Mario Chalmers called it. The Heat’s point guard said “enough was enough” and he “couldn’t wait until Tuesday night” because it was starting “to get personal now.”
The man from Alaska laid down his Internet manifesto days in advance, but apparently the Hawks’ scouting report doesn’t include opposing players’ Twitter feeds. Maybe first-year coach Mike Budenholzer should consider the addition.
Chalmers let everyone know of his plans for domination and personal validation well in advance and still no one could stop him in the third quarter — not the Hawks and certainly not the NBA. In his first game back from a one-game suspension he felt was unwarranted, Chalmers scored 12 points in the third quarter of the Heat’s 104-88 victory against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Chalmers was so locked in to the zone in the third period that LeBron James just sat back and soaked in the moment.
Beyond half court and trailing a Heat fastbreak by about some 30 feet, James raised his arms in celebration before Chalmers’ third three-pointer of the third quarter even went down. The shot swished through the net, the Hawks called timeout and James rushed over to give Chalmers a congratulatory slap on the chest.
Chalmers scored nine consecutive points amid a 15-2 run and the Heat turned a close game into a blowout with a few possessions. James said Chalmers had “the ability to make a two-point lead turn into a double-digit lead very fast.”
Chalmers, upset about his suspension over the weekend, was more diplomatic after the victory. The NBA suspended him for a hard foul on Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki and Chalmers expressed his disappointment in the NBA’s decision with several passionate messages on Twitter. But Chalmers blamed himself more than anyone on Tuesday.
“It was more about just being out there with my teammates,” Chalmers said. “I feel like I let them down with the suspension and I always want to be there for my teammates.”
The Heat outscored the Hawks 30-23 in the third quarter and then cruised to victory in the fourth. Miami (8-3) won with ease despite starting shooting guard Dwyane Wade sitting out with a sore knee.
Chalmers finished with 14 points in 27 minutes, going 5 of 9 from the field and 3 of 6 from three-point range. He also had four assists and three rebounds to go along with three steals. James Jones started in place of Wade, marking the sixth starting lineup for the Heat in its first 11 games.
“Our core guys are still LeBron, D-Wade, [Chris Bosh] and Mario, so as long as we have three or four of those guys, the rest of our supporting cast just comes in and does what we do,” Jones said. “We make shots, we’re aggressive, we’re active and we moved the ball.”
Jones didn’t learn until 45 minutes before the game that he was starting. Still, he had seven points, including two three-pointers, in 15 minutes. It was just the second game he has appeared in this season.
“I prepare the same way every day regardless of if I’m playing or not,” Jones said. “I know I’m not playing for 45 minutes. I’m just in there for stints.”
James finished with 13 points, marking just the second time this season he has scored fewer than 20 points. He had 17 points against the Bulls in the season opener. James entered the Heat’s first game of the season against division opponent Atlanta with at least 30 points in his past three games.
In his first game back since recovering from flu-like symptoms, Ray Allen had 17 points, three rebounds and an assist. Allen was 5 of 10 from the field, 3 of 6 from three-point range and 1 of 1 from the free-throw line. He missed three games.
Udonis Haslem also returned to action Tuesday after missing four games with back spasms but did not take his normal place in the starting lineup. Haslem played eight minutes before fouling out. He had seven points and two rebounds.
Reserve Mike Scott led the Hawks with 15 points and starting forward Al Horford was held to 12 points. Lou Williams and Paul Millsap did not play for Atlanta (6-5).
A tense moment in the third quarter turned into just another spotlight for Bosh to show off his comedic timing. Chasing down a loose ball, Bosh went over and through the first row of fans seated near the Heat’s bench. There was a look of concern among Heat players and Shane Battier rushed over to help, but Bosh hopped to his feet in exaggerated fashion and gave the crowd a sarcastic thumbs up, extending his arm vertically into the air.
Bosh led the Heat with 19 points, going 8 of 9 from the field. He also had five rebounds.
“He has been aggressive,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He was able to play in space.”
Rashard Lewis led the Heat with five steals. Miami forced 24 turnovers and held the Hawks to 44.6 percent shooting from the field.
The Heat’s first rotation off the bench consisted of Norris Cole, Allen, Lewis and Chris Andersen matched with James. Michael Beasley checked in for James with 1:21 left in the first quarter and Haslem substituted into the game with 30 seconds left in the quarter. Eleven players played in the first quarter for the Heat.