Given a limited five-game NBA slate from which to choose, basketball fans selected the Southeast Division contest between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks to headline NBA TV's weekly "Fan Night" broadcast. And while the two teams entered Tuesday separated by just one game in the standings, with new Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, emerging point guard Jeff Teague and understated-but-awesome center Al Horford leading a top-10 offense that seemed capable of posing problems for Miami's still-warming-up defense, NBA TV analyst (and BDL commentating favorite) Chris Webber saw only one truly pivotal point in breaking down the matchup:
I mean, it's probably a little more complicated than that, but "having LeBron James in the lineup" has worked pretty well for the Heat over the past three-plus seasons — they entered Tuesday with a record of 170-57 in regular-season games in which he's suited up — so getting him awake and transported to the arena does seem like a pretty stellar #strat.
The Hawks hung tough past halftime without their own injured star, Paul Millsap, who was sidelined by right elbow tendinitis, but succumbed to a third-quarter Miami blitz that saw the Heat rip off 8-0 and 12-0 runs thanks to hot shooting from Mario Chalmers (who scored 12 of his 14 points in the frame on 4 for 6 shooting, including 3 for 4 from 3-point range) and James' attention-grabbing and playmaking (four assists in the third, including on a pair of Chalmers triples).
The Hawks never cut the lead below single digits again, and Miami breezed to a 104-88 win behind 19 points on 8 for 9 shooting (and some nice hustle) from Chris Bosh, and strong bench contributions from Ray Allen (17 points, 3 for 6 from deep) and Norris Cole (eight points, nine assists, five rebounds, two turnovers in 25 minutes). Just having LeBron get on the bus is obviously good enough, but it's awful nice for Erik Spoelstra when the other guys get off it, too.
James said before the game that "his back isn't fully right from his recent bout of back spasms," according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, but he still managed 13 points, six assists and five rebounds in 31 minutes. The Heat expect to have Wade back Wednesday for the second half of their back-to-back against the Orlando Magic.
Hat-tip to r/NBA.
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