Hawks have last laugh

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ATLANTA --- 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 victory over Dwyane Wade and the Heat in Game 7 on Sunday.

Atlanta got past the first round for the first time since 1999. Their reward? A matchup with LeBron James and the top-seeded Cavaliers, beginning Tuesday night in Cleveland.

Johnson, the Hawks' top scorer during the regular season, was held to less than 20 points in five of the first six games by the Heat. It looked like more of the same when he missed his first five shots of the decisive contest. Then, suddenly, he found his range.

"I was just trying to be more aggressive," he 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."

After a back-and-forth first quarter that ended with Atlanta ahead 20-18, the Hawks pulled out to a 49-36 lead by halftime. They might as well have started the celebration. There were only 15 lead changes in seven games, and not one after the opening period. The Hawks turned the contest into a laugher in the final quarter. Flip Murray hit a 3-pointer to give Atlanta its biggest lead, 85-66, and both teams cleared their benches in the closing minutes.

Things got ugly late 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.

Despite their playoff exit, it was quite a comeback season for Wade and the Heat, who bounced back from a dismal 15-67 record to make the playoffs as the fifth seed in the East.

"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."

THE FIRST ROUND

GAME 1: Hawks 90, Heat 64

GAME 2: Heat 108, Hawks 93

GAME 3: Heat 107, Hawks 78

GAME 4: Hawks 81, Heat 71

GAME 5: Hawks 106, Heat 91

GAME 6: Heat 98, Hawks 72

GAME 7: Hawks 91, Heat 78

THE SEMINFINALS

The Atlanta Hawks haven't been to the conference semifinals since 1999. Now they face a best-of-seven matchup with LeBron James and the top-seeded Cavaliers.

WHEN/TV: 8 p.m. Tuesday/TNT

THE REGULAR SEASON

The Hawks are 1-3 against the Cavaliers this season:

NOV. 22: Cavaliers 110, Hawks 96

DEC. 13: Hawks 97, Cavaliers 92

MARCH 1: Cavaliers 88, Hawks 87

MARCH 21: Cavaliers 102, Hawks 96

THE ADVANTAGE

HOME COURT: The Cavaliers (66-16) lost only twice at home in the regular season, going 39-2 at Quicken Loans Arena.

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