By KEVIN MALLORY (Special to the Atlanta Hawks)
LeBron James turned Philips Arena into his personal playground, scoring 43 points in three quarters in leading the Miami Heat to a 106-85 rout of the Hawks on March 18.
James, who hit 16-of-21 shots from the field, including 5-of-7 three-pointers, poured in buckets from all over the floor while captivating a crowd of over 20,000.
“It got away in a hurry,” Hawks head coach Larry Drew said. “He [James] made shots over the top; he made shots at the three; he made shots beyond the three. He got into it and we just weren’t able to recover.”
In the third quarter, James and company took the air out of Atlanta’s sails by outscoring the Hawks 36-20, essentially putting the game out of reach. James scored 23 in that period alone, leaving Atlanta players voicing disappointment in their defensive effort on Miami’s 6-8 forward.
“I didn’t think we put enough resistance on him,” said Hawks’ Damien Wilkins, who scored 14 points with three steals in 21 minutes.
“He was way too comfortable, pulling up for jump shots and doing whatever he wanted to do. We showed him way too much respect,” Wilkins continued.
The third quarter epitomized the Heat’s dominance as they shot 58 percent from the field in the period. James and Dwyane Wade combined for six 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Atlanta shot 39 percent from the floor and seemed to have no answer for James and the Heat.
“Once a guy like that gets rolling, there’s no slowing him down,” said Marvin Williams, who led the team with 15 points off the bench. “I think the rest of his team just fed off of him.”
Al Horford, Joe Johnson, and Josh Smith combined for 30 points in a game that started to slip away in the second quarter when the Heat took a 50-37 lead into the half. Horford also expressed disappointment in Friday’s result.
“We had high expectations coming in for tonight’s game,” Horford said. “We kind of lost our focus in the second quarter. After that, we just couldn’t get back in it.
“We are going through a slump, and I feel like we’ve been going on it for a few weeks. We have to hang tough and just try to figure it out.”