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Playoff berth gives Hawks longest streak in conference

ATLANTA — The longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances in the Eastern Conference belongs to the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks clinched their seventh straight playoff berth and delivered a blow to the Miami Heat’s hopes of earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with an impressive 98-85 win over the defending champions Saturday at Philips Arena.

Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague had 25 points, and guard Lou Williams came off the bench to add 23, 18 coming in the fourth quarter, as the Hawks recorded their second consecutive win over the Heat.

A day after beating the Indiana Pacers and moving into first place in the Eastern Conference, the Heat looked sluggish. They turned it over 20 times, leading to 29 Atlanta points.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade returned to the starting lineup after missing nine games with a strained left hamstring. He hit his first seven field goals and finished with 24 points in 24 minutes.

Miami forward LeBron James had 27 points and eight rebounds.

Miami (54-26) enters its final two games tied with Indiana in the race for the No. 1 seed.

Miami finishes the season at the Washington Wizards on Monday and at home against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday. The Pacers host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday and finish up at the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. If both teams win out, Indiana owns the tiebreaker over the Heat.

The Hawks (37-43) are locked into the eighth seed and will face either the Pacers or Heat in the first round. Atlanta won at Indiana, 107-88, on April 6. The Hawks split the season series with Heat.

The Hawks took a 69-62 lead into the fourth quarter Saturday. Williams’ three-point play pushed the lead to 11 early in the quarter, and Atlanta answered every Miami challenge en route to its third straight win.

Led by Williams and forward Mike Scott, the Hawks’ bench outscored the Miami reserves 35-8.

Teague was spectacular, pushing the pace and severely outplaying the Miami point guards. He’s averaging 22 points during the Hawks’ three-game winning streak.

Notes: Heat G Dwyane Wade made his first appearance against the Hawks this season. He sat out the three previous meetings. Wade, who missed the last nine games with a strained hamstring, made all seven of his field goals in the first half. … Hawks six-time NBA All-Star Lou Hudson died Friday. Hudson, who played 13 seasons in the NBA, 11 with the Hawks, is one of three players whose retired jerseys hang at Philips Arena. “Sweet Lou” scored the first basket in Hawks history. Hudson was 70. A moment of silence was observed before the game. … Atlanta ended a nine-game losing streak to the Heat with a 121-114 home win on Jan. 20. … Hawks PG Jeff Teague made an acrobatic reverse layup in the first quarter but missed the ensuing foul shot, ending his streak of 24 consecutive made free throws.