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Hawks soar past Heat, Nuggets crush Mavs

THE Hawks, led by Joe Johnson's 27 points, will meet the Cavaliers in the conference semifinals beginning today in Cleveland.

"This is a special feeling, to be out there in a game like this and knowing that we're moving on to the next round," Johnson told reporters.

In the West, the Denver Nuggets rolled past the Dallas Mavericks 109-95 to open their Western Conference semifinal series with a comfortable win.

In Atlanta, the Hawks blew open the game in the second quarter to open a 13-point halftime lead, which they continued to stretch as the game progressed before easing in the closing minutes.

Dwyane Wade scored 31 points in a losing cause for the Heat.

The second-round playoff appearance will be the first in a decade for the Hawks, the fourth-seeded team in the East.

Johnson was particularly effective for Atlanta from three-point range, hitting six of eight attempts for 18 points.

"They (the Hawks) got hot," Wade said. "They got their star, Joe, to hit 40-foot 3-pointers. And when that happens it's a tough night."

Atlanta's Josh Smith added 21 points and nine rebounds, Ronald Murray contributed 15 points and Mike Bibby provided 11.

Wade carried Miami with only Michael Beasley and Udonis Haslem joining him in twin figures. Beasley had 17 points, and added Haslem 14 points and 13 rebounds before ejected in the fourth quarter for a flagrant foul.

In Denver, Nene, the Nuggets' Brazilian center, scored 24 points and Carmelo Anthony added 23.

"We know they are a great shooting team, but we are a power team," Nene said. Nene had 18 points in 18 minutes in the first half and Anthony scored 19 in the second half.

"We seemed to have had a hot player throughout the game," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I don't think they liked playing at a higher speed, where we like to. Being aggressive is a desire of ours."

Dirk Nowitzki had 28 points and 10 rebounds for Dallas.

"I felt like in the first quarter I had some good looks and then after that they made me work for everything I got," said the German forward, who had 13 points in the opening quarter. "They have got a lot of big bodies they can throw at me, and they did a good job."


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