of the season, the Mavericks left Phoenix and the Memphis Grizzlies to fight it out for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Brandan Wright finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Mavericks, who are back in the postseason after they had a 12-year streak snapped last season. Eric Bledsoe finished with 29 points, six assists and four steals, while Channing Frye poured in 21 points for Phoenix, which is one-half game behind the Grizzlies. The Suns host Memphis today.
Dallas trailed by as many as 13 early in the second half. But Nowitzki’s layup with 6:42 to go in the fourth staked it to its first lead, 88-87, since halfway through the second quarter. The Mavs built their advantage to 99-91 with 2:25 remaining, but Bledsoe drove in for a layup, Markieff Morris sunk a pair of foul shots and Bledsoe’s three-point play whittled the deficit to 99-98 with 52 seconds remaining in the fourth.
Ellis split a pair of free throws with 20.9 seconds left to make it 100-98 and Wright blocked Bledsoe’s driving layup on Phoenix’s next possession.
Ellis again connected from the free-throw line and Morris failed on a potentially tying triple in the final seconds. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Hawks qualified for the National Basketball Association play-offs for the seventh straight season yesterday with a 98-85 win over the Miami Heat. The Hawks claimed the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with the win, a result which eliminated the New York Knicks from the playoffs race.
Atlanta, who hold the longest streak of postseason appearances in the East, will meet either Miami or Indiana in the first round of the play-offs. Agencies