The Miami Heat thoroughly outplayed the Atlanta Hawks in the second half to pull away from an impressive Eastern rival for the victory.
In a game similar to the efficient dismantling recently of the Brooklyn Nets, the defending champs didn't just turn it on in the final quarter to get the victory and instead consistently played well on both ends of the court.
- Another "bounce-back" game for Dwyane Wade, and easily one of his best games so far this season - if not his best performance. Without forcing matters and letting the game come to him, Wade was in a comfort zone with 26 points on an unreal 11-13 shooting performance. Not to be outdone, LeBron James was his usual masterful self with a stats-filling performance while having fun all night setting up his teammates while attacking the rim relentlessly (and that monster dunk from the Norris Cole alley-oop was positively eye-popping).
- The first half featured 17 lead changes, a good indicator of just how evenly these two teams played.
- Eight straight points by LeBron to close the scoring for the Heat in the first half, finishing 7-10 from the field for 16 points at that point in the game.
- The Heat once again allowed the opposing team to get hot from the outside, allowing the Hawks to go 7-15 on 3-point shooting in the first half. Miami did get back on track in the second half defensively and Atlanta only hit two more for the rest of the game.
- Shooting almost 60% for most of the game, they still couldn't truly pull away from the newly resurgent Atlanta Hawks. Some of that was due to the atrocious free throw shooting but a lot of it had to do with Josh Smith, who put on a shooting display in the first half. When he was hitting shots from all points on the floor, he was shooting air-balls. Go figure.
- Even with Udonis Haslem out for the night with the flu, the Heat showed plenty of hustle in this one. One such play occurred in the second quarter, though it also depended on an unlikely person. Referee Karl Lane tried to get out of the way but ended up actually saving the ball from going out of bounds for what would have been a LeBron James turnover that instead turned into a Chalmers assist for the easy LeBron layup. Another great hustle play came from Ray Allen for saving the ball from going out of bounds and Norris Cole for out-jumping two Hawks players, then flipping the ball uncontested for a LeBron dunk. Allen didn't much else with another quiet shooting night, as did Rashard Lewis with another wasted chance as a starter.
- Al Horford continued the season-long trend of big nights from the opposing team's center at the Heat's expense. Haslem could have helped out the cause but at the end of the day both teams were equal in rebounds grabbed and showed just as much weak interior defense tonight as the Heat have displayed many times this season.
- Norris Cole had another solid outing off the bench, which translated into Mario Chalmers again watching the fourth quarter from the bench. Cole did a great job on defense and showed the kind of range he had displayed during the preseason.
- Bottom line, while the offensive exploits of Wade and LeBron were much appreciated and very entertaining, this game was won on the defensive end after halftime, with Atlanta only managing 20 and 18 points in the final two quarters.
For more on the game, check out Peachtree Hoops