MIAMI --- It really doesn't matter what it was that the Miami Heat finally zeroed in on Friday night as a source of motivation. Pretty much everything had been thrown out there --- an "insulting" showboating dunk attempt by Josh Smith in Game 5, an excitable turbo-lipped broadcaster, possibly global warming. Here's the only real question that matters: What happened to the Hawks' motivation?
"We're motivated already," Mike Bibby had said before Friday's game. "We don't need anything except the game. They're looking for anything."
Yeah. But guess what? They found it.
The Hawks must have forgotten their motivation in Game 6.
Defensive intensity from the previous two games of the series (both wins) was a faded memory. Physical presence was fairly absent. Offensive teamwork: forget it.
They led only once --- at 8-7. They trailed by 14 points in the first quarter, nine at halftime, 21 in the third and by then everybody in blue stopped watching, not that their eyes seemed open to begin with.
This was not how a team closes out an opponent in the playoffs.
Bibby actually was the only Hawk who acted like he was ready for LeBron James and Cleveland in Round 2. He had 20 points by halftime, and that's about the only thing that created any second-half suspense, such as it was. But when Miami scored the first 10 points of the third quarter, that was gone, too.
Had the Hawks won, they would've flown to Cleveland after the game. They had better hope they have at least one trip left in the season because now they're going to a seventh game with Miami. It will be at Philips Arena on Sunday. Home-court advantage is what the Hawks worked for all season. I suppose that's a comforting thought for Hawks fans. But after what we witnessed Friday --- not so much the loss but the lopsided nature of it --- can we possibly know what to expect?
Can home-court dominance (33-11, including the playoffs) trump a team capable of shooting 37 percent in the first half of a clinch game? Joe Johnson had two fouls in the first two minutes and struggled to get back into the flow of the game in the second quarter. Smith was alternately invisible or out of control on offense (1-for-8 in the first half).
Worst of all, the Hawks lacked any sense of urgency, particularly on defense. Miami players were left wide open for easy jumpers. Michael Beasley and Joel Anthony controlled the boards.
We could've figured the Hawks would be hurt by the absence of Al Horford, who rapidly has become one of the team's more indispensable players. But that doesn't explain everything. And the Heat was missing Jermaine O'Neal.
What was it Flip Murray had said?
"We want to end it tonight," he said. "We want to come out strong and execute, take their crowd out of the game early and end this thing."
They failed. At everything.
What was it Bibby said?
"In this series the main thing has been who hits the other team first," he said. "That's the team that comes out on top."
Miami hit. The Hawks forgot to duck.