The Hawks started the day Sunday with the fourth best record in the East, and just two games behind the Heat in the Southeast Division. The Heat and Bulls are the returning Conference Finalists, and generally regarded as a cut above the rest of the teams in the East. But the Hawks are right there record-wise, and this was a chance to show that they belonged in the conversation. Playing at home against the mighty Heat, a win would deliver the message that the Hawks are for real and intend to play a major role in the playoffs this season.
Consider the message undelivered. Every team has some number of games where they just fall flat. The energy is wrong, the shots aren't falling, it's just not their night. That the Hawks had such a night against the Heat in their final home game before departing on a tough five-game road trip is unfortunate. But based on this game you'd have to conclude that Miami is just a level above Atlanta.
The Heat went on a 22-5 run in the first quarter; a 22-4 run in the second; and a 17-6 run in the third. That third one was just for giggles, as the game was pretty much already over at that point. By the fourth quarter the game had the feel of the Old Timers games from long ago All-Star Weekends. Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier and Vladimir Radmanovic of the Hawks squared off against Juwan Howard, Shane Battier and Eddy Curry of the Heat. It was a hamstring injury waiting to happen.
Before the fourth, LeBron James had 23 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists in 30 minutes of play. Dwyane Wade had 21 points in just 24 minutes, and Chris Bosh scored 14 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Besides the Three Amigos, the Heat also got 25 points from their point guard position, with Mario Chalmers contributing 15 points on just seven shots and Norris Cole pitching in with 10.
Atlanta got off to a decent start -- and then the wheels came off. Josh Smith made his first three field goal attempts -- then went 1 for 9 the rest of the way. Jeff Teague made a couple of three-pointers early -- then missed his final five shot attempts. Marvin Williams was 2 for 9, Joe Johnson was 5 for 13. It was just a forgettable evening all around. Willie Green led the Hawks with 17 off the bench.
With the win, Miami moves to 21-7 on the season. Chicago lost in Boston, leaving the Heat tied with the Bulls in the loss column for best record in the East. Atlanta falls to 18-10 and needs to do some serious regrouping before facing the Lakers in L.A. on Tuesday.