ATLANTA -- Here are three things we learned from the Hawks' 98-85 victory over the Miami Heat, clinching Atlanta's seventh consecutive postseason appearance and a season-series split against the defending champions (2-all):
1. Kudos to the Hawks for wrapping up a playoff spot earlier than expected

On April 2, just 10 days ago, the Hawks suffered a gut-wrenching home defeat to the Bulls, a loss that momentarily dropped Atlanta below the New York Knicks (34-45) for the eighth and final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.

Morale must have been pretty low then, with the Hawks seemingly squandering a once-academic postseason spot to the Knicks -- one of the NBA's most sporadic clubs.

But Atlanta pulled things together over the next four nights, sprinting past Cleveland at home (117-98) and then crushing Indiana on the road -- the infamous game where the Pacers mustered only 23 first-half points and trailed by 33 at the break.

Throw in a pair of victories against playoff locks on back-to-back nights (Brooklyn, Miami) ... and it's funny how quickly the Hawks-Knicks battle fizzled in NBA circles.

"We've had a pretty interesting week ... guys have been healthy of late, and we're starting to click again," said Hawks forward Kyle Korver, who holds the NBA record for most consecutive games with at least one three-pointer (127).

Korver (one triple on Saturday) was also excited about the Hawks' defensive effort in the second half, limiting the explosive Heat to just 36 points. His coach took pride in that stingy occurrence, as well.

"I'm just happy that we get to play more games, and that I get more chances to talk (to the media) about 'improving' and 'getting better,'" said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, with a hint of dry sarcasm.

Safely in the playoff clubhouse at 37-43, Atlanta can now rest up over the final two regular-season games, knowing the real deal starts next Saturday or Sunday ... when the club opens on the road for Games 1 and 2 (against Miami or Indiana).

"I've been (in the playoffs) every year of my career," said guard Jeff Teague (25 points, three assists, four rebounds, four steals vs. Miami). "I'm just excited for my teammates."