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LeBron, Heat don't miss a beat, defeat Hawks

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- It did not take long for LeBron James and the Miami Heat to shake off the rust from the All-Star Weekend break.

James pumped in 24 points and tallied 11 assists to lead the Heat to a 103-90 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night at Philips Arena.

"Well," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "if you tuned in, hopefully you saw the start and the finish and nothing in between. It was uneven basketball.

"It's the consistency and not getting bored with a game. If you relax even for a five-minute stretch against a very good team like that, that's what happens. It's a 15-20 point swing in a matter of minutes. Your lead can evaporate that quickly."

In a game of runs -- more than usual -- the Miami Heat were the ones on top at the end,

James led the Heat (37-14) with 24 points, 18 of them in the first half, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first half. Dwyane Wade scored 20 quiet points.

"We don't win games in 12, 24 minutes, 36 minutes," James said. "We've got to take 48 minutes. It was a good test for us coming out of the break."

Shane Battier had 17 points. including five 3-pointers, and Ray Allen's 15 late-game points helped keep the Heat in the lead.

"They made some tough shots," Hawks coach Larry Drew said of Battier and Allen. "But we lost them a couple of times. That just can't happen."

Al Horford, who was perfect from the field until 2:45 in the third quarter, scored 27 points to lead the Hawks. He made 12 of 15 shots and pulled down nine rebounds.

Josh Smith, in what might have been his last game as a Hawk, didn't score until 1:27 of the second quarter, finishing with 10 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. He raised his left hand in a wave, lingering on the court for a moment before giving his trademark headband to a fan.

"I think it will be a relief for all the questions I keep answering," Smith said about Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline. "Whether it happens or not, I'm going to still play hard. This organization gave me so much over the years. They gave me a chance to [live] my dream, so we'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Kyle Korver scored 12 points and extended his streak of consecutive games making a 3-point shot to 46.

The Hawks (29-23) committed a whopping 21 turnovers.

The Hawks came out running in the second half, reeling off a 10-0 run to jump on the Heat, 67-56. The Heat returned the favor to start the fourth quarter. Down 73-63 after the third, the Heat went on a 11-0 run, erasing the 10-point deficit in two minutes.

Both teams were showing rust from the All-Star break layoff, the Heat shooting 32 percent and the Hawks shooting 36.8 percent in the first quarter.

Not until Ivan Johnson came off the bench late in the quarter did the Hawks show any energy or toughness. Johnson's 10 first-half points helped the Hawks go on a 13-5 run, which resulted in a 44-43 lead at 1:08, their first lead since the opening play of the game.

Notes: The Heat begin the second half of the season with three road games. They play the Bulls in Chicago on Thursday and the Sixers in Philadelphia on Saturday. Erik Spoelstra, in his second-half message to the team, is emphasizing maintaining focus and consistency on the road. ... Wednesday morning, Spoelstra showed his team clips from two years ago and it was obvious, he said, how much they have improved on offense since then. ... Mike Miller, unable to fly due to a head cold, was not with the team for the game against the Hawks but Spoelstra is hopeful he can join them Thursday in Chicago. ... Dexter Pittman has been assigned to the D-League. ... Drew said before the game that there has been "dialogue" and "conversation" about "our situation if nothing changes." Drew was referencing the trade deadline but he didn't mean Smith, about whom there have been constant rumors. He meant the point guard situation in light of Devin Harris' chronically injured feet. ... But speaking of Smith and how he is handling the trade rumors, Drew said, "He's been totally focused in everything we've done. He's handled himself in a professional manner. And I didn't expect anything different."
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