LeBron James of the Miami Heat looks on during his team's game against the Atlanta Hawks at AmericanAirlines Arena Tuesday in Miami.
For the Miami Heat, the third quarter was pretty much the whole story. Chris Bosh tumbled over some courtside seats on one end, and LeBron James apologized to a few fans during one particularly frustrating moment on the other.
In between, Mario Chalmers gave the Heat all the boost they needed.
Chalmers went on a personal 9-0 run in a 39-second span of the period, Bosh led all scorers with 19 points on 8-for-9 shooting, and the Heat went on to beat the Atlanta Hawks 104-88 on Tuesday night for their fourth straight victory.
"We just try to get out in transition, let our defense be our offense most of the time and keep working from there," Chalmers said.
Ray Allen scored 17 in his first game back from a bout with the flu. Chalmers had 12 of his 14 in the third quarter for the Heat, who were without Dwyane Wade for the second time this season. James finished with a season-low 13 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Heat (8-3), and no starter played in the final 12 minutes while backups put away the game.
"We're very confident in our lineup we got, man," James said. "Those guys continue to play well. They continue to work together and it's great to have a Hall of Famer in that lineup with Ray coming back."
Mike Scott scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Atlanta, which got 12 points apiece from Al Horford and Pero Antic. Kyle Korver made three 3-pointers for the Hawks, extending his streak to 84 consecutive games with at least one make from beyond the arc, five shy of matching Dana Barros' NBA record.
"It's a constant battle," Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said of playing the Heat. "They take away something. Hopefully you can find something else. At times we did and at times we didn't."
Miami's lead was 56-54 in the third quarter when Chalmers got hot — in a hurry. James Jones, who started in place of Wade, actually started what became a 15-2 run with a 3-pointer, and then Chalmers got going.
He cut across the lane for a reverse layup while getting fouled, then made a 3-pointer from the left wing after an Atlanta turnover. Jeff Teague missed a layup on the next Atlanta possession, James wound up throwing a chest pass from about 50 feet to Chalmers, who pulled up on the catch and connected on another 3-pointer from the same spot.
Just like that, 56-54 became 68-54. And Bosh provided one of the night's highlights by giving the crowd a rather comical thumbs-up after his dive into the expensive seats, plus was thrilled to learn afterward that the photo quickly made its rounds on social media.
"You don't get to go in the stands much," Bosh said.
Atlanta carved the deficit to 10 entering the fourth, but the Heat — with five reserves on the court — then showed off their depth.
Allen scored Miami's first 12 points of the final quarter, Michael Beasley added the next four, and the Heat lead grew 94-78 with 5 minutes remaining, ensuring that the two-time defending NBA champions would keep their starters on the bench for the entirety of the final period. Norris Cole finished with eight points, nine assists and five rebounds for Miami.
"Our starters are rooting them on," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They understand the importance of that group."
Neither team led by more than six points in the first half, one where the Hawks held James scoreless for the first 16 minutes. James never really got on a sustained roll offensively, though Miami didn't need him to get there, either. James scored 10 points in the second quarter, and only three in the rest of the game.
Even without Wade, and on a night Miami used its sixth starting lineup in 11 games, that didn't matter.
"They're a great defensive team," Korver said. "They were able to really trap the ball. With LeBron in the back, they're able to cover every passing angle – it seems like that. Nothing really feels open."
Atlanta was without forward Paul Millsap, out with right elbow tendinitis. Gustavo Ayon started in his place.
NOTES: Heat F Udonis Haslem had a fairly odd stat line: seven points and six fouls in eight minutes, the fastest anyone has fouled out of an NBA game since Feb. 16, 2011. Haslem had missed Miami's last four games with back spasms. ... James is now two free throws away from the 5,000th make from the line in his career. ... Spoelstra improved his winning percentage to .6617. If Miami wins at Orlando on Wednesday, he would pass legendary Boston coach Red Auerbach (.6619) on the NBA's career list, among coaches with more than 400 games. ... Atlanta finished with 22 assists, and the Hawks have had at least 20 in every game this season.