MIAMI (AP) Hassan Whiteside‘s tip-in with a minute left put Miami up for good, Josh Richardson blocked a potential go-ahead shot in the final seconds and Heat clinched their 20th playoff spot in 30 seasons by rallying to beat the Atlanta Hawks 101-98 on Tuesday night.
The Heat trailed 98-90 with less than 3 minutes left, then finished the game on an 11-0 run.
Tyler Johnson‘s 3-pointer got Miami within one, and Whiteside tipped in Josh Richardson’s miss on the next possession. Atlanta had a chance to take the lead when Damion Lee got into the lane and tried a 10-footer with about 5 seconds left, but Richardson blocked it and the Heat controlled the rebound.
Richardson made a pair of free throws with 0.6 seconds left. The Hawks’ last-ditch 3-point try by John Collins was well short, wrapping up the postseason spot for the Heat.
Miami will open the playoffs on the road on either April 14 or 15.
Goran Dragic scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Miami, which got 18 points and 12 rebounds from Whiteside in his first game since angrily saying he wanted more playing time. Tyler Johnson scored 12, Dwyane Wade had 11 and James Johnson finished with 10 for the Heat.
“It’s an honor for us to be in the playoffs,” Wade said.
The Heat were not sharp; shots were short, the occasional pass would bounce off someone’s head, and balls were dribbled off of feet more than once.
And a few great minutes to start the fourth put the Hawks in total control.
Wade opened the final quarter with a basket to break a 78-all tie, only to have it answered by an 11-0 run for Atlanta. Dorsey made a pair of 3-pointers during the spurt, Muscala made another to cap the burst and just like that the Hawks were up 89-80.
But the Heat had just enough at the end, and now can finally think about the postseason.
Hawks: Collins, who grew up playing in nearby Palm Beach County, is essentially assured of having the best field-goal percentage for a rookie in Hawks history. He’s now at 58.3 percent this season; the best shooting year by an Atlanta rookie was Antoine Carr’s 52.8-percent clip in 1984-85. … Dewayne Dedmon was ruled out with a sore rib, meaning the Hawks had six players out with injuries.
Heat: Rookie C Bam Adebayo didn’t play for the second consecutive game. … The Heat were 8 for 33 from 3-point range.
Wade’s fourth assist of the night came late in the first half, going to Whiteside – and giving the guard 5,000 assists in a Heat uniform. He’s the ninth player to score 20,000 points and collect 5,000 assists with one team, joining Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West.
Heat G Wayne Ellington now has 204 3-pointers in games that he didn’t start this season. That’s two away from the NBA single-season record for a reserve, set last year by Houston’s Eric Gordon. Ellington has 213 overall for the season, moving him 12 away from tying the Heat single-season record set by Damon Jones in 2004-05.
Only four teams haven’t had longer than a two-game winning streak this season – Atlanta, Sacramento, Phoenix and Brooklyn. The Hawks are now 3-19 in games following a win.
The Heat visit the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday night, a game that wraps up the final back-to-back of the season for both clubs.