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Miami Heat forward LeBron James and center Chris Bosh participate in a pregame observance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., before the team play the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/MCT)

Heat defenseless without Wade, fall 121-114 to Hawks

ATLANTA -- There is no defense for the Miami Heat's first halves.

No, really, there's absolutely no defense.

"Defensively," center Chris Bosh said, "we're not ready to play."

"It's not good basketball right now," forward LeBron James added.

"Right now," forward Shane Battier said, "the other team gets the full menu of what they want."

"A through Z, there wasn't a lot of pride on that side of the court," coach Erik Spoelstra summed up.

Monday, the Heat allowed 71 over the first two periods to the Atlanta Hawks. Over the past four games, the opposition has averaged 64.5 points at halftime.

That again left the Heat in chase mode.

This time the chase failed, leaving the Heat 2-4 on their six-game trip, with a 121-114 loss at Philips Arena.

"We're not a defensive team right now," Bosh said in a subdued locker room. "We didn't deserve to win today."

But with James scoring 30, Bosh adding 21, starting point guard Mario Chalmers matching his season high with 17 points and backup point guard Norris Cole adding eight assists, the Heat almost did.

Almost . . . before Hawks guard Kyle Korver converted a late 3-pointer to foil a Heat rally from 12 down, with an earlier pair of 3-pointers by James briefly putting the Heat ahead.

And so, the Heat reached the midpoint of their schedule at 29-12, with no rest after this six-game trip, instead just a Tuesday home game against the Boston Celtics.

"We have to decide what we want to do defensively," Spoelstra said. "It's something we have to figure out."

The equation could be simplified Tuesday, with Dwyane Wade expected to return after sitting out Monday to rest his sore knees. Ray Allen stepped in for Wade and busted out of his shooting slump, making all four of his 3-point attempts, albeit with all four attempts coming in the first half.

But this isn't about offense.

"We scored enough points to win," James said. "So, obviously, it's defense.

"We didn't have the effort for 48 minutes tonight."

There was little talk afterward about the comeback, a gritty effort considering the Heat have not played at AmericanAirlines Arena in two weeks.

"It's mentally exhausting to go through this every single night," Battier said.

Able to get on a roll early, the Hawks found a second wind at the finish, led by 26 points from forward Paul Millsap, 19 from forward DeMarre Carroll and 17 from center Pero Antic.

"You have to exert the energy early to take their confidence away," Bosh said.

The Heat didn't. Instead, they mustered enough energy to rally, only to fall short, similar to their inability to come all the way back from a 34-point deficit in Washington on the third stop of the trip.

"We can't defy the odds," Bosh said.

The 71 first-half points were the most the Heat have allowed in any half this season. The problem was that just three games earlier they allowed 69 in the first half in Washington.

Going in, Spoelstra said of his team's defense, "We have moments where we look like the Miami Heat and where we're able to do things a little bit better, and even differently. And we have other times when we don't. And when we don't, we're giving up massive numbers against."

The first half proved to be truly "massive," yet not totally miserable.

Through it all, the Heat trailed by only one point at the intermission, their 70 points tying the Heat's high for any half this season, having also scored 70 in the second half against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 16.

It added up to only the second time in the franchise's 26 seasons the Heat played a game when both teams had at least 70 points at halftime. The other time was a 78-71 halftime deficit on April 12, 1990 to the Celtics, during the Heat's second season.

All five Heat starters scored in double figures by halftime. According to Elias Sports Bureau, they became the first team to do so since the Hawks on March 31, 2008 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

But in the second half, James and Bosh were the only Heat scorers in double figures, Allen and Battier, in fact, scoreless over the final two periods.

It was the 11th game Wade has missed this season, the 10th due to knee maintenance.

"It's just a little soreness in my knee," Wade said. "So I just want to take another day, hopefully, and see if it feels better (Tuesday). If not, then we'll revaluate it later."

The Heat, however, did get backup center Chris Andersen back. Andersen had missed the previous four games with knee soreness. That left Greg Oden as a spectator, amid his on-again, off-again comeback from four years of inactivity.

(c)2014 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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