Confidence Meter 7.8 (simmering)
• So the Miami Heat win by a comfortable margin and the Bulls falter in Indiana, while the Celtics get their doors blown off in Houston. I guess you take those results and call it a good night. The win over Atlanta also gives the Heat the best division record and pretty much seals all the tie breakers with Orlando for the division title. The hunt for the #1 or #2 seed is what lies ahead though.
• LeBron James started 8-8 from the field and stayed hot throughout the contest. His 43-point, 3-quarter output easily outdoes his 51-point performance versus Orlando earlier this season. This was his finest performance as a Miami Heat player. 43 points on 22 shots in 31 minutes. WHO in the NBA can do that? Well, Dwyane Wade can. So hot was James that the Hawks fans just threw up their hands and cheered him on from halftime on. His 16-for-21 performance also featured two missed layups, so that really shows how really hot he actually was from the outside.
• The Heat’s scintillating 11-for-22 performance from three was highlighted by James of course, but it also featured a 3-for-4 performance from Wade. In a game where Wade had 9 shots and Chris Bosh had 8, the Heat win by more than 20 and the Big Three combine for 74. Efficiency to an extreme. This was born from a concerted effort to consistently attack the paint. LeBron James’ outside shooting barrage was born from it as well. The Hawks were not determined to cut off the driving lanes and allowed plenty of perimeter passing, and the Heat took advantage of it and got the Hawks rotating and blowing defensive assignments. This game was really over early.
• The Heat’s gaudy 50-27 rebound advantage was easily explained when you read the shot chart. The Heat shot a high percentage, while their defense kept Atlanta shooting contested jumpers. The Heat seemed to win every single 50/50 ball, and the Heat bigs vastly outplayed the Hawk bigs. Effort was key in this one. Atlanta has laid more than this one egg at home this year. Strange, for what has traditionally been a very good team playing at the “Highlight Factory”.
• Hawks coach Larry Drew decided to not use Kirk Hinrich to defend Wade to much surprise. After all the talk of Hinrich’s success versus Wade in the past, I guess Drew did not get the memo. It didn’t really matter though since Wade started a inefficient 1-for-4 in the early going while being guarded by Joe Johnson. Johnson only took 8 shots because of a concerted effort by the Heat to deny him any Isolation opportunities.
• The Denver Nuggets come in as one of the hottest teams in the NBA on a second of a back-to-back after losing a heart breaker at the buzzer to Jameer Nelson‘s three pointer in Orlando. Late in that game they lost Raymond Felton to what appeared to be a ankle injury. JR Smith also left the game earlier due to the same ailment. So the Heat’s “luck” may be turning.