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LeBron returns to score 34 but Heat still falter for 4th straight game

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MIAMI FL - JANUARY 18:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena on January 18 2011 in Miami Florida.
MIAMI FL - JANUARY 18: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Atlanta Hawks at American Airlines Arena on January 18 2011 in Miami Florida.

The way this game started you would think that each team was playing their 4th game in 5 nights (which the Heat have to do in a couple weeks).  Miami started out 4-of-18 from the field before Mario Chalmers hit a trey as the 1st quarter buzzer went off.  Still, the Heat scored just 11 points and trailed by 8 heading into the 2nd quarter. 

17 minutes into the game Miami had just 17 points.  That's when Eddie House came into the game, and that's when the Heat completely shifted the momentum.  They went on an 18-2 run that was absolutely sparked by an increase in defensive intensity and took the Heat from down by 13 to up by 4.  The first half was about as ugly as one could be, but at least Miami took a slim 35-34 lead into the break.

Miami started the 2nd half with a different lineup then they did the game.  LeBron James finished the opening half playing power forward and that's where he started the 3rd quarter.  Mario Chalmers and James Jones replaced Carlos Arroyo and Big Z, so the Heat were gonna roll with the small lineup that saw success during the last quarter.

Atlanta was getting a lot more opportunities to score then the Heat.  By the time the 3rd quarter was over the Hawks had taken 68 shots while the Heat had put up just 45.  That was a direct result of the Heat's 13 turnovers combined with 10 offensive boards for Atlanta.  If not for Joel Anthony rebounding like a maniac who knows where the Heat would have been in this one.

The 4th quarter started out very well for the Heat.   They went on a 9-1 run over the first 5½ minutes to go up by 4.  The game was definitely Miami's for the taking.  Atlanta had hit just two field goals at the 3 minute left mark, at which time they trailed the Heat by 6.   That's when the Hawks began to capitalize on serious defensive breakdowns by Miami that were caused by the players adjusting to the very different collection of players on the floor. 

It was D-Wade, LeBron, Eddie House, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony.  The normal help that the outside guys were used to getting in the paint just wasn't there, which led to lots of open shots and easy points for Atlanta.  Still, the Heat had the ball with the game tied, holding for the last shot.  It was a very ugly and unorganized possession, which led to a 30-foot LeBron triple for the win.  Definitely not the high percentage shot you look for, especially with a full 24 seconds to create something. 

LeBron would score 10 of the Heat's 12 points in overtime, but the defense was just not there.  Miami never led in overtime.  The Hawks started it by hitting an open triple and the Heat spent the next 5 minutes playing catch up.  They tied the game several times but in the end just couldn't come up with stops.  The biggest positive from this game is how many minutes the Heat was able to use some very different lineups.  Don't overlook the importance of getting the players to trust each other regardless of whether they are in their normal role or not. 

Joel Anthony had a monster game on the boards.  He collected them in bunches, finishing with a career-high 16.  8 offensive and 8 defensive.  Joel did this without even attempting a shot.  The last player with a large sum of rebounds without a field goal attempt was Emeka Okafor and his 9 rebounds.  We'll see if someone can match The Warden's 16. 

Other then Joel, the other Heat big guys didn't get much time out there last night.  Big Z started the game but played 13 min, Juwan Howard played 10 minutes and Erick Dampier was out there for just 5 min.  This is a combination of dealing with the Heat's lack of a dynamic, starting caliber big guy (Bosh, Udonis) and matching up with the smaller Hawks. 

GAME NOTES

  • While Carlos Arroyo started at the point, he played just 8 minutes.  Mario Chalmers played 40. 
  • Rio had a decent game, hitting 4-of-8 with 4 rebounds but just 1 assist. 
  • Mike Miller came in early, put up two quick treys that missed, and didn't really get back out there.  He finished with 10 minutes. 
  • Still getting more minutes was Eddie House, collecting 29.  He was just 2-of-5 from downtown.  I think the coaching staff's problem with House is finding the appropriate times to get his style of play out there. 
  • After a very rusty start to his night, LeBron finished 11-of-30 from the field and hit just 2 of his 10 three pointers.  He also finished with 34 points and 3 assists shy of a triple double (34-10-7).
  • D-Wade and LeBron combined to hit 21-of-23 from the foul line. 

Miami will now have ample time to work with their new lineups.  Their next game isn't until Saturday night when they host the Toronto Raptors.  I'm sure Chris Bosh will be pushing to play in that one.