Hawks-Heat Game One: Miami Fans Will Try to Forget

Patrick ParsonsAnalyst IApril 21, 2009

ATLANTA - APRIL 19: Udonis Haslem #40, L, and Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat sit on the bench during the final seconds of their loss to the Atlanta Hawks during Game One of the First Round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 19, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Hawks defeated the Heat 90-64. 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 Doug Benc/Getty Images)

After Dwyane Wade's dunk off of a screen to start the game, the Miami Heat had very little to celebrate in their Playoff-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Josh Smith was flying above defenders and catching alley-oops headed for the nosebleeds. Joe Johnson was playing within the flow of the game for a change. Al Horford was protecting the paint and hitting his open jumpers. Zaza Pachulia was diving for loose balls despite the Hawks' 25-point lead. Marvin Williams played efficiently, and Mike Bibby looked like a real point guard.

Dwyane Wade flopped, turned the ball over, and forced up shots. Michael Beasley forced up even more and never passed. Mario Chalmers looked like a rookie, and Jermaine O'Neal like a senior citizen. James Jones couldn't play defense, and Erik Spoelstra didn't know how to manage his lineup. Jamaal Magloire didn't play, and Jamario Moon made just a short appearance.

The Heat's player of the game? Probably Joel Anthony, who had a nice battle inside with Zaza.

The Hawks took advantage of their home-court advantage and looked like a team on a mission.

The Heat? They didn't even look like an NBA team.

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All night, Atlanta played within themselves, limiting the isolation plays, setting up suffocating defense, and frustrating Miami into submission. From the end of the first quarter until the end of the game, Atlanta controlled the pace and the scoreboard.

It is hard to determine just what came over the Hawks, but there are plenty of possibilities, that is for sure.

Hearing all week that Dwyane Wade could single-handedly beat them in a seven-game series, being told that they are without a player who can take over a game when needed, having to fight the NBA's plans for a Wade-LeBron second-round matchup; whatever it was, it motivated the Hawks to embarrass the Heat Sunday night.

But it's even harder to tell what came over the Heat. Perhaps the flu?

They played what could easily be described as their worst basketball of the season, and seemed to give up after halftime. That's something that should never happen in the Playoffs, especially when only down 20. Just look at what the Sixers did on Sunday for proof!

Wade shot just 8-of-21 for 19 points, 11 below his season average, and accompanied his poor shooting with eight turnovers. It was one of his poorest showings of the season.

The only other Heat player in double figures was Michael Beasley, who recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds but on a poor 5-of-15 clip.

The most troubling part of the night for the Heat? A halftime speech from Udonis Haslem, meant to affect his team positively, seem to have struck a nerve with Dwyane Wade, who didn't attempt his first shot of the second half until 10 minutes had passed in the third quarter. Wade was quoted after the game as saying, "I'm criticized if I take all the shots, [and] I'm criticized if I don't.''

Game Two of this series is Wednesday night, and if the Heat hope to steal one on the road, they will have to make adjustments on both offense and defense. In Game One, they lacked physicality in the lane and were unable to stop Josh Smith from getting to the basket. They were outrebounded 50-35 and gave up countless open dunk attempts and alley-oops. They allowed the Hawks to dictate the pace of the game, letting them run up and down the court all night.

On offense, the Heat were hesitant to attack the basket, and settled for too many contested jumpers and long-range shots. They were just 4-of-23 from beyond the arc and committed 18 turnovers to just 12 assists. Their 64 points were a franchise postseason low, and they scored just seven points in the fourth quarter despite the Hawks letting up on defense.

The Heat need to make changes, and quick.