It’s true that there was plenty of showtime basketball in the way LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played to lead the Miami Heat to their 8th consecutive victory, including an off the glass alley-oop dunk, but it was mostly about simply being much better than their opponents.
The Atlanta Hawks are a nice team, but there’s a reason they struggle against the Miami Heat; more than once actually. They cave under serious defense, and their best player, Josh Smith, simply becomes a different player when he sees LeBron up and close. Smith was once again terrible, scoring only 10 points on a 5-13 night from the field, while the Heat ran away with the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 40 points to the Hawks’ 17, winning 103-90.
James wasn’t as prolific and destructive like during the 30-point, 60% run before the All-Star break, but he did enough with scoring and other things. He led the Heat with 24 points, but he also added 6 rebounds, 11 assists and 4 steals, had 8 assists in the 4th quarter alone. He assisted on 8 of the Heat’s 14 field goals, and had more assists than the Hawks had field goals in that quarter. It was also the best quarter Miami have had in the Big 3 era.
A big help for the Heat, especially in the final quarter, came from the bench. Shane Battier finished the game with 17 points, making 5-8 from beyond the arc. Ray Allen wasn’t exactly a sharpshooter from 3 (2-6), but did score 15 points on a 6-12 night from the field, as double digit scoring hasn’t been coming very easy for him lately, but with the Heat confident enough to not force the game on James, Wade (20 points) and Bosh, it might be a good chance for him to rebound after a rough period.
Ray has proven that he has been one of the elite fourth-quarter players in the league for a long time. If you leave him open in the fourth you’re going to hear the groans from the crowd like tonight. We don’t win games in 12, 24 minutes, 36 minutes,” James said. “We’ve got to take 48 minutes. It was a good test for us coming out of the break. It took us a little while to get into our offensive rhythm.
For the home crowd, besides the loss, the bigger question was Josh Smith, and whether or not that was his final game for the Atlanta Hawks. Smith has been having an up & down season but says that all the confusion and questions aren’t affecting him.
If I’m here or not, I’m going to still play hard. his organization has given me so much. They gave me a chance to play my dream. We’ll have to wait and see what happens. I understand it’s a business and whatever happens, happens. No love lost. If I’m still here, I’m going to compete and fight for a playoff position.
The Heat struggled on the boards (losing 33-42), but when they have such an easy time creating open shots, especially in the fourth, partially because of great defense (forcing 19 turnovers), fixing the rebounding problem can wait for another day.