2014 Eastern Conference Champions!

Miami Heat Top Atlanta Hawks 98-81

Heat streak now 19

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat drives against DeShawn Stevenson #92 of the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena on March 12, 2013 in Miami, Florida.

    Dwyane Wade scored 23 points and the Miami Heat extended their winning streak to 19 games, leading wire-to-wire in beating the Atlanta Hawks 98-81 on Tuesday night.

    LeBron James scored 15 and Chris Bosh and Mario Chalmers added 14 apiece for the Heat, who matched the fifth-longest streak in NBA history. They will try for their 20th straight win on Wednesday at Philadelphia, the start of a five-game trip.

    Only three teams have won at least 20 consecutive games in the same season: the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers (33), the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (22) and the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks (20). The Washington Capitols also won 20 straight, spanning the end of the 1947-48 season and the start of the 1948-49 campaign.

    Josh Smith scored 15 for the Hawks, who got 12 apiece from Al Horford and Jeff Teague.

    Ray Allen scored 12 and Udonis Haslem grabbed 11 rebounds for the Heat, which won easily even with James — who shot 3 for 11 — scoring less than 20 points for the second straight game. James did finish with seven rebounds and seven assists.

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    The crowd was 20,350, a record at AmericanAirlines Arena for a regular-season game.

    Miami has the best overall record in the NBA and now leads the Eastern Conference race by 9½ games over Indiana and New York, who were both idle Tuesday. The Heat (48-14) have 20 games left, while the Pacers have 19 and the Knicks 21.

    It was the first game where the Heat went without trailing since Feb. 14, when they won at Oklahoma City in a surprisingly one-sided NBA Finals rematch. They've needed buzzer-beaters and double-overtimes and big rallies to win several times since, often against opponents who won't be headed to the playoffs, teams like Orlando and Cleveland and Sacramento.

    The Hawks are headed to the postseason — barring a most improbable collapse, anyway — but this one was never in doubt.

    Seven Miami players logged more than 3½ minutes of time in the first quarter, all seven of them scored, and the snowball started rolling. James was falling down near the 3-point line on one possession, yet still had the sense to just tap the ball to Wade for a layup that gave Miami an early 17-8 lead. And later, after Haslem missed inside, he got the rebound and fed Allen for a step-back corner 3-pointer that swished.

    Yes, it's going that well for Miami right now.

    The Hawks closed to 41-40 midway through the second quarter, the third — and last — time they were within a point. Miami needed just over two minutes to score the next 10 points, the run both starting and ending with 3-pointers from Chalmers, and the margin was 51-40.

    As if the Heat needed any more help late in the first half, the often-enigmatic Smith gave them a little boost.

    For no apparent reason, Smith fouled Bosh with 0.1 seconds left until intermission — doing so about 80 feet from the Heat basket. Miami was in the bonus, so Bosh took two free throws, made both, and the Heat went into the break with a 57-44 lead.

    Hawks legend, broadcaster and executive Dominique Wilkins simply shook his head when asked about the play at halftime.

    Miami's lead grew to as much as 22 in the fourth, and the Heat emptied the bench with 5:58 remaining.