MIAMI — Close games have been a strength for Atlanta, a weakness for Miami.
The Hawks couldn’t have been happier to see those trends continue.
And suddenly, the Southeast Division looks very much like a three-team race.
Josh Smith made a go-ahead layup with 34.7 seconds left in overtime, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford each scored 19 points and the Hawks beat the Heat 93-89 on Tuesday night, sending Miami to a fourth straight loss and clawing within two games of the division lead.
In games decided by five points or fewer, Atlanta is now 8-4. Miami is only 1-7, the lone victory coming when the Heat simply stole one from Washington in the final seconds.
And for a team that was riding a streak of 21 wins in 22 games a week ago, the Heat — who played without Chris Bosh and tried a number of unusual lineups — are sliding.
“This was a tough one,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “No other way to say it. … It was tough to get a real handle and grip on both sides of the floor.”
Johnson had a game-tying layup with 25.4 seconds left in regulation and two game-sealing free throws with 5.2 seconds remaining in overtime.
LeBronJames scored 34 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Miami, but missed a long 3-pointer at the end of regulation and another 28-foot try as the shot clock was expiring late in overtime and the Heat down by two.
The Heat had a chance to win it at the end of regulation after Johnson knotted the game, but chose not to call timeout for a final play. Instead, they worked the clock down and set up James for a 28-footer that banged off the side of the rim just before the buzzer.
“Out of rhythm,” said James, who hadn’t played in about a week while dealing with a sprained left ankle. “My teammates did a good job keeping the game close.”
Miami had three game-tying scores in overtime, the last of those coming when James made a 3-pointer with 51.9 seconds left. The Heat didn’t score again.
“Give Atlanta credit,” said Wade, who didn’t try a shot in overtime. “Just as well as we fought back into it, they fought as well. Good Eastern Conference game.”
Atlanta got 15 points and 12 rebounds from Smith, 15 points from Mike Bibby and 11 from Mo Evans. Atlanta played most of the second half without Al Horford, who sprained his right ankle early in the third and departed with six points and nine rebounds.
Eddie House scored 12 for Miami, and Mario Chalmers added 10.
Miami’s lead was 70-64 when Wade made a fadeaway jumper with 4:26 left, but the Heat picked the wrong time to go cold.
Smith started Atlanta’s late-game burst with a driving dunk that he later said would count as one of his highlight-reel efforts. Bibby’s fourth 3-pointer of the game with 2:32 left got Atlanta within 72-70. Evans tied it a half-minute later with a pair of free throws, Smith hit two more to give the Hawks the lead, and Bibby made another for a 75-72 edge with 1:23 remaining.
That’s when James tried to take over.
“We know Dwyane and LeBron were going to be aggressive enough to where they were pretty much going to get theirs,” Johnson said. “We wanted to limit the other guys around them and I thought we did a great job of that.”
According to STATS LLC, only Dennis Rodman — who had 16 rebounds with no shots of any sort three times in a three-week span for San Antonio in January 1994 — has had a stat line like the one Anthony offered Tuesday.
Atlanta nearly held the Heat to single digits in the opening quarter, with Chalmers‘ buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the first saving Miami from that indignity. Atlanta led 19-11 after one, with James starting 1 for 8 from the floor.
The Hawks’ befuddling of Miami continued in the second. When Bibby hit a 3-pointer with 6:37 to play in the half, Atlanta led 30-17.
Miami rallied quickly, scoring the game’s next 13 points, James getting five of them, including a shot in the lane with 2:47 left — moments after Anthony blocked a dunk attempt by Johnson — that knotted the game at 30. House’s 3-pointer 42 seconds later put the Heat on top, and Miami took a 35-34 lead into halftime.
It stayed close until the end.
“Guys knew this was going to be one of those games that even though it’s January that you get measured on,” Jamal Crawford said. “It’s a good barometer. They’re not fully healthy, but we’re not either.”
NOTES: The Hawks re-signed Damien Wilkins to a second 10-day contract earlier in the day. … Miami next plays Saturday against Toronto, then doesn’t play after that until Jan. 27 in New York.
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