ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Hawks were feeling a lot better about their playoff chances after two wins in less than three hours.
Taking a page from baseball, the Hawks played a doubleheader of sorts against the Miami Heat on Saturday night, finishing off the last 51.9 seconds of a disputed game from December before their regularly scheduled contest.
Atlanta, claiming the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference with 20 games left, held off the hapless Heat 114-111 in overtime to start the evening, as neither team scored during its brief time on the court. After a 15-minute break, Joe Johnson matched a season high with 39 points and the Hawks held on in another nail-biter, 97-94.
"My heart was jumping," Atlanta rookie Al Horford said. "But we'll take the two wins. We're back in the playoff race. Hopefully this will give us some momentum."
The replay was ordered by the NBA, which upheld Miami's protest of a 117-111 loss to the Hawks on Dec. 19. The Atlanta stat crew mistakenly ruled Shaquille O'Neal had fouled out in the extra period, when he actually had only five fouls.
O'Neal wasn't even around for the league's first do-over in a quarter-century, having been traded to Phoenix last month.
"That first 51 seconds, it was crazy. It was just very weird," Miami's Dwyane Wade said. "But it was cool to be part of it."
In the "nightcap," Johnson hit 15 of 27 from the field and doled out eight assists, helping the Hawks hold off the league's worst team twice in the same evening.
"It's a great thing to get those wins," said Johnson, who scored 28 points in the first half. "That's all that matters."
Miami had several chances to force yet overtime in the regular game. Ricky Davis, who led Miami with 27 points, and Wade, who added 24, both missed 3-pointers in the final minute. The Heat had one more look after Salim Stoudamire missed a free throw with 3.9 seconds left.
Daequan Cook got off yet another 3 just before the buzzer, but it clanked off the rim and the Hawks escaped.
There was no overtime at the end. That came at the beginning.
"Come on Hawks fans, it's overtime!" the Hawks announcer yelled to the arriving crowd. "Let's make some noise!"
The replay took a little more than two minutes. Miami had the ball first, but Mark Blount missed a turnaround jumper in the lane. Johnson had a chance to clinch it for the Hawks, but his bank shot rolled off the rim with 19 seconds to go.
Miami raced down court and called timeout to set up a play that could have forced a second OT -- more than 2½ months after the first one began. The Heat got the ball to Wade, but he missed a desperation 3 from the corner with 1.5 seconds left.
Wade ran off the court with a smile, while embattled Hawks coach Mike Woodson pumped his fist. The disputed game certainly meant a lot more to Atlanta than it did to the hapless Heat.
"We made every play we needed to make in those 51 seconds," Woodson said.
The Hawks seemed a bit confused about what to do after winning the replay. The players lingered on the court for a few seconds, then headed toward the locker room. But they had to return quickly to begin warming up for the regular game.
One of the officials, Scott Foster, couldn't resist having a little fun.
"That was the best game I've ever had," he said at the scoring table. "I didn't make one mistake."
Atlanta, trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, moved a half-game ahead of New Jersey for the final spot in the East when the Nets lost at Dallas. But five teams are within three games of the Hawks.
Miami (11-50) has the worst record in the NBA, its postseason hopes long since abandoned. If coach Pat Riley had known how this season would turn out, he probably wouldn't have bothered protesting the December loss.
"Back then -- it seems so long ago -- we were desperate," Riley said. "We were fighting desperately every night to try to stay in games and win games. We thought we were going to get out of this funk we were in.
"But it's all turned around on us."
NBA commissioner David Stern ruled the Hawks were "grossly negligent" in their stat-keeping during the December game, and also fined the team $50,000. Atlanta officials said it was an honest mistake and thought the league was too harsh in its punishment.
The protest was the first granted by the NBA since December 1982, when then-commissioner Larry O'Brien upheld a request for a replay by the San Antonio Spurs after their 137-132 double-overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The teams finally finished the game in April 1983, with San Antonio winning 117-114. The Spurs won the regular game as well.
"Two for the price of one," the Hawks' website said, urging fans to come out for the doubleheader. "History will be made tonight."
Back in December, the Hawks were leading 112-111 in overtime when O'Neal was called for a sixth foul that was actually his fifth. Horford made two free throws after O'Neal's disputed foul. The Hawks were allowed to keep those points, giving them a 114-111 lead for the replay.
It stood up.
Taking into account that O'Neal had been traded and the Hawks dealt away four players for point Mike Bibby at the trade deadline, the league allowed both teams to use players acquired since the disputed game.
Shawn Marion, who came to Miami in the O'Neal trade, was in the Heat's lineup, meaning he will officially go down as having played for two different teams on the same day -- and losing both times. He scored 23 points for the Suns in their Dec. 19 loss at Dallas; he gets credit for 52 seconds (and a rebound) playing for the Heat.
"I guess I can say I played twice on the same day: Phoenix against Dallas, Miami against Atlanta," Marion quipped.
- Riley dropped to 0-4 in protest-replay games. He was coach of the Lakers during the 1982-83 season.
- The Hawks took control of the regular game by holding Miami to 11 points in the third quarter.
- Josh Smith, with 13 points, was the only Atlanta player in double figures besides Johnson.