The Atlanta Hawks are heading back to the playoffs for the first time in nine years. They probably won’t get much of a final tuneup in their regular-season finale.
In a game with no impact on their postseason position, the Hawks look to sweep the season series from the woeful Miami Heat for the first time in 17 years on Wednesday, while the Heat try to avoid finishing with the worst record in franchise history.
Just four seasons ago, Atlanta (37-44) finished a franchise-worst 13-69, its sixth straight year finishing fifth or worse in its division.
Despite a losing record this season, the Hawks locked up the final spot in the Eastern Conference when Indiana lost to Washington on Monday. Atlanta is heading back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and will open the postseason against top-seeded Boston.
“It feels great,” said Josh Childress, whose rookie season was the 2004-05 debacle. “There’s a real sense of accomplishment. But we’ve still got a job to do.”
Before opening the playoffs against the Celtics, the team with the best record in the NBA, the Hawks wrap up the regular season versus the Heat, who own the league’s worst record.
Miami (14-67) needs to win its finale to avoid setting the worst record in franchise history. The Heat went 15-67 in their inaugural 1988-89 season.
The Hawks are 3-0 against Miami this season after winning only three of the previous 20 meetings. Atlanta has not swept a season series against the Heat since 1990-91.
The Hawks beat the Heat 82-79 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Nov. 21, winning for just the second time in their last 22 trips to Miami.
With its playoff fate already sealed, Atlanta lost to Orlando 121-105 on Tuesday.
The Hawks and Magic each substituted liberally, but Atlanta still couldn’t match Orlando’s intensity.
“It obviously did mean something, in the sense that he wanted to build some momentum going into the playoffs,” Childress said. “We weren’t as crisp as we should have been. We didn’t come out with the focus and intensity we should have.”
Joe Johnson, who leads the Hawks in scoring at 21.9 points, had only 10 points in 24 minutes on Tuesday. He averaged 28.7 points and 7.0 assists in three games against the Heat this season.
Miami lost to Toronto 91-75 on Monday, and has dropped 21 of its last 24 games.
“It’s been one of those years,” Miami coach Pat Riley said. “I’ve never been through one like this, with all the things that have happened, never even come close to a season like this.”