MIAMI — Atlanta played zone defense. Tracy McGrady found his zone.
And with that, Miami’s unbeaten start came to an end.
Joe Johnson scored 21 points, McGrady hit a pair of big 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and the Hawks recovered from early 10-point deficits to beat the Heat 100-92 on Monday night.
McGrady and Al Horford each scored 16 for the Hawks (4-1), who opened the final period on a 15-3 run to take control. And McGrady made perhaps the two biggest plays of the night in the final minutes, first throwing a lob to Josh Smith for a dunk, then hitting a 3-pointer that gave the Hawks a 93-84 lead with 2:26 left.
“Been a long time since I had that feeling,” McGrady said. “It feels good. It feels right.”
LeBron James scored 28 points, Chris Bosh scored 19 and Dwyane Wade finished with 12 points and 10 assists for Miami (5-1).
The Heat were outscored 33-21 in the fourth quarter and struggled against Atlanta’s zone defense, which not only slowed Miami down but disrupted its rhythm for long stretches.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said not only was the zone effective on the court, it got into Miami’s heads as well.
“We need to work through it,” Spoelstra said. “Look, we’re going to see enough of it that we will have our breakthrough. We hope to have it sooner than later. … But you can see, our minds were heavy from that point on and our minds were occupied rather than playing free.”
Jeff Teague finished with 15 points for Atlanta.
McGrady and Jannero Pargo made 3-pointers midway through the fourth, giving Atlanta what was then its biggest lead at 82-74. Miami twice cut the lead to four, the second of those coming when Udonis Haslem made a free throw with 3:24 remaining.
The Heat got no closer. Off a set play called during a time-out, McGrady’s lob to Smith gave Atlanta some breathing room, and then the Florida native connected from beyond the arc on the left wing to essentially seal the win for the Hawks.
McGrady scored 13 in the fourth, his biggest final quarter since November 2008.
“He played exceptionally well,” James said of McGrady. “When you’re born a scorer, you’re always a scorer. No matter what may happen to athleticism or anything like that, he’s a natural born scorer and we saw that tonight.”