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 win a best-of-seven series for the first time since 1970, that they can dispose of a demonstrably lesser opponent and commence with the serious business of chasing LeBron.
The Hawks have being waiting for April 2009 since Game 7 in Boston last May, and now it's here. And it's time for them to prove they're more than just a team that can give somebody a spirited run. It's time to put the Heat to bed, D-Wade or no D-Wade.
The Hawks keep insisting they can be big-time, but we'll never know if they can't get through Round 1 and on to bigger and better. And it might not be so easy to shake Miami, not with Marvin Williams presumably out and Al Horford limping after spraining his ankle --- more precisely, having it sprained for him --- in Game 5.
But they're capable of winning on the road in the postseason. Winning Game 4 was a huge barrier for this growing team. And now they need to get down and D-up and grind out one more in the opponent's building the way the real teams do.
Sometimes you wonder if the Hawks grasp how good they are, and how much better than can get. You wonder when they throw up putrid efforts like those in Games 2 and 3. They've got eight good players --- yes, Zaza Pachulia counts --- and an understanding, at least on some nights, of how the game should be played.
The Heat is Dwyane Wade and a bunch of guys too old or too young. The Hawks are a club hitting its prime. We've waited, not entirely patiently, for these kids to grow up, and now they're almost there. As NBA commissioner David Stern, in town for Game 5, said Wednesday night: "This is very much a franchise on the march, and that wasn't always the case."
The Hawks of 'Nique and Doc? Three times they got past Round 1, but those were best-of-five series. Same with the Mookie-Mutombo teams of the '90s. This one has a chance to do something those aggregations did not. This one has a chance to look at itself and say, "We forced the Celtics to the wall, and now we've seen off D-Wade. We're not a figment of some TV programmer's imagination. We're for real."
And they are. Or at least they should be. They gave the Heat no chance in Game 5, just as they hadn't in Games 1 and 4. In what is invariably considered the swing game in a best-of-seven set, the Hawks ruled. Now they need to steel themselves for 48 more minutes on the road, and then they'll be in Round 2 against LeBron and the whole world will be watch