Anyone interested in winning this thing?

Who wants it more, Joe Johnson and the Atlanta Hawks or Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat? We'll find out Sunday afternoon in Game 7 at Philips Arena.

HAWKSVILLE - So it’s come to this.

Game 7 (Sunday afternoon at Philips Arena) in a series where neither the Hawks nor Heat has shown anything in the way of true desire to snatch this thing up and finish it.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock Friday night in yet another blowout – Game 6 looked like Games 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 – it started to make sense.

These two teams don’t know how to win in the playoffs (duh, news flash huh?). They’re simply not capable. There aren’t enough seasoned NBA playoff veterans on either roster to put the finishing touches on a series of this nature.

Joel Anthony and Solomon Jones. Mario West and Mario Chalmers. No offense to these fine young warriors, but there aren’t more than a handful of truly battle tested performers between these two teams that you could point to and know that you’re going to get a playoff-worthy effort from them night after night.

Injuries certainly have played a part in this series moving on to a seventh and final game. From Marvin Williams (doesn’t look good for Game 7) to Jermaine O’Neal (no way he sits another one out) to Al Horford (he’s a go) to both Dwyane Wade (name that bump or bruise) and Joe Johnson (I have a sneaking suspicion that the right ankle he tweaked twice in Game 5 has been bothering him much more and much longer than he’s willing to admit), a key player for either side has been missing basically every step of the way.

In the end, it won’t matter who suits up for Game 7, because someone has to go home after it’s all over. And someone has to move on to face LeBron James and his band of merry men. Someone HAS to, because the NBA will not wait for the Hawks and Heat to figure out if they’d both like to play their best on the same night. They need a winner Sunday so the world can move on.

The lack of killer instinct on both sides has been nothing short of deplorable. I couldn’t believe the emotionless performance the Hawks delivered in Game 6. There’s no way you expect a team to saunter onto the floor in a close out game with that kind of attitude (or lack thereof). Aside from Mike Bibby, there wasn’t a single player in a Hawks uniform that seemed interested in leaving AmericanAirlines Arena for Cleveland.

Whichever teams wins this series can rest assured that the Cavaliers will have no problem asserting themselves, be it in Atlanta, Miami or Cleveland, in the same situation. They made quick work of the Pistons and will do the same to either one of these teams if they can’t rise to the level of the moment and the competition.

The Hawks remain steadfast in their belief that the home court advantage they earned this season is going to be their saving grace. Could be. But I’d be nervous about resting my entire season on the percentages (the home team wins Game 7 a whopping 80 percent of the time in a seven-game series).

SO INSTEAD OF PLAYING MY OWN HUNCHES, I reached out to a couple of friends in the scout world for their opinions about this series, and particularly Game 7. They didn’t have a ton of praise for consistency of either team.

I asked for the Game 7 key for both teams and here’s what I got:

Mike Bibby has been the Hawks best and most consistent player in this series.

Mike Bibby has been the Hawks best and most consistent player in this series.

For the Hawks - It’s all about their defensive coverages. They switch almost everything, rotating guys and they can get away with it because of all their length and quickness. They’ve done a great job in the games they’ve won of closing out shooters and not allowing Wade to the turn the corner and drive to the lane and finish in his sweet spots. They haven’t allowed him to kill them at the line and they’ve done a good job of forcing the Heat to play them in transition. And that’s a game the Hawks win against almost anybody in the league when they are on top of their game. The problem has been on the offensive end more than anything. When they don’t move the ball, they leave Joe on an island with two and sometimes three guys closing in on him. And he’s not passing out of the traps and double teams fast enough, if he passes out of it at all, to make the defense rotate. That means the Hawks get one shot and they’re done. Because they are clearing out the lane for Joe to drive and work on his guy but he’s not driving. He’s settling for jump shots instead of forcing the issue. When he does that, their entire offense grinds to a halt and they don’t have enough good shooters to scare you in the half court. What they’re missing is their two-man game with Joe and Bibby on the left wing. They’ve run that to perfection at times this season, forcing whoever is guarding Bibby to switch off and guard Joe and vice a versa. They’d honestly be better of playing through Bibby in Game 7 and letting Joe work his man on the block and use his size to attack the Heat from a different angle as opposed to off the dribble. Bibby’s been their best player in this series. And that’s a wrinkle that works in a one-game set like they’re in now, because it causes the Heat to adjust on the fly. And if they get it right, that’s fine. The Hawks can go back to their default setting that’s worked well for them in three of the games and ride that. But whatever they do, they better feed those kids in the frontcourt, because they always play better when they are involved in the offense. They block more shots and rebound the ball better when they know they’re going to get fed a little bit on the other end. That’s always the key with your bigs. But if they get in iso mode and each guy tries to do it on his own, and that includes Flip Murray and Zaza Pachulia off the bench, they’re in trouble. So they have to careful about spreading that thing around and keeping everyone involved. They’re not a one-man team like Miami. They don’t have to play that way.

The Heat has been the more physical team in this series, even when they've lost.

The Heat has been the more physical team in this series, win or lose!

And for the Heat - It’s all about Wade for them on offense. If he’s on and he’s creating as well as getting his shots and drawing fouls, he makes them an impossible cover. The Hawks don’t have anyone that can contain him one-on-one. Joe’s done the best job of anyone, but only when he’s using his hands and actively trying to deny Wade the dribble drive game that makes him so dangerous. If Wade is creating and drawing defenders into the lane on his drives to the basket, that leaves wide open shooters around the 3-point line. If they make those shots the way they did in Game 2 and 3 (the Heat sank a whopping 27 shots from beyond the arc in those games), it’ll be lights out for the Hawks. Because those shots are as demoralizing as anything. Being a split second late on a rotation can sink you when they’re hitting 3-pointers. There’s no secret what they’re going to do offensively. It all starts with Wade. It all flows from him. Where they’ve really been successful is on the defensive end. They’ve really neutralized Johnson with those traps and double teams. They’re bringing a third defender, too, when he heads to the lane and they’re cashing in because he’s not moving the ball. When he does get rid of it, he’s throwing it to guys like Josh Smith, who is shooting 15 percent (2-for-13) from 3-point distance, so it works out perfect for the Heat. And you can tell their guys have read the scouting report and understand how to bait the Hawks into those bad shots. They’re backing off Smith on the wing and daring him to shoot from out there and he’s taking the bait every time. If he dives on those double teams and gives Johnson the option of splitting the floor on the double team with a cutter to the basket, then the Heat has a little more trouble trying to cover the entire floor. But he hasn’t done that and that allows the Heat to really lock down on Johnson and make things tough on the Hawks. They’ve also been the more physical team, even in the games they’ve lost. They’ve been the team playing more physical around the basket in particular. Joel Anthony was the key in game 6. With O’Neal out he, Udonis Haslem and Jamaal Magloire owned the paint. They controlled the lane and kept the Hawks off balance the entire game. That’s the way they’ll have to play it in Game 7 to be successful. While I assume O’Neal is going to play, they at least have the horses to handle things on the defensive end if he doesn’t play. But if they can defend like they have on their best nights, they’ve got a chance to win the game because Wade is going to bring the offense with him.

THE GAME 7 X-FACTOR is likely to emerge early on. It could be several players, depending on how things go. I watched the Celtics’ Game 7 win over Chicago Saturday night and from Stephon Marbury to Eddie House to Brian Scalabrine, Boston got huge efforts from their bench in a must-win game. And we’re talking about guys whose roles have fluctuated throughout the season, depending on the Celtics’ injury situation.

I’m wondering who is going to be the guy in Game 7 here. Michael Beasley stepped up in Game 6 to help lift the Heat to a win. Flip Murray did it for the Hawks in Game 5. You figure one of those guys is going to have a huge Game 7.

Just like basically everything else about what’s going on with this series, it’s a toss up as to who the real X-factor is going to be. There’s no telling until game time. See you there.

309 comments Add your comment

mountain_jim

May 3rd, 2009
12:37 am

Go Hawks! Please bring it Joe and Smooth!

mykhalc

May 3rd, 2009
1:34 am

sooooo glad to know coachin’ is not involved!!!whew!!!!

MAC-TOWN

May 3rd, 2009
1:55 am

Put it like this, I wish the hawks as a collective…had the heart, energy and effort of a Mario West all game long. If we do that we win. Unfortunately we have too many cryers, and we are a team with a superstar who apparently likes to to take the “back seat” in big games.

Just based on what I have saw this series…I have to assume we are going to need another
dunk-a-thon from Josh Smith…..or Bibby/Flip is gonna have to lite it up from deep….maybe Mo Evans can step up

mark

May 3rd, 2009
2:00 am

Go hawks!! Don’t screw this up!!

hawksweak

May 3rd, 2009
2:12 am

I would like the previous two commentors and everyone that follows to leave their home address so I can personally send you all a copy of the 06 SI nba championship video. Sorry fellas but game 7’s are made for legends, best of luck controlling the beast

Najeh Davenpoop

May 3rd, 2009
2:26 am

“The problem has been on the offensive end more than anything. When they don’t move the ball, they leave Joe on an island with two and sometimes three guys closing in on him. And he’s not passing out of the traps and double teams fast enough, if he passes out of it at all, to make the defense rotate.”

Co-f*cking-sign.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 3rd, 2009
2:27 am

“Put it like this, I wish the hawks as a collective…had the heart, energy and effort of a Mario West all game long. If we do that we win.”

If they do that, half the team fouls out within one quarter.

I love watching Mario West play in spurts, but if the Hawks gave him meaningful minutes, he’d foul out before the first quarter was over.

Najeh Davenpoop

May 3rd, 2009
2:27 am

Also, why the hell is this game at 1 PM? I have a feeling that’s really going to neutralize the home court advantage in the first half…

Najeh Davenpoop

May 3rd, 2009
2:32 am

One more question: why the HELL is the NBA so damn lazy about setting their schedules? A lot of people don’t have the ability to rearrange their personal schedules 24 hours in advance to be able to watch these games. If the Hawks win tomorrow, they could very well be playing Game 1 in Cleveland on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, who knows, and none of us would have any idea until the day of the game. Atlanta and Miami are both in the same time zone… would it really be that hard for them to figure this out a couple of days in advance?

GA Bulldawg

May 3rd, 2009
2:34 am

MACI agree with you except for where you said JJ was a superstar…he aint a superstar. He’s a great player and an all-star but thats where you draw the line. Superstars (Brandon Roy, Kobe Bryant..) have a killer mentality and know how to take over games…THAT’S a superstar

Ariose

May 3rd, 2009
2:37 am

Kick azz hawks.Pleease!!! WTF is wrong with Marvin?

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

May 3rd, 2009
3:09 am

Wow 1 pm. That’s noon my time. Gotta rearrange some things to catch this game.

Hawks Fan In New Orleans

May 3rd, 2009
3:17 am

Najeh. I agree with your sentiment about the home court advantage being neutralized. JJ and Smoove must bring it regardless of biased officiating and tip-off time. This is why J Smoove got the big contract. He better show up or he owes the team, fans and front office an apology-damn a spolestra apology.

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
8:10 am

and for you mario west fans! if i played 3 to 10 mins a game i’d be hyper too! anyway today is the day, that you find out i have “SOMETHING TO PROVE”

doc

May 3rd, 2009
8:34 am

najeh, agreed with the planning thing. it seems only the nba, sponsors and tv have a life. feel mighty manipulated on this end.

MsDee

May 3rd, 2009
9:00 am

Looks like we might need another team motivational meeting to help us win this game 7 cause it sure isn’t the coach motivating this team!! Coach Woodson is cool and all but this team is so much better than they are showing us. Woodson never has any good plays coming out of a time-out…why is that?? Why is it that Woodson allows Joe to just hold the ball and waits til the double team comes instead of pulling Joe over on the side to tell him to drive the ball b/4 the double team comes or at least pass it quickly so that the ball can swing causing the Heat to swing too, to allow someone an open shot either for a open shot or open around the basket!! And why is it that we have nobody on our team that will quickly give Joe BACK the ball when he does pass it out of the double teams to get his game/shot working for him? When Kobe or Lebron needs to take over a game and ends up getting doubled team, their co-players knows to give him right back the ball to make his move to the basket..our players (Josh Smith & Flip) just thinks Joe is giving them the ball to create for themselves when really Joe wants it back to make his move!! Why don’t Woodson realize that and demand his team to play smarter?!?!

Lacsho

May 3rd, 2009
9:07 am

Well which JJ do we see today. Will he finally arrive, or will he play the background and watch Wade preform? Will Smooth drive to the hole or will he settle with that wide open jump shot? Will we see the Hawks who played the first six games of the season, or will we see the ISO Hawks who never play team defense?

Lastly do I go to the game, or do I watch it downstairs?

Questions, Questions, Questions

SouthAfrican09

May 3rd, 2009
9:17 am

We need JJ to try not to force the issue today. Today is all about rebounding and Mike Bibby.

J-mo

May 3rd, 2009
9:35 am

The schedule for next round was set on Friday (just not posted in Atlanta cause we’re still focused on this round. Check out Cavs sites. Games 1 & 2 are Tuesday and Thursday. Games 3 & 4 are Sat at 8, and Monday.

Go Hawks!! I’ll be at game supportin’!!!

doc

May 3rd, 2009
9:43 am

sekou, i have got another sore point with the polarizing event of the miss and how it “embarrassed” the other team. this is what i wrote to your partners in hacks with some editorial revising to clean it up:

josh does so much for those guys and gets thrown under the bus. he is their only true enforcer. woody should have been talking some trash back but i think he feels josh brought it on himself and refuses to be the protector. wants the kid to learn by hard knocks. josh is so sensitive and emotional he should be defusing it to get to the next round rather than make it a learning experience. leaving josh out there alone could affect him in the short term like we saw when he became a head case with every foul shot. we may have already seen that effect in miami in game 6. woody, doesnt get it is my thought. woody somehow hugs on sheed every frigging time they come into town, the greatest free spirit selfish coach killing player in the game who hasnt attacked his coach, missed practice or quit on an organization. i would expect he would give his one and only high flying warrior the second guess or some room and tell wade and spoelestra to grow up and play basketball rather than ask for apologies. silence and the BWAF is all that is heard is my guess. where was jj? man it is war now and nothing is personal and as the leader of this team he should have said so to the media, so back off write something real and get his back. it could have been by saying only that “i put down a slam right afterward which is out of character for me to emphasize things and if he could have had the skill to put it through his legs on top of it he would have, too.” geez.

yeah, i said it, where were the coach and the so-called leader of this team to get josh’s back and say it isnt that big a deal to the world, just shut up, grow up and play the game. that is what i would call protecting their big man that stirs the drink. they can counsel him quietly behind the scenes but publicly get his collective back. personally, i will have josh’s back because there is no one person who has taken this team to where they are than josh. he is that valuable to this fragile team. if he is not here and they play without him they go down quicker than the absence of any other player. we have seen bibby, jj, al and marvin have off nights and not miss a beat. funny when josh has an off game it is very obvious because we frigging lose …… and we yell mightily about it. that is why he is the lightening rod he is. he sticks out like a sore thumb for all the right reasons because when he is on the team will be on the win side 7-8 of 10 times. when he is off it works the other way being lucky to be 50% successful.

Lacsho

May 3rd, 2009
10:02 am

Nice post Doc!!!

Why in the hell did they let Smoove apologies to the Heat’s scrub azz coach? I almost started to throw up. This is playoff basketball; Smoove doesn’t need to apologies to anyone. Then the Heat’s coach and Wade spit in his face as they run up the score!!!!

mountain_jim

May 3rd, 2009
10:16 am

I sure hope the Hawks can overcome the league and officials Wade-love but its not going to be easy. Some one pointed out what I saw in game 6, every time the Hawks got screwed on a give-it-to-Wade call they refused to show the replay….

I am not ready for the long wait until NFL season, don’t give a crap about baseball, so please win it Hawks and keep the season alive!

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
10:42 am

Najeh.. from the last blog you spoke about JJ’s assist being down… not passing out the double team quick enough…

well.. i disagree… i believe Joe has gotten it out of his hands, and has chosen not to force anything… truth be told… if this was hockey were you are credited an assist if you pass it to the teammate who, passes it to the scoring teammate he would be double figures in assist… nobody is moving when Joe get doubled. so the only way he will get an assist is if someone who is watching makes a jump shot (not likely). i remember one time Joe was getting doubled and Stinger referenced that Flip needed to come over to not make the pass as tough for Joe… that doesnt happen. other players are allowed to rack up the assist because once Joe has passed out the double, they are either open for a 2nd or not seeing double teams. therefore able to penetrate the d, and possibly kick to an open man…

his assist numbers are skewed…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
10:57 am

then again.. just read the article… i dunno… maybe he could get it out quicker.. maybe as soon as the ball is passed to him…
geesh…

to me it looks as if Joe catches, and analyzes… looks to see if they are sending the double and where its coming from, if not he is trying to score/create 1on 1…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
10:58 am

so we’re basically asking him to become more passive… i hate that as a team our scheme or lack there off is “reactive” to what the opposing coaches are doing to us, instead of “proactive” instilling our will on the opposing defense…

Robert Yates

May 3rd, 2009
10:59 am

The most accurate analysis I’ve read of the whole Josh Smith saga I’ve read is here: http://freedarko.blogspot.com/2009/05/he-was-born-in-hell.html#comments

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
11:01 am

TODAY IS THE DAY I PUT YOU HAWK FANS OUT OF YOUR MISERY! MIAMI HEAT HAS “SOMETHING TO PROVE”

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
11:09 am

MAN I LOVE MY TEAM BUT IT’S CORP. AMERICA, WE NEVER ASKED JOSH TO APOLOGIZE FOR THE DUNK, IT’S WHEN YOU HAVE SOME OL FART IN A SUIT WHO SAY HE DOESNT LIKE IT THEN THAT’S WHERE THE PROBLEM BEGINS (JUST LOOK AT THE NFL). THE SUITS=MAINLY WHITES AND A FEW BLACKS DONT LIKE IT BUT TRUST ME IF JOSH WOULD’VE MADE IT THAT WOULD’VE BEEN FIRST IMAGE SEEN ON ESPN THAT NITE. ITS A BUNCH OF BULL

Volman

May 3rd, 2009
11:14 am

Josh Smith better dunk on their asses today. I swear. 360s, through the legs, windmills. I want it all.

Take no prisoners, Hawks.

Beautiful post DOC, I agree with everything.

honest_abe

May 3rd, 2009
11:20 am

where are you joe??? please show up today.

Gilley

May 3rd, 2009
11:22 am

Hawks still don’t know how to pass out of the double-team. Good point on the pick and roll with Bibby and Joe. When we get a rebound we should run automatically. Make the Heat defense scramble.

doc

May 3rd, 2009
11:56 am

robert yes said it didnt it.

RISE UP HAWK FANS AND IGNITE!

JOSH = MVP

BRO, GOT YOUR BACK WHEN YOU PLAY LIKE YOU DID IN GAME FIVE! DO IT AGAIN!

no apologies to play like a wimp in game 6 dude. dont let woody do you in and ground you like what happened to the spirit hawk.

SouthAfrican09

May 3rd, 2009
12:06 pm

I wonder if Josh Smith’s dad has ever pulled him aside after a game and been like “JOSH STOP BEING A CRYBABY AND GROW UP”

SERIOUSLY JOSH. GROW THE HELL UP. STOP WHINING AND SCREWING US OVER

SouthAfrican09

May 3rd, 2009
12:07 pm

DOC,
JOSH HAS AN OFFGAME 7/10 TIMES. HE HAS THAT 20 PT 12 REBOUDN 6 BLOCK GAME VERY SPARINGLY. I HOPE I AM WRONG

Da Real Real

May 3rd, 2009
12:34 pm

I’m thinking today’s game will be decided on which team has enough gas left in the tank. What is this…the 4th game in 7 days??? So whoever has enough gas in the tank will win. Hopefully that’s the Hawks…especially since the game in on their court. LETS GO HAWKS!

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
12:38 pm

Did anyone else saw the week in review on sportcenter this morning? Well I did and I didn’t know that the Hawks only had one game this week. They recap every NBA Playoffs game this week except for the Hawks 2 wins this week. They did showed the Hawks lost on Friday. They even showed Mike Golic getting a hair wax removal which occurred on the same day the Hawks beat the Heat. Talking about irrelevant.

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
12:41 pm

wow ABC, “what is the key to a Heat win in game 7″… i guess their the only team of interest…?!?!?!

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
12:51 pm

LIKE MAGIC SAID ” YOU KNOW IM (D-WADE) GONNA SHOW UP AND JOE JOHNSON SUPPOSE TOO!!! NOW THAT’S TELLING

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
12:54 pm

ABC LOVES ME!! I’LL BE BACK GOTTA TALK TO MEDIA

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
12:56 pm

WOW! WAS THAT ME

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
1:02 pm

Congrats to the Hawks fans. Philips looks pack… not sure why we dont have a white going… Lets Go Hawks…

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
1:06 pm

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
1:07 pm

JOEL HAS SOMETHING TO PROVE

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
1:08 pm

Joe looks tight….

understand greatness!!!

May 3rd, 2009
1:08 pm

pinoy hawk

May 3rd, 2009
1:11 pm

bibbbbbbbbyyyy!!!!!

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
1:12 pm

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAH…!!!
ACTIVE EARLY…

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
1:12 pm

Lets GO HAWKS…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
1:13 pm

Sekou mentioned that ankle Melvin, what you think…?

at least he’s swinging the ball early…

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
1:14 pm

I meant to say “not sure why we dont have a whiteout in Philips”