Miami Heat: LeBron, Wade, Bosh Dominate Another Top Team in the East

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IIFebruary 13, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 12:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket past Marvin Williams #24 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on February 12, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Miami Heat did it again.  They absolutely dominated a top Eastern Conference team, and they did so on the Atlanta Hawks' home court.

The Heat dropped the Hawks, who were coming off back-to-back wins against the Indiana Pacers and the Orlando Magic, and they did so by putting the Hawks on lockdown and dominating Atlanta in the paint.

Miami outscored Atlanta 44-18 on its way to an impressive 107-87 beatdown of the Atlanta Hawks, who are currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division.

Beating the Hawks comes as no surprise for Miami, as the Heat continue to show up in high-profile games, with wins against playoff-caliber teams like the Hawks, Celtics, Knicks, Pacers, Spurs, 76ers and Mavericks.

The Heat's issue this season hasn't been playing against top-level NBA talent.  Their main problem has been complacency, which keeps Miami and the Big Three from putting together complete games on a regular basis.

Sunday night's performance, though, was a preview of how dangerous the Miami Heat can be when they play together, play legitimate defense and get out into the fast break. What was supposed to be a Eastern Conference showdown quickly turned into a showcase for just how dangerous Miami can be when they decide to show up.

More important than displaying how good the Heat can be offensively, Miami shut down an Atlanta Hawks team that ranks second in three-point percentage with a 39.1 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

One of the Heat's biggest struggles this season has been their inability to defend on the perimeter, with a majority of their losses being a result of too much help-side defense, resulting in open three-point shots for opposing teams.

So how did the Heat keep the the second-best three-point shooting team in the NBA from beating them from beyond the arc?

The Heat did so by defending against the Hawks three-point shots as best they could and forcing Atlanta to win the game from inside the three-point line.

The Hawks still managed to shoot 40.1 percent from beyond the arc against Miami, which is right around their season average.  What the Heat managed to do was hold the Hawks to a 38.0 shooting percentage from inside the three-point line, which is significantly lower than their season-average 45.2 shooting percentage from the field.

Instead of doubling down on opponents driving into the paint, as the Heat have done all year, Miami played one-on-one man defense, forcing the Hawks' players to beat the Heat individually rather than beating them by hitting open shooters around the perimeter.

It was refreshing to watch the Heat switch things up on the defensive side of the ball, and while those changes may seem insignificant, they clearly made a big difference.

It will be interesting to see if Miami carries its new style of defense into tonight's matchup against the Milwaukee "Heatle Killer" Bucks, who've had the Heat's number so far this season, winning both matchups with the Heat.

Going into Milwaukee and beating the Bucks won't necessarily be a statement win, but it will show that the changes the Heat have made on the defensive side of the ball, have made them a more dangerous and complete team.

Who would've thought a game between the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks in early February would mean so much for Miami?