[caption id="attachment_4004" align="aligncenter" width="414" caption="House: Murder, He Wrote | Smith: Taking Jojo for a Ride"][/caption]Coming off three losses in a row, Miami was to search for the consistency present in their dominating 22-2 (both losses to Mavericks) run after their last three-game losing streak in November. The ball movement, the tenacious defense, the aggressive play from their fiery duo and the thunderous rain from a flank of deadly shooters were primed for a return. The search would find zilch. First Half For an NBA game, the first quarter resembled more soccer and hot potato than professional basketball. Bad passes were abundant and dribbles going off people’s legs had the crowd screaming for goals. A 4-of-19 (James and Wade combined for 2-of-13) display of questionable shot selection would be slightly relieved from 11-straight missed shots by a Chalmers buzzer beater, putting the Heat above single digits to a visually acceptable 11-19 hindrance. A cocktail of baffling offensive choices, lineup experiments and lethargic defensive coverage would put the lifeless Heat in a 13 point hole by mid-second quarter. In the flick of a switch, Miami would finally tire of the Hawks taking all the honey and began swarming every possession with suffocating intensity. Turnovers would lead to transition buckets and the will to resist long jumpers would fuel a 24-point quarter, putting the Heat at a 35-36 deficit at the half. Aesthetic note: The ugly was not solely Miami’s to account for with their 31% shooting spree. The Hawks would contribute to amateur night with 36% shot accuracy in the half on one of the most forgettable halves this season. Second Half The first half was an exchange of runs and the second an exchange of grinding blows. Twenty minutes of regulation served as solid punches to the body but the last four were fatigued swings at nothing but air. With the Heat down two, Miami was happy to continue their indulge in nauseous ball: Wade would uncharacteristically lose the ball twice, commit a foul on an offensive rebound awarding free throws to the Hawks and James would miss a corner step-back three. Atlanta would oblige by fouling at half court giving James free throws and Joe Johson throwing a ghastly alley-oop too high for even a 10-foot Josh Smith to reach, allowing a LeBron transition basket for the And-1. The final possession was the Heat’s to have, a timeout to draw up a play going unused and Wade resorting to a pick-and-roll with Chalmers who would ultimately feed it to James for a contested 30-footer. Heartbreaking, not because of the missed shot, but because of the missed possibilities. Overtime Overtime was like a dart board. The blue darts were amazing baskets from Joe Johnson while the red darts were James questionable but impossibly successful shots. The darts stuck on the wall were the unexplainable defensive lapses: first a snoozer as Wade strolls and looks towards the bench only to leave a wide open lane and a double team on JJ leaving Josh Smith open to drive against the smaller Wade (James was playing center). The final shot eerily resembled regulation - this time it would be James running a pick-and-roll with Chalmers, only to end with a contested 30-footer after a failed isolation play. No timeout, no play, no plan, no attempt for a high percentage basket. And so is the way for the 2011 Miami Heat. Hawks emerge from the trash compactor victorious, 93-89. Game Notes:
- An injured Bosh left the public to speculate on the replacement at tip-off. A debate of James for small ball or Howard for old ball broke out but neither side would have guessed Spoelstra’s peculiar decision to start Joel Anthony next to Ilgauskas. Joel would play all but 7 seconds of the 1st quarter. James started the second half at power forward with Joel getting the nod at center.
- Udonis Haslem sat on the bench for the first time since his injury. He walked around with a boot on, an encouraging change from his crutches.
- No Miller Time in Miami yet. Mike is still shaking off the incoming rust, going 0-2 in 9 minutes of play tonight. His 6-26 (.231 FG%) shooting is a team-low, notably from indecisive shooting and what must be a cumbersome wrist gadget. There’s still plenty of time this season to organically grow into his role, but the sooner the better. Miller could be the catalyst for nightly mismatch nightmares, handy in the playoffs.
- Tom Haberstroh discovered through the Elias Sports Bureau: Joel Anthony pulled down 16 rebounds without taking a single shot attempt in the entire game. Only two other players since 1967 have accomplished the feat: Dennis Rodman and Chamberlain.
- Miami is now 1-7 in games decided by 5 points or less. For kinder perspective, they bump up to 3-8 in games decided by 6 points or less. Championship habits are scarce, coaching habits in close games are absent so far. The proof is in the pudding.
- On the other side: Hoopinion.