The Hawks packed for Cleveland before Friday's Game 6 in Miami, but their next destination was back home for Game 7 against Miami."I don't know why anybody is even mentioning Cleveland," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said after practice Thursday. "We've got Miami on our minds right now. That's it. We're not thinking about anything but the Heat right now. We'll worry about whatever comes next when we get to that point."
They'd better stay focused on the Heat. Because if a blowout loss in Game 6 was any indication, Game 7 Sunday at Philips Arena will be filled with drama.
The season comes down to this one game, a loser-go-home affair that sends the winner to Cleveland and the loser on a long vacation.
"This is a good position to be in," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said, putting positive spin on an otherwise disastrous night. "I'd rather be playing at Philips Arena in front of our fans than coming back here for Game 7. That's what we worked our butts for all season. And now we've got to go out and make it happen."
That's something the Hawks will have to do to keep their season alive. Had the Hawks been able to take care of either Game 2 at home or Game 6 Friday night in Miami, they'd already be at their hotel in Cleveland.
Instead, they get to either rise up and embrace the pressure of Game 7 at home or fold under the heat of a Game 7 at home.
"It's tough on the road," said Hawks forward Marvin Williams. "There is no pressure on us. We're going back home to play on our court."
Believe that if you will.
But veteran Hawks point guard Mike Bibby knows better.
Unlike most of his teammates, he's been in a closeout game or two in his 10-plus years in the NBA. He's also seen a Game 7 or two as well. So he knows the added stress a game like that can cause.
"It comes down to those 48 minutes, and we have to want it," he said. "We have to want it more than anything else. That's the key. And it's really that simple."
HEAT 98, HAWKS 72: Another blowout in a series full of them. That's all Game 6 of this Hawks-Heat first round playoff series turned out to be.
The Hawks failed miserably in their attempt to finish off the Miami Heat on the road, losing Game 6 in a rout Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena and allowing the Heat to tie the series at 3-3.
With his team on the brink of elimination, Heat superstar Dwyane Wade made sure that the series' blowout theme continued. The first six games in the series all have been decided by 10 or more points.
Wade led the Heat with a series-high 41 points. He was 16-for-17 from the free throw line and also had five rebounds and two blocks.
Michael Beasley handled things when Wade did not, schooling the Hawks for 22 points of his own on 11-for-25 shooting from the floor, by far his best game of the series.
But the Hawks didn't just lose the game Friday night. They lost their cool, too. They let their frustrations with the officials get the best of them early and late as both Mo Evans and Josh Smith earned technical fouls for barking at the referees.
Smith earned his early in the fourth quarter, with the Heat leading 85-61, when he and backup Heat center Jamaal Magloire got tangled up under the basket and began squaring off for more before being separated by their teammates and the officials.
It was that kind of night for the Hawks, who always seemed to be on the receiving end of the blows. It was also a recipe for disaster for the Hawks, who got an appropriate performance from Mike Bibby and little else in the way of that from everyone else, at least when the outcome was still somewhat in doubt.