The Miami Heat (21-7) picked a perfect time to put together a dominant road effort. On the opening night of the team's first back-to-back-to-back of the season, Miami dominated the Atlanta Hawks (18-10) from the start and coasted to a 107-87 victory.
Chris Bosh posted a first-half double-double (the first of his Heat tenure) and Dwyane Wade scored all 21 of his points in the first half as Miami took control of the game early on. Miami outscored the Hawks 30-18 in the opening period and led 63-41 at the half.
Bosh set a season-high for rebounds, hauling down 16 boards and finishing with 14 points. LeBron James had as quiet a 23-point, 13-rebound, 6-assist game as one can imagine, doing most of his damage in the first quarter. James' 13 rebounds tied his season high. For once, the Heat didn't need late-game heroics from any of the Big Three. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was pleased with his team's 48-minute effort. "It was a solid, disciplined team win. It was as close as we've gotten to our identity on both ends," Spoelstra said. "There was a focus and commitment to our identity." Asked to elaborate on what the Heat's identity is, Spoelstra said, "To defend and be an attacking team offensively."
It was the first road game the Heat controlled from start to finish since the season opener at Dallas. Recent road outings at Philadelphia and Washington look like blowouts based on their final scores, but the outcomes of those matchups weren't decided until the final period. There was no such drama Sunday night. Miami stretched a 22-point lead to 27 by the end of the third, which allowed Spoelstra to rest James and Wade for the entire fourth quarter, and Bosh for most of it.
The Heat will be well-rested when they take on Milwaukee (12-15) Monday night. It will be Miami's second visit to the Bradley Center in the past twelve days. The Bucks have won the first two matchups of the season, including a 105-97 victory on Feb. 1. "Our guys understand what's happened this year," Spoelstra said. "They've beaten us both times, and pretty solidly. We have to move on and put this game behind us, so there are no excuses tomorrow."
The Heat now sit just one game behind the Chicago Bulls for the first seed in the Eastern Conference. Dexter Pittman bruised his left shoulder in a collision with former Heat legend *sarcasm* Erick Dampier late in the fourth quarter. Spoelstra said Pittman's status for tomorrow's game is in the air.