Tracy McGrady and Zone Defense End Perfection for Heat

Tracy McGrady has had big nights before, big fourth quarters. But it’s been a while. I’m pretty sure it felt good, scoring 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Atlanta Hawks in a 100-92 win in Miami over the Heat, handing the big three their first loss of the season.

LeBron James was very good, not incredible. Chris Bosh was the usual, and Dwyane Wade, who keeps yo-yoing up and down between game winning shots, was terrible, at least with his shooting. He finished with 12 points, shooting 4-17 from the field, but did dish out 10 assists, 8 of them in the first half. LeBron James finished with the known statistical line of 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Problem for the Heat was their overall game, and their half court play on both ends. They struggled against the zone that Atlanta faced them with, turning the ball over 16 times. They were outscored in the paint, which hasn’t happened this season, and couldn’t create steals and points off turnovers. Too many things that the Heat rely on, mostly their defense creating easy points for them, didn’t work against the Hawks.

Joe Johnson was the leading scorer for Atlanta with 21 points, but it was Tracy McGrady’s night, especially in the end. It’s been more than 3 years since McGrady was that good in the final minutes of a basketball game. He put up a big assist to Josh Smith and then pretty much finished the game with a three with 2:26 left, giving the Hawks a nine point lead.

Miami did get the highlight reel going for a while, which usually gets them clear of their opponents, but not this time. The Hawks moved their feet, and returned quickly enough to defend the Heat who don’t like Half Court type of games too much. They struggled with that against the Mavs in the NBA finals, and Spoelstra will have to come up with some answers because the zone defenses will start springing up pretty quickly after Monday night.

LeBron James and co. have enough talent to win even in the games when things don’t go so well, like their Charlotte Bobcats win last week. Dwyane Wade will not have too many nights like these. The Miami Heat, despite their first loss, should still be considered the favorites to win the NBA. But the moment sharks smell blood… you know the rest. This season, it’s harder to fix things in motion.