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Hawks-Heat to replay final 51 seconds of game

ATLANTA - For the first time since 1982, the NBA is sending two teams back to the court for a do-over.

The Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat must replay the final 51.9 seconds of their game last month because the official scorer ruled incorrectly that Shaquille O'Neal fouled out, the league said Friday.

The Hawks won 117-111 at home in overtime Dec. 19, but strike that one from the books. For now, playoff-contending Atlanta has one less win, while the Heat have one less loss on their miserable record.

'We're human. We make mistakes,' Hawks owner Michael Gearon said. 'There certainly wasn't anything malicious about it. We have one of the most senior scoring staffs in the league. They're good. It happened. There's not much we can do about it.'

The NBA said the replay will be held before the teams' next scheduled game: March 8 in Atlanta. Play will start from the time after O'Neal's disputed sixth foul, with the Hawks leading 114-111.

'Wait a minute! I picked up a win today, or lost a loss,' Heat coach Pat Riley quipped in New Orleans, where the Heat played the Hornets. 'I can wake up tomorrow knowing there's one less loss.'

The Hawks also were fined $50,000, with commissioner David Stern ruling the team was 'grossly negligent' in failing to address the mistake.

The protest is the first granted by the NBA since December 1982, when then-NBA commissioner Larry O'Brien upheld a request for a replay by the San Antonio Spurs after their 137-132 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers the previous month.

The Spurs and Lakers finished the game in April 1983, with San Antonio winning

117-114.

The Hawks were caught off guard by Stern's ruling, feeling he was trying to send a message in light of another scoring mistake that occurred in Atlanta early last season.

'Come on,' Gearon said. 'You can see how many times coaches, assistant coaches and trainers walk up to (the scoring table) during a game. They're walking up there for a reason. They're asking questions, whether it's confirming timeout or points or other issues.'

Team spokesman Arthur Triche said no one on the stat crew had been replaced, but changes have been made in the way they operate. Two people run the official book at courtside, while the four-person computer stat crew is 26 rows above the court in another press location. The two crews are supposed to check with each other if any discrepancies come up.

'While it was an honest mistake made on the table, there was a communication breakdown in not following through the procedures that are in place,' Triche said. 'That's why we're in this predicament.'