The Miami Heat dominated the Atlanta Hawks wire-to-wire and cruised to a 98-81 victory. The Hawks never held a lead in the game as they fell behind on the opening Heat possession as Mario Chalmers hit a three-pointer (his first of four). Atlanta was able to tie the game at 28-28 early in the second quarter after falling behind by as many as 12 in the first, but the Heat proved too much for the Hawks.
Neither team shot well with the Hawks shooting 42.3% and the Heat shooting 42.7%, but it was the Hawks' inability to take care of the ball and the Heat's free throw parade that ended any chance they had at the upset. While the Hawks forced 16 Heat turnovers for 19 points, Atlanta had 24 turnovers leading to 27 Miami points. Miami took 16 more free throws than the Hawks making 22-of-30 from the charity stripe, while the Hawks were 10-for-14. The Heat also had 17 second chance points on 14 offensive rebounds (Hawks had nine on 10 ORs).
At Monday's practice Larry Drew emphasized the importance of taking care of the basketball and not allowing the Heat to get easy baskets, but a number of early turnovers and bad shots derailed that plan. Josh Smith had a pair of early turnovers along with three long two-point jump shots in the first five minutes which helped put the Hawks in an early hole that proved too difficult to dig out of.
The Heat's "Big Three" were held in check, combining for 42 points on just 18-of-41 shooting. Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 23 points and he added six rebounds and five steals. LeBron James struggled to just 15 points, seven boards, and seven assists on 3-of-11 shooting (Yes, that's a bad LeBron night now), while Chris Bosh had 14 points and just three rebounds.
The Hawks' three best players had an even worse night. Al Horford had his worst shooting night in months going 6-of-13 from the field for just 12 points and six rebounds. Josh Smith finished with 15 points and six rebounds on 7-of-16 shooting, and Jeff Teague had just 12 points and four assists. No one else reached double-digits for the Hawks.
The Hawks will have to bounce back quickly as the Lakers come into town tomorrow night and are 8-2 in their last ten and are coming off a big win in Dwight Howard's return to Orlando. Atlanta needs to find a way to get Jeff Teague going if they are to beat the Lakers to earn the season-series split. Teague struggled in their first meeting, but should be able to take advantage of an athletic mismatch with Steve Nash. Tip-off will be at 7:30 at Philips Arena Wednesday night.