Miami (36-30) at Atlanta (27-41)

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  • Game info: 7:00 pm EDT Wed Mar 21, 2007
  • TV: SUN, FSS
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The Miami Heat have improved their standing in the Eastern Conference playoff race, even without star guard Dwyane Wade.

While Wade continues to rehabilitate his dislocated left shoulder, the Heat look to start a new winning streak when they visit the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.

Miami had its nine-game win streak snapped with a 97-83 loss to Orlando on Sunday that also ended its run of 14 consecutive home victories. Both streaks were the longest in the NBA.

The Heat (36-30) were missing Wade and point guard Gary Payton, who’s listed as day-to-day with a strained right groin, but remained in possession of the fifth-best record in the East.

“Everybody wants a piece of the playoffs right now,” Miami coach Pat Riley said. “They don’t care where they get in, they just want a piece of the playoffs.

“Sometimes you need to get sobered up, smacked in the face. Today was exactly that. Orlando was really good. They were exceptional in every facet of the game and totally outplayed us.”

The Heat posted their lowest point total since a 103-79 loss to Cleveland on Feb. 9. Still, they are 10-3 without Wade, who says he’s feeling better, though there is no timetable for his return.

“Physically, I’m doing good,” Wade said Monday. “I’ve been working out every day and doing what they’re telling me to do. So I’m doing all right.

“It’s always hard not to get on the court and not to do something that you love doing, especially at this time of the year. This is the exciting part of the season, going into the playoffs. It’s hard, but my team is playing well.”

When Wade got hurt on Feb. 21, the Heat were fighting for one of the remaining few playoff spots. Now, they are comfortably in the race and challenging Washington for the Southeast Division title, even without the reigning NBA finals MVP.

Miami has a 13-19 road record this season, but has won its last two road games since losing nine of 11.

One team the Heat haven’t had trouble beating—home or away—is the Hawks. The Heat have won both meetings this season and 15 of the last 17 between the teams. Miami has won five of the last six games in Atlanta.

The Hawks beat Sacramento 99-76 on Monday night in the opener of a four-game homestand. Atlanta (27-41) had lost consecutive road games coming into the contest, but picked up its fifth straight home win.

“We’ve been trying to protect our home court and five in a row at home shows some progress,” said Hawks forward Marvin Williams, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. “We’re working hard to take care of things on the defensive end and let the offense handle itself. Tonight was a good example of that.”

Josh Childress scored a season-high 25 points as he started his seventh straight game in place of Hawks leading scorer Joe Johnson, who remains day-to-day with a right calf contusion.

Atlanta handed out 32 assists, its most since April 14, 2004, when the team also had 32 in a 137-132 loss to Boston.

“We really need to try to duplicate this the next game,” Childress said. “We had 32 assists, which was amazing. It made us so hard to guard.”

Atlanta hasn’t won six straight at home since March 11-26, 2002.

These teams meet for the final time on Monday in Miami.

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Wednesday, Mar 21