MIAMI - The Atlanta Hawks, who came into Monday night's game as the hottest team in the Eastern Conference, left AmericanAirlines Arena soundly beaten by the Miami Heat, 101-92.
The Heat led by just two points at the half but started to pull away with a 14-2 run in the third quarter. They led by eight to start the fourth quarter and were never seriously threatened thereafter.
LeBron James led the Heat with 27 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and he set a franchise record with his 24th consecutive game with at least 20 points. Teammate Dwyane Wade held the record previously.
Wade was the Heat's second-leading scorer Monday with 26 points. Miami is 7-1 when Wade scores 20 or more points.
The Heat are also 10-1 at home.
But an under-the-radar key to the Heat win was the play of reserve guard Norris Cole. He scored 10 points, making all four of his shots, including two three-pointers. He also added four assists and played the entire fourth quarter for the second straight game.
Starting point guard Mario Chalmers had four points.
Had they lost, the Heat would have surrendered first place in the Southeast Division to the Hawks. Instead, the Heat (14-5) lead the Hawks (12-6) by 11/2 games.
The Heat, who won last month in Atlanta, are 2-0 this season against the Hawks, with two games remaining in the series.
The Hawks, who have already won on the road against NBA heavyweights Memphis and Oklahoma City this season, could not add the Heat to that list.
Atlanta, now 9-2 over its past 11 games, was led by Josh Smith, who had 22 points and six assists. Teammate Al Horford had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
But the Hawks' quick guards, who were a chief concern of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra before the game, never got untracked. Jeff Teague, Devin Harris and super-sub Louis Williams were held to a combined total of 26 points.
NOTES: Heat forward Udonis Haslem, who started the previous two games, did not play Monday due to the flu. Spoelstra said Haslem wanted to play despite being sick. "He has not eaten in a day," the coach said. "We're locking the doors so he can't come in here." . . . Heat forward Rashard Lewis, who did not play in the previous two games due to Spoelstra's decision, started in Haslem's place. It was Lewis' fourth start of the season. . . . Hawks shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who was rested in Saturday's win at Memphis, was back in the starting lineup against the Heat. It was his 10th start of the season. . . . Kyle Korver, who started the Hawks' first 13 games this season, is still out with a back injury. He has missed five straight games, although he worked out in Atlanta on Monday. "If it all checks out, he will join us in Orlando (for Tuesday's) practice," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. . . . Drew said people tend to underestimate forward Josh Smith's versatility. "He can defend all five positions," Drew said. "His game has matured." . . . Next up for the Hawks is a game at Orlando on Wednesday night. The Heat plays host to Golden State on Wednesday night.