Miami lost their way as Atlanta found their zone.
One night after winning by 39 points, Miami’s perfect start to the season came to an end as the rising Hawks rallied late to defeat the Heat, 100-92, in a statement game at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday. According to ESPN Stats & Information, heading into Monday’s contest Miami led the NBA in fast-break points (25.4), points in the paint (49.2), and points off turnovers per game (26.4). But against an effective Atlanta zone defense, the Heat fell well short of their season averages in each category -10, 38, 13, respectively- scoring a season-low in points as their offense struggled to get out in transition. The Hawks have yet to allow more than 100 points in a game by their opponent this season.
After Miami jumped out to an early 18-8 first quarter lead, Atlanta switched to zone successfully slowing the Heat down while disrupting their rhythm for long stretches. Down by 10 midway through the second quarter, the Hawks made a run to turn the momentum. A 17-5 run not only erased the deficit, but gave Atlanta their first lead at 44-42 when Al Horford (16 points, 9 rebounds) scored off a lob from Josh Smith (9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists). Miami quickly countered scoring the next eight points to surge ahead, but Atlanta wouldn’t back down as Joe Johnson (21 points), who was 4-for-4 in the period, knocked down a 3-pointer as the half expired to trim the Heats lead to three, 50-47, at the break.
Neither team lead by more than four points in the third quarter as Miami carried a 71-67 lead in the final period. Atlanta took control early in the fourth and never looked back. The reactivated Tracy McGrady returned to form and gave the Hawks a huge lift off the bench, leading a 15-3 run to start the quarter. McGrady and Jannero Pargo made 3-pointers midway through the fourth, giving Atlanta its largest lead at 82-74. The Heat cut the lead down to four twice, but they got no closer. In the final minutes, McGrady perhaps had two of the biggest plays of the evening. Off a set-play called during a time-out, the former seven-time All-Star lobbed the ball up to Smith, who scored an emphatic slam over Udonis Haslem, to extend the Hawks lead to six, 90-84. On the following play, the Florida native took the life out of the AmericanAirlines Arena crowd -which sat Lil’Wayne and actor Adrien Brody courtside- when he hit a long 3-pointer from the left wing to seal the win for the Hawks. McGrady, the franchise player-turned-journeyman, scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter to spoil Miami’s shot at recording the first 6-0 start in franchise history.
LeBron James led the Heat with 28 points, seven rebounds and six assists, on 11-of-18 shooting but didn’t receive much help from Dwyane Wade, who was 4-of-17 from the field for only 12 points. Despite his low scoring performance Wade dished out 10 assists for Miami, but it wasn’t enough to penetrate the Hawks’ zone defense. The Heat was 5-of-13 from three-point range, including 0-for-3 from Chris Bosh, who finished with 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field.
Miami (5-1) will have a chance to redeem themselves when they travel to Atlanta (4-1) on Thursday for a rematch.