Vivlamore reporting from Miami.
The Hawks had a chance to overtake the first-place Heat.
They are still looking up at the defending NBA champions. LeBron James was the biggest reason.
James scored a game-high 27 points as the Heat defeated the Hawks 101-92 Monday night at American Airlines Arena. James set a Heat regular-season record with his 24th consecutive 20-point game.
The Heat (14-5) used a 14-2 third-quarter run to break open a close game en route to the victory over the Hawks (12-6) in a battle for the Southeast Division lead. The Heat, winners of both games against the Hawks this season, now hold a 1.5 game lead in the division. The Heat also prevented the Hawks from taking over second place in the Eastern Conference.
“We just didn’t play aggressively in the second half,” guard Jeff Teague said. “We let them dictate how we were going to play, starting with me. We were kind of timid. We really didn’t have any fast-break points. From them playing at home, where they are very explosive, I think we were nervous to play our game.”
The Heat also got 26 points from Dwyane Wade and 14 points from Chris Bosh in a game where they shot 58.2 percent from the field. The Hawks were the only team in the NBA not to allow an opponent to shoot 50 percent from the field in a game this season.
The Hawks had a three-game win streak snapped and lost for only the second time in the past 11 games.
“They were scoring the ball at such will that we couldn’t get those missed shots and get out and run,” center Al Horford said. “When we did get the stops we were slowing it down. Those are things we have to go back and do a better job defensively so we can get more fast-break opportunities.”
Josh Smith led the Hawks with 22 points. Horford added 20 points and 11 rebounds for his sixth consecutive double-double game.
The Hawks only had four fast-break points, six second-chance points and 16 assists. When the Hawks got behind in the fourth quarter they started settling for jump shots, including 28 from behind the 3-point line.
“We are a team right now that I can easily say controls its own destiny,” center Zaza Pachulia said of the Hawks defensive issues. “So, I’m going to blame ourselves. We could have done a better job and we didn’t.”
The Heat took the first real control of the game in third quarter. They went on a 14-2 run, including nine straight points, to take a 10-point advantage. Wade scored eight points during the run.
The Heat led 56-54 at halftime on the strength of a James’ three-point play on their final possession. The Hawks trailed by just two points at intermission despite the Heat shooting a blistering 63.9 percent (23 of 36) from the field. At one point in the second quarter the Heat were shooting 69.2 percent from the field and led by only three points. James had 16 first-half points in building the lead.
The Hawks shot 46.3 percent in the first half (19 of 41). They stayed in the track meet of a game by hitting seven 3-pointers (four by Stevenson, three by Smith), causing five turnovers and holding a 17-16 rebound advantage.
“We made entirely too many mistakes, too many mental mistakes, against a very good basketball team,” coach Larry Drew said. “Against Miami you can’t do that. You have to be efficient with your defense. Offensively we had to execute. We ended up shooting too many 3s. We ended up shooting 28 3s and you better be making them if you are going to take that many.”
Most of the bounces in the first half went the Heats’ way. James got a dunk off a loose-ball scramble in the first quarter. He had a layup in the second on an errant pass that was headed out of bounds before it bounced off an official and right into his awaiting hands.
There were 17 lead changes and eight times tied in the first half.
The Hawks end their three-game road trip, which began with a victory over the Grizzlies, against the Magic on Wednesday.
“We see where we are at,” Horford said. “They are missing some guys (Udonis Haslem) and we are missing Kyle (Korver), a big part of our team. We feel good where we are at right now. We know we have some work ahead of us but we are confident as a team.”
- Chris Vivlamore
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