ATLANTA (AP) — On their last trip to Atlanta, the Miami Heat were missing two-thirds of their Big Three. This time, they were at full strength. The result was a laugher.
LeBron James scored 23 points, Dwyane Wade added 21 and Chris Bosh grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds, leading Miami to a 107-87 rout of the Hawks on Sunday night.
The Heat raced to a 22-point lead by halftime and made a big statement in the Southeast Division against the second-place Hawks, turning a supposed showdown into nothing more than a showcase for Miami’s trio of stars.
“We couldn’t script it (any) better,” James said.
By halftime, Wade had 21 points. James was rolling along with 14 points and nine rebounds. Bosh had already put a double-double in the books with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Heat went to the locker room with a commanding 63-41 advantage, the Hawks having surrendered their most points in a half this season.
That was quite a contrast from the first two meetings between the division rivals. Atlanta pulled off a stunning 100-92 win in Miami on Jan. 2, while the Heat bounced back three days later on the Hawks’ home court for a 116-109 victory in triple overtime.
James and Wade missed that second meeting, but Bosh carried the load with 33 points and 14 rebounds.
He had plenty of help in this one.
“You just have to give credit to the team effort on the defensive end,” Bosh said. “Everybody did their job, put bodies on guys. We just went up in traffic, got it with two hands. Just fundamental basketball.”
Miami won for the 10th time in its last 12 games, leading by as many as 32 before both coaches cleared their benches.
“When we play our best basketball, we can beat anybody,” James said. “You have to do the dirty work. You have to defend.”
Bosh finished with 14 points, complementing his strong work on the boards. James was active in the lane, as well, grabbing 13 rebounds, and he still found time to dole out six assists, too. Wade had a couple of steals and blocked a shot as the Heat totally clamped down on the Hawks, who shot just 39 percent and were outrebounded 52-38.
“They came out with an aggression,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “Against a team like this, you can’t fall prey into being seduced into taking jump shots. You have to get to the basket, and you have to get to the free-throw line. In the first half, we did not do that.”
The Hawks starters — four of whom were averaging in double figures — combined for just 40 points, led by Joe Johnson with 12. Willie Green actually led with 17 points, the reserves getting plenty of playing time with the game out of hand. Josh Smith had six points before the game was 3 minutes old. He had only one more basket the rest of the way.
“It almost seemed like they wanted it (more) than we did,” Johnson said.
Atlanta lost for the fourth time in its last five home games, the average margin in those defeats nearly 15 points. Even more troubling, Atlanta has fallen behind by at least 20 points in all four losses.
“I don’t know if it was a play they made or what, but it just baffles me,” Johnson said. “We’re sitting here in this locker room talking a good game and we go out there claiming we’re ready to play. Then we get out on the court and it’s like we haven’t even talked about the game plan. It hurts.”
Atlanta actually led 13-8 in the early going, but this one got away from the Hawks in a hurry. Miami ripped off nine straight points to take control, including a soaring dunk by James off a pass from Wade that would be a telling sign of things to come.
The Hawks failed to score over the final 4:30 of the first quarter, missing their last seven shots. Miami closed the period on an 11-0 run for a 30-18 lead, and it could’ve been even worse — James zipped a pass to Udonis Haslem under the basket, but he missed the layup just before the buzzer as James punched at the air in frustration.
That was about the only lowlight for the Heat. James kept his foot on the pedal at the start of the second quarter, tipping in his own miss and knocking down two free throws to make it a 16-point game. The Hawks got a brief spark off the bench from Green, whose 3-pointer cut the deficit to 36-29 with about 7½ minutes remaining the in the half.
That was as close as the Hawks would get. Miami outscored the home team 27-12 the rest of the period, not shooting all that well but dominating the boards. The Heat closed the half with a staggering 31-13 rebounding edge.
Johnson didn’t have any rebounds, a glaring shortcoming on a team missing All-Star center Al Horford.
“I take that on me personally,” Johnson said. “I’ve got to get in there and help the bigs. I’m doing a poor job.”
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