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Hawks Learn The Hard-away

After scoring 24 points, Tim Hardaway clinched another Miami victory with his defense.

Hardaway and the Heat survived a 3-point barrage by the Atlanta Hawks and escaped with an 86-85 victory Wednesday night, stretching Miami's winning streak to six.

Mookie Blaylock had a chance to win it for Atlanta but missed a desperation jumper from the corner as time expired to end the Hawks' four-game winning streak, their longest of the season.

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  • Hardaway, draped all over Blaylock, made sure the Atlanta guard didn't get much of a look at the basket as he tried to work behind a pick and get free along the baseline.

    "I just played pretty good defense," said Hardaway, who hit 9-of-19 shots from the field, including a couple of 3s, and doled out eight assists.

    The Hawks, coming off their most impressive victory of the season at Central-leading Indiana, couldn't follow up by beating the top team in the Atlantic Division.

    "We never quit," Blaylock said. "We gave ourselves a chance. We had a last shot and it just didn't fall for us."

    Miami led nearly the entire game and held an 82-72 advantage after P.J. Brown hit a 12-foot jumper with 4:11 remaining.

    Steve Smith, who led the Hawks with 22 points, ignited a comeback by hitting consecutive 3s, the second from at least two feet behind the arc, cutting the margin to 84-82 with 2:19 to go.

    Though Smith didn't get off another shot, Blaylock hit a trey from the top of the key with 1:14 left to bring the Hawks within one. Atlanta had two chances to grab the lead in the final minute but couldn't convert.

    First, after Alonzo Mourning missed an open jumper, Atlanta's Ed Gray drove the lane and threw up a wild shot that mssed badly. Miami rebounded and appeared to have a sure basket when Brown broke loose in the lane, only to be blocked from behind by Dikembe Mutombo.

    Atlanta set up for the winning shot, obviously hoping to free up Smith ,but he couldn't get open. Blaylock was forced to throw up a 21-footer with Hardaway in his face. The shot bounced off the rim and the horn sounded as the teams battled for the rebound.

    "It got real hectic," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "We made the stop we had to make to win the game. ... Our guys were just super aggressive out on the perimeter and committed to not letting anyone go to the basket."

    Smith had only one brief look at the basket in the final minute but was forced to pass the ball away.

    "I couldn't get my footing," he said. "It's better to pass the ball to an open guy than to have me shooting off balance."

    The Hawks led briefly in the first quarter, the last advantage coming when Blaylock hit a 3-pointer to make it 9-8. Miami scored the next eight points and led the rest of the way, building the margin as high as 15 points.

    Miami led 44-38 at halftime and jumped on the Hawks to begin the third quarter. Hardaway hit a couple of 3s to push the Heat's lead to 54-40 just past the two-minute mark of the second half.

    The Heat befuddled the Hawks most of the game with the pick-and-roll and held them to 35 percent shooting from the field. Atlanta remained within striking defense with fierce work on the boards, outrebounding Miami 46-33 -- including 22 on the offensive end.


    Gray, who had played only one minute in the previous seven games, scored a season-high 12 points. ... Miami has not allowed an opponent to shoot 50 percent from the field this season. ... The Hawks played their first game at the Georgia Dome Feb. 6, the second game of the season. Atlanta played seven straight home games at Georgia Tech. ... Miami has won 10 of its last 11 games and 17 of their last 19. ... Atlanta shot only 27 percent from the field in the first half.

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