The wonder isn’t that the Hawks have again taken a series lead. The wonder is that they were ever behind. They’re so much better than the Heat it isn’t funny. And they won’t be laughing if Sunday arrives and they’re back here trying to close this out in a Game 7. This one should end Friday night in Miami.
We know the Hawks can play. What we need is for them to prove they can finish, that they can actually win a best-of-seven series, that they can dispose of a demonstrably lesser opponent and commence with the serious business of chasing LeBron.
The Hawks showed their steel in a first half Wednesday of hard fouls and key injuries, and when intermission arrived they led by 23 points. (They would win by 15.) Said Flip Murray, who scored 23 points and steered the Hawks through the choppy second half: “The game got physical, but I liked the way we kept our composure.”
A year ago in Boston, the Hawks couldn’t do that. Four times the Celtics hit them in the collective mouth, and four times the Hawks buckled. This time they’ve already proved they can win on the road — Game 4 was a huge advance for this team’s psyche — and now they need to do it again.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
It won’t be easy. Al Horford sprained his ankle in the second quarter — “As long as it comes around, I should be fine for Friday,” he said afterward — and Marvin Williams didn’t play at all. And Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, grasping at straws, made it a point to say: “The game became a highlight reel [at the end], and they really tried to embarrass us.”
He was speaking of one play late in the game: Free on a runout, Josh Smith sought to whip the ball between his legs before dunking. (He missed the dunk, by the way.) But a team that has trailed all night and is down by 20 with 4:16 left should worry more about how badly it had been outplayed. And to his credit, Spoelstra said this: “They kicked our butts in every was possible … They pounded us in every shape and form.”
The great Dwyane Wade made one first-half basket. The Hawks made 13 of their 16 shots in the second quarter. This was the fifth no-doubt game of the series, which is pretty weird in itself, but it’s time now for the Hawks to forget the highlight stuff and to get down and D up and grind one out on the road. That’s the way the good teams do it, and this team has the capacity to be very, very good.
No Hawks team since 1970 has won a best-of-seven series. This team can and should. Forget the Heat’s trumped-up ire — “Yes, we were very insulted,” Wade said, speaking of Smith’s abortive around-the-worlder — and the fan blackout that awaits in Miami in Game 6. Forget everything except the mission at hand, which is getting to Round 2.
“That’s a game we have to have,” Murray said, and it’s a game these Hawks can get if they control themselves and stick to business. It’s time to put this outclassed opponent to sleep. It’s time to say hello to LeBron.