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NBA Playoff Recap - Friday, May 1


Only one game was played in "the Association" on the first day of May. Fittingly, it was "May Day" for the Atlanta Hawks, who crashed and burned in the land of the Miami Heat.
It will be noted that two first-round series in the 2009 NBA Playoffs made their way to a Game 7. One series you might have heard of (involving the defending champions and Michael Jordan's old team) has been a classic. This battle between Miami and Atlanta stands as living proof that a long series doesn't have to be a well-played one. One year after the Hawks and the Boston Celtics traded decisive victories in a first-round series that went the distance (with Atlanta winning one of its home games by a small margin; most contests in that series were authoritative, especially in Boston), Mike Woodson's club has once again reached a Game 7 in very inelegant fashion.
The men from Georgia had a chance to close out Dwyane Wade and company in Friday's Game 6 at the AmericanAirlines Arena. Instead, the Hawks endured a thumping that so pronounced that the issue was settled before the fourth quarter. The homestanding Heat roared to a 78-52 lead with 1:19 remaining in the third stanza and coasted to an easy win. The series, knotted at 3-3, goes to Atlanta for Sunday's Game 7 at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

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This series has been painful to watch, and painfully simple to analyze. Not a single contest in this pendulum-swinging best-of-seven set has been decided by single digits, an odd reality for a matchup of No. 4 (Atlanta) and No. 5 (Miami) seeds. While it's true that both teams displayed grit in swiping a road victory during this series, the Hawks and Heat have lacked the fortitude needed to stay close into the latter stages of the fourth quarter. Great sports competitions are defined by the ability of one team to hit back after being punched, and this confrontation has lacked that very quality. The Hawks (when losing Game 2 at home) and the Heat (when losing Game 4 at home) made brief fourth-quarter surges, but fizzled before they were able to mount much of an attack. All in all, the team that has started fast in each game of this series has encountered relatively little resistance the rest of the way. Game 6 was no exception.
The Heat rolled to a 32-18 lead after the first quarter, with Wade scoring 14 points to lead Miami. The Hawks, behind a hot-shooting Mike Bibby (a team-high 20 points), did slice their deficit to 51-42 at halftime, but as soon as the bell rang for the second half, Atlanta crumbled. The Hawks' halfcourt offense became a train wreck, as the visitors went scoreless for the first five minutes of the third quarter. The Heat, meanwhile, scored 10 straight points to grab a 19-point lead. The Hawks--with only Bibby and Joe Johnson (13 points on 6-of-14 shooting) contributing--did not offer a credible response. Wade finished with 41 points before leaving with 5:35 left in the game. More encouraging for Erik Spoelstra's club is that key reserve Michael Beasley scored 22 points and snagged 15 boards. If Beasley replicates those numbers in Sunday's Game 7, the Heat stand a good chance.
Who knows? There might actually be a close game in this series. And if not? Well, basketball purists will be comforted by the fact that Hawks-Heat will finally be over.


By Matt Zemek
Pro-Basketball Fans staff-writer

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