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

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
2:00 pm

I noticed that too bigdave. It was a dirty play by James Jones but the best thing that happen was Josh didn’t let it rattle him. He calmly made his free throws after it….

Blast

May 3rd, 2009
2:00 pm

Twice Joe has been fouled shooting the three, twice he got no call. Anybody remember the 2 4 point plays for Heat in game 5?

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:01 pm

PLEASE PUT JOE BACK ON WADE…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:02 pm

I ONLY TRUST MARIO AND JOE ON WADE… PLEASE TAKE MO OFF!!! JOE CAN REST AT HALF TIME..

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
2:03 pm

The ESPN crew mention the no calls on Joe 3pt attemps as well… They noticed that Miami is getting the favorable calls as well

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:07 pm

HE WILL KILL MOE EVANS…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:08 pm

MOE EVANS IS ONE DUMB DEFENDER… I HATE HIS OVER AGGRESSIVE STYLE…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:09 pm

GOTTA COME OUT AGGRESSIVE… ON BOTH ENDS OF THE FLOOR… NO HALF TIME LET DOWN…!!!

LETS GO!!!

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:11 pm

IM SEEING SOME THINGS FROM BIBBY THAT MAKES YOU THINK.. U GOTTA KEEP THIS GUY…

Blast

May 3rd, 2009
2:12 pm

Still a lot of ball to play, but I am liking Hawks energy so far.

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2009
2:12 pm

Beautiful move by Joe to end the half.

Hawks are flying high! Keep the foot on the gas pedal in the second half!

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
2:13 pm

Yep. I think Bibby has definitely earn his contract extension… We have to keep the pressure on coming out of the half. No 3rd qtr let down… LET’S GO HAWKS

kirkinga

May 3rd, 2009
2:13 pm

The Hawks are once again doing what they need to do. They aren’t playing as well as they are capable, but they are getting it done nonetheless.

Blast

May 3rd, 2009
2:14 pm

Have always said Bibby was keeper, BigDave, for less money, though.

pinoy hawk

May 3rd, 2009
2:15 pm

Good defense in the perimeter. heats 0/7 from the 3pt.

Pachulia should start for Al. they’re killing the hawks on the boards. Give solo PT coz Al clearly doesn’t have any lift due to the ankle injury.

Go hawks!!

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:16 pm

BARRY PLEASE… U F-IN SCRUB!!!

Big Ray

May 3rd, 2009
2:16 pm

Well gosh golly gee darn it. Where are all those Heat fans that we usually hear from?

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:18 pm

yea i know Blast.. but its like his game has gone to another level.. he’s more of a pg now than he was all regular season.. his defense is even looking like it has a little more effort behind it…

SouthAfrican09

May 3rd, 2009
2:24 pm

D.Wade will not pass once in the 2nd half.

And yes James Jones is a dirty player. He and D.Wade (who swung at Al’s neck) injured Al on that play in game 5, and if Al played on Friday, we’d be playing Cleveland right now in round 2

SouthAfrican09

May 3rd, 2009
2:27 pm

I would let ZaZa play at least 17 minutes in this half. He has earned it. if Al is not producing, you will see ZaZa the rest of the half.

kirkinga

May 3rd, 2009
2:33 pm

Where are all those Heat fans that we usually hear from?

Ray I believe they are lying in wait. We’ll no doubt hear from them should the Hawk’s lead shrink or go away.

Otherwise they are no doubt wringing out the squish so as to not be too heavy to jump back on the bandwagon when the Hawks win. :)

pinoy hawk

May 3rd, 2009
2:36 pm

good time out woody..

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:36 pm

why is Joe Johnson not on D Wade…

Moe… Flip… etc… cant guard him… Joe has done a great job on him.. WTF?? are we going to let him kill us?

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
2:38 pm

Miami has made the adjustment on offense to put Bibby’s man in the screen and roll. Bibby is playing too far off the pick allowing DWade to turn the corner. Bibby needs to play up on the pick to deny DWade the opportunity to turn the corner…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:41 pm

touch fouls…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:43 pm

Wade is a completely different player with Joe on him…

Blast

May 3rd, 2009
2:44 pm

Go Hawks, Go! Beat The Heat!

pinoy hawk

May 3rd, 2009
2:45 pm

better ball movement for the hawks…

mykhalc

May 3rd, 2009
2:46 pm

WTF!! was that a drawn up play???? Big RAY…call the paramedics for me…i’m dyin’ out here in the BAY!!!

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:48 pm

Josh is playing a great game…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:49 pm

great look.. great play…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:50 pm

Flip has missed 2-3 wide open 3’s… gotta hit those…

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:51 pm

OMG FLIP..!!!

kirkinga

May 3rd, 2009
2:51 pm

Jackson and Van Gundy with a little credit to Coach Woodson for letting JJ “facilitate” the offense.

KevinA

May 3rd, 2009
2:54 pm

16 pt lead!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
2:54 pm

AND THEY CALL MY BOY SOFT…

GET OUTTA HEYA…!!!

Blast

May 3rd, 2009
2:55 pm

Basketball world! That is OUR Joe Johnson, and OUR Atlanta Hawks!

KevinA

May 3rd, 2009
2:55 pm

If we score twenty that would force the heat to score 36. Let’s take it on home.

Sautee

May 3rd, 2009
2:56 pm

LOL, myk, you sound like Fred Sanford! ;-)

OK, no letdowns, no prevent defense, we need to attack!

Blast

May 3rd, 2009
2:57 pm

Out of the 101 game sevens played in NBA playoff history, Hawks have been in two of them.

SouthAfrican09

May 3rd, 2009
2:57 pm

D.Fake (whining after obvious offensive foul) is getting a little desperate right here. Let’s get this lead up to 25 in the next few min!!

KevinA

May 3rd, 2009
2:58 pm

Ray, Miami fans hideing out next to the crying towel.

Blast

May 3rd, 2009
2:58 pm

This game makes it 102 game sevens.

Sekou Smith

May 3rd, 2009
2:59 pm

Hawks are playing together on both ends and the Heat can’t solve it. When they play like this, they are unstoppable on this floor.

KevinA

May 3rd, 2009
2:59 pm

Joshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Blast

May 3rd, 2009
3:01 pm

Nasty dunk by Josh! Hawks up 20! Do you smell blood?

bigdave

May 3rd, 2009
3:02 pm

these Hawks would be an issue for anyone…!!!

great TEAM basketball today…

SouthAfrican09

May 3rd, 2009
3:04 pm

AMEN SEKOU, MY BROTHA.

JOSH STAY COMPOSED, AND BIBBY AND JOE BE AGGRESSIVE AND NO ONE CAN STOP US. THROW IN THE PHILLY BALLER FLIP MURRAY AND WE ARE GONNA SHOCK THE CAVS.

JOSH, YOU KNOW YOU ARE UNIQUE, BUT DONT BE IMMATURE, MAN. WAY TOO MUCH TALENT THERE

Melvin

May 3rd, 2009
3:05 pm

Lets push this lead up to 30 and send Dwade fishing….

WHO DIED...?

May 3rd, 2009
3:05 pm

i concede ya’ll are better