Sunday, April 26, 2009

Heat dominates the Hawks in Game 3

Fueled by a raucous home crowd in black, the Heat broke several franchise playoff records in a thorough dismantling of the Hawks in Game 3.

When James Jones banks in a three-pointer off the top frame of the backboard, things are going well for the Heat.

When Udonis Haslem grabs as many rebounds in the first quarter as the Hawks do, it has the makings of a special night for Miami.

And when Jermaine O'Neal turns back the clock and turns in the type of post play that made him a six-time All-Star, it's obvious the Heat could almost do no wrong.

Mix those performances with Dwyane Wade's typical brilliance, and Miami can seem unstoppable.

That was the case throughout Saturday's 107-78 dismantling of the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The victory gave the Heat a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 playoff series and a chance to take a commanding lead at home Monday in Game 4.

From emphatically swatting shots, to throwing down dunks, to setting up teammates, Wade did a bit of it all on the way to closing with 29 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and four blocks.

''D. Wade is kind of at another level right now,'' O'Neal said Saturday. ``He's playing out of this world. He's the guy that sets the table for everything, and we're going to feed off what he does.''

It was a big enough feast to go around for Miami, which rebounded from a disastrous 26-point loss in Game 1 of the series to rout the Hawks in each of the past two games.

Saturday's 29-point victory margin was Miami's largest in the playoffs since it beat Charlotte 93-63 in 2004. The Heat also set a franchise playoff record for free-throw percentage by going 19 of 19.

In a 108-93 victory at Atlanta in Game 2 on Wednesday, the Heat pulled away by setting a franchise playoff record with 15 threes to snatch away home-court advantage.

On Saturday night, the Heat did it with offensive balance and a dominant defensive effort. Miami set a franchise playoff record with 12 blocks and held Atlanta to 29 points in the first half, an opponent playoff low. Miami also won the rebounding battle 48-38, including a 15-10 edge on the offensive glass.


''They came right out and jumped on us,'' Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. ``They were the most aggressive team. We've got to find some momentum to get back in this thing. I thought the Heat did everything that they were supposed to do, and we just didn't answer the bell.''

Mike Bibby, Josh Smith and Al Horford each scored 13 points to lead the Hawks, who got 10 points from All-Star Joe Johnson and shot 36.7 percent from the field. Atlanta was without starting small forward Marvin Williams (wrist injury).

''It was like a double boom,'' Bibby said of the Hawks inability to make shots combined with the Heat's stingy defense. ``We know Wade is going to get his points. We can't let other guys do what they're doing.''

The Heat, however, got big contributions from its starters, with all five scoring in double figures.

O'Neal, whose production has increased in each game of the series, had 22 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in his second double-double since he was acquired from Toronto in a Feb. 13 trade. Haslem, who missed the final six games with a thumb injury, had 12 points and 13 rebounds, with nine boards in the first quarter.

Rookie point guard Mario Chalmers, who had averaged six points in the first two games of the series, had 15 points and four steals.

Jones, who became the starting small forward the series, had his best game with 11 points after hitting all three of his three-pointers.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said O'Neal, who got off to a slow start after the trade, is playing with a sense of urgency in the playoffs.

''This is why you make a deal like that,'' Spoelstra said of the trade that sent small forward Shawn Marion to Toronto for O'Neal to establish a post presence.

``He's seizing the opportunity -- playing a patiently aggressive game. And we're establishing something in the post.''

The Heat used an 18-4 run to open the game, then closed the first half with a 28-8 spurt to pull away. The miraculous bounce on Jones' three-pointer was the highlight of the second run.


Jones launched the shot from in front of the Heat's bench, watched the ball bounce high off the rim, bang off the top of the backboard and fall through the net to give his team a 38-27 lead.

It was the second game in a row the Heat got an unbelievable bounce from beyond the arc. Wade made a 30-foot bank shot during a rally in Game 2.

''We all want to see each other succeed,'' Wade said. ``I care about all my teammates. But by no means was that shot better than mine.''

Thank MICHAEL WALLACE of the Miami Herald for the story.

Game 4 Monday night at the triple A.

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