Try as they might, the Atlanta Hawks' reserves rallied back from a 20-point deficit to tie their contest against LeBron James and the Miami Heat's first unit. But ultimately, the Best Team Ever* (to finish behind the Chicago Bulls) was able to get it done down the stretch.
James had 34 points, including the last four three down the stretch, to lead the Heat to a 98-90 win over the Hawks on Monday night at Philips Arena.
Dwyane Wade added 21 points and Chris Bosh had 15 for Miami, which clinched the No. 2 spot in the East with their win over Atlanta and the Boston Celtics' overtime loss to the Washington Wizards. Miami will have the home court advantage over Boston if the two teams meet the second round of the playoffs.
Atlanta trailed by as many as 20 in this one before coach Larry Drew lifted Atlanta's starters in favor of the reserves in the final quarter. The second unit showed a fight that was lacking from the starters as the Hawks chipped away.
Zaza Pachulia went to the bucket hard with 3:29 left to cut the lead to 88-87 and irked Zydrunas Ilgauskas by landing an errant elbow as he finished the play. Ilgauskas responded on the next play by throwing the ball at Pachulia, picking up a technical and an ejection as Jamal Crawford went to the line to tie it.
But Atlanta went cold down the stretch as the Heat closed the game with a 10-2 run to take the season series by a 3-1 margin.
Josh Smith had 17 points and Jamal Crawford 13 for Atlanta, which extended its season-worst losing streak to five games.
Atlanta closes out the season against the Charlotte Bobcats in the Queen City on Wednesday.