ATLANTA -- Eric Murdock came off the bench to spark Miami in the fourth quarter, and the Heat rolled over the Atlanta Hawks 97-81 Tuesday night in a matchup of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.
Miami, leading the Atlantic Division, sliced through an unusually tame Atlanta defense to shoot 51.9 percent from the field, pulling away in the final period after Atlanta cut a 10-point halftime deficit down to 71-66 after the third quarter.
All five Heat starters scored in double figures, but it was Murdock who provided the offensive punch during an 18-6 spurt which decided the game. The 6-foot-1 guard slipped behind the Atlanta defense twice for easy baskets, hit a short shot along the baseline and hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point line.
P.J. Brown, who had 20 points for Miami, finished off the run with a dunk that made it 89-72, sending the crowd of 9,156 at Georgia Tech to the exits midway through the final period.
Voshon Lenard led the Heat with 22 points, while Murdock finished with 10.
Christian Laettner scored 22 points for Atlanta, which shot only 40.8 percent from the field after a four-day break.
The Central Division-leading Hawks are tied with the Lakers for the NBA's best record (15-4) but haven't fared well against two of their prime contenders in the East. Atlanta's only other home loss was a 100-79 setback against the New York Knicks.
After starting out the season 11-0, Atlanta has split its last eight games, including two losses in a row. The Hawks now begin a West Coast road trip with four games in five days.
The Hawks thin bench was further shorthanded by injuries to Alan Henderson and Eldridge Recasner, neither of whom dressed for the game. Atlanta got only 10 points from its reserves, while Murdock led the Miami bench to a 21-point performance.
NOTES: The Hawks will play most of their top opponents at the Georgia Dome, but the game against the Heat had to be played at the 9,300-seat Alexander Memorial Coliseum because of a Rolling Stones concert at the larger arena. ... Prior to the game, Atlanta re-signed guard Randy Livingston and placed forward Anthony Miller on the injured list with a sore back. ... The Heat extended its streak of games with at least one 3-pointer to a league-best 312. The record of 316 was set by Orlando from December 1993 to Nov. 2 of this season.
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