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NBA Playoff Recap - Wednesday, April 29


Atlanta gained the upper hand against Miami. Denver put New Orleans out of its misery. The hour grows late in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
In Atlanta, a familiar story unfolded, as the Hawks walloped the Heat, 106-91, to take a 3-2 series lead. As was the case in Game 1, Mike Woodson's men lit up Philips Arena by getting to the rim against a slow-footed Heat defense. Then, when Miami defenders collapsed to choke off dribble penetration, the Hawks used drive-and-kick action to set up wide-open threes. This series has been a battle decided by the team that gets to the rim first--the more aggressive group has prevailed in each of the first five contests, and always by a double-digit margin. Just how superior were the Hawks at the offensive end of the floor? The East's No. 4 seed earned 33 trips to the foul line through the first three quarters, and finished with 41 free throw attempts in all. Miami superstar Dwyane Wade played through back pain to score 29 points, but once again, the Heat's brightest light didn't get much support from the role players surrounding him. Miami was once again outrebounded (37-29) and outworked, and unless that reality changes, the Hawks will close down this series, which returns to South Beach for Friday's Game 6.

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In Denver, the Nuggets won their first playoff series since 1994 by dismissing New Orleans, 107-86. George Karl's club needed only five games to bounce the injury-plagued and mentally whipped Hornets, who failed to get the best basketball Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler had to offer. After Monday's remarkable 58-point win by the West's No. 2 seed, virtually no one felt the Hornets had any prayer of extending this series to a Game 6, and for once, conventional wisdom was affirmed. New Orleans actually competed well--surprisingly well, in fact--for the first 30 minutes, forging a 62-all tie with 5:58 left in the third quarter. Then, however, reality set in. Denver ripped off a 26-6 burst to claim an 88-68 bulge with 10 minutes left in regulation. Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 34 points for Denver, and reserve guard J.R. Smith came off the bench to add 20 points for the Nuggets. David West popped in 24 points and added 9 rebounds for New Orleans, who will hope to retool in the coming offseason. Denver now awaits the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals. Game 1's date and tip time have yet to be announced.

By Matt Zemek
Pro-Basketball Fans staff-writer

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