Wade leads Heat past Atlanta

MIAMI " Dwyane Wade swished a 3-pointer, then turned and shook his hand like it was burning.

Yep, Wade and the Miami Heat are that hot right now.

Wade finished with 29 points and eight assists, Jermaine O'Neal added 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the Heat extended Atlanta's decade-plus road playoff drought, beating the Hawks 107-78 Saturday night in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference first-round matchup.

It was over early: Atlanta missed 17 of its first 19 shots, and a 25-6 Heat run to end the first half pushed the lead to 50-29.

"We knew there would be a lot of energy in the building, so we played off that early," Wade said. "And defensively we came out very tough."

Josh Smith, Al Horford and Mike Bibby scored 13 apiece for Atlanta, which is 0-12 in road playoff games since May 8, 1997, losing all but one by at least 10 points.

The Heat lead the series 2-1 and host Game 4 Monday night.

"No more excuses," Horford said. "We're going to have to bring it fuego on Monday."

When teams split the first two games of an NBA series, the Game 3 winner advances 76 percent of the time. And in recent years, the edge has been even more pronounced " of the last 27 series that were tied at 1-1, the Game 3 winner ultimately prevailed on 22 occasions.

That's a bad sign for the Hawks.

"By any means, we're not out of it," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "But we can't come out and give effort like we did tonight. I just thought the Heat did everything that they were supposed to do and we just didn't answer the bell tonight."

Before the game, the Hawks learned starting small forward Marvin Williams would sit out with a wrist injury. Their first shot of the night was from Horford, a 15-foot jumper that fell 2 feet shy of the rim.

It only got worse from there, especially with Wade at his highlight-reel best.

Defensively, he set the tone with a two-hand erasure of a shot by Mo Evans in the opening minutes, then a high-rising effort to swat an offering from Zaza Pachulia into the most expensive seats late in the third. Plus, he had dunks over two of the Hawks' biggest challengers " Smith got out of Wade's way on one, and Horford offered little resistance on another.

"D-Wade is kind of at another level right now," O'Neal said.

But just like in Game 2, when Miami took home-court advantage, Wade hardly had to go it alone. Mario Chalmers scored 15 points, Udonis Haslem came through with 12 points and 13 rebounds, and James Jones finished with 11 points for the Heat.

"It's not so much Wade, but that supporting cast that is making such a difference," Smith said. "If we can't stop them, it's going to make them a very tough team to beat."

Miami hit 12 shots from 3-point range " giving the Heat 27 in the last two games " and outrebounded Atlanta 48-35. For good measure, the Heat were a perfect 19-for-19 from the foul line.

The sellout, noisemaker-clanging, black-clad crowd had cause for mild concern late in the third, when Bibby hit a 3-pointer and Horford followed with a dunk to get Atlanta within 72-61.

The Heat regained control " quickly.

Wade set up Jones for a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in the third, found Chalmers for another 3-pointer to open the fourth, and it soon became a full-fledged rout.

The Hawks started the fourth 0-for-7, and when Smith got one to finally drop with 4:50 left, it only cut the deficit to 95-70.

"All of this doesn't really mean anything unless you get this next game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Atlanta left thinking the same thing, that a win Monday changes everything.

"This series is far from over," Bibby said, "but we need to get the next one."

Notes: Atlanta's 29-point showing was the third-lowest scoring first half in Hawks playoff history, and the best defensive first half in Heat playoff history. ... Tennis star Venus Williams was in the sellout crowd. ... Haslem had nine rebounds before the game was 9 minutes old. ... The Heat lost F Jamario Moon (abdominal strain) in the second quarter. ... Smith missed his first seven shots.


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