Miami Heat: What Heat's 100-92 Loss to the Atlanta Hawks Means for the Season

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IIJanuary 2, 2012

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 26: LeBron James #6, Chris Bosh #1 and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat walk into position moments before losing to the Boston Celtics, 88-80, at the TD Banknorth Garden on October 26, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Heatles finally lost their first game, leaving no undefeated teams left in the NBA.  

So what does a 100-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks mean for the 2011-12 version of the Miami Heat?  In reality it doesn't mean all that much because it's only one game, but there's no fun in not reading into the ramifications of a Heat loss is there?

First of all losing to the Atlanta Hawks at home means that the Miami Heat will have some serious competition when it comes to having the best overall record in the NBA Southeast division.  The Hawks will compete with the Miami Heat because their roster is filled with athleticism at all positions.  The one difference between the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks is the offensive production at the center position, between Al Horford and Joel Anthony/Udonis Haslem.

In a set offense Joel Anthony and/or Udonis Haslem doesn't command double teams or even draw an increased focus out of opposing defenses, and that is something that will undoubtedly hold the Heat back throughout the 2011-12 NBA season.  Al Horford by himself averages 11.5 points per game, as compared to Haslem and Anthony's combined average of 10.0 points.

I know that is only a 1.5 point per game difference, but the kind of defensive focus and double teams that Horford commands opens up open offensive opportunities for his teammates, something that Haslem and Anthony do not do.   

In addition to the center position being exposed, the Hawks exposed the weakness present within the Heat's coaching staff, specifically Eirk Spoelstra.  The Atlanta Hawks outscored the Miami Heat 33-21 in the fourth quarter, which proved to be the difference maker in the game.  The Hawks, led by Tracy McGrady and Al Horford, outscored the Heat not because the Heat lacked the ability to stop the Hawks but because Erik Spoelstra did a terrible job of managing his roster rotations in the fourth quarter.

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 25:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat at American Airlines Center on December 25, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Hawks sunk the Heat by hitting open three-pointer after open three-pointer, which was a result of the Heat collapsing too early on defense.  The Heat's defense collapsed in the paint because Shane Battier could not contain the drive of Joe Johnson, something that LeBron James or Dwyane Wade could have done.  

While LeBron and Wade aren't necessarily better defenders, they have an athleticism and strength that Battier doesn't have that would have helped the Heat cut down on McGrady's open three-pointers, by containing Johnson on the perimeter.

It is the responsibility of the players to actually play the defense, but it's the coaches job to put the players in the best situation to do so and Spoelstra didn't do that tonight.

The Heat's loss to the Atlanta Hawks also proves that unless LeBron truly takes over the team, the Miami Heat will go as Dwyane Wade goes.  Wade went 4-17 from the field (23.5 percent) with only 12 points on the night.

The problem wasn't that Wade wasn't being a productive member of the team as he accounted for 10 assists.  The problem was that Wade continued to jack up contested shots and didn't facilitate the game to LeBron and Bosh, who were having solid nights shooting 61.1 and 44.4 percent respectively.

Whether the Heat are LeBron's team or Wade's team, both players need to realize when it's time to facilitate the game rather than trying to do too much offensively.  Miami has a ridiculous amount of talent on their roster and the Heat's player need to realize that it's okay to rely on each other when they aren't doing as well individually.   

The Heat's first loss doesn't really "prove" anything about the Miami Heat, as it was only one game.  What it did show about the Heat is that Miami isn't going to be perfect, they are going to lose games and what is most important for the Heat is how they respond when they lose.