MIAMI --- The Hawks spent six months chasing the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the home-court advantage that comes with it. Now they'll need that security blanket to keep their season alive.
They failed miserably in their attempt to finish off the Miami Heat on the road, losing Game 6 in a 98-72 rout Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena and allowing the Heat to tie the series 3-3.
The season comes down to Game 7 Sunday at 1 p.m. at Philips Arena, a loser-go-home affair that sends the winner to Cleveland for the Eastern Conference semifinals.
With his team on the brink of elimination, Heat star Dwyane Wade made sure that the series' blowout theme continued. Each of the first six games in the series has been decided by 10 or more points.
Wade led the Heat with a series-high 41 points Friday. He was 16-for-17 from the free throw line and added five rebounds and two blocks.
Michael Beasley handled things when Wade did not, scoring 22 points 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 received technical fouls.
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 before being separated.
It was that kind of night for the Hawks , who always seemed to be on the receiving end. It was also a recipe for disaster for the Hawks , who got an appropriate performance from Mike Bibby and little else from everyone else, at least when the outcome was still somewhat in doubt.
Bibby helped the Hawks close to within nine points at halftime. He scored 12 of his 20 first-half points during an eight-minute stretch in the second quarter when the Hawks trimmed the Heat's 17-point lead to single digits twice.
The final time was on Bibby's theft of an inbounds pass and layup with 5.7 seconds to play, capping a late flurry that gave the Hawks a little hope heading into the locker room.
All that hope faded minutes into the third quarter, though. The Heat opened the second half on a Wade-fueled 6-2 run and never relented. They led by as many as 30 points before it was over, toying with the Hawks down the stretch as it became clear to both sides that Game 7 was going to be necessary.
Wade didn't even play in the final five minutes and 35 seconds of the game, getting a jump on the rest he'll need for Game 7. Bibby was gone long before that. Heat center Jermaine O'Neal didn't play, sitting out with a mild concussion.
Hawks center Al Horford was in uniform but sat out as well, resting the right ankle he sprained before halftime in the Hawks' Game 5 win at Philips Arena Wednesday night.
Marvin Williams briefly returned, for five minutes before halftime. He rested in the second half, too.
But it's a safe bet that all of them will be in uniform and ready to play Sunday, with the season on the line for both teams.
Series tied 3-3
Game 1: Hawks 90, Heat 64
Game 2: Heat 108, Hawks 93
Game 3: Heat 107, Hawks 78
Game 4: Hawks 81, Heat 71
Game 5: Hawks 106, Heat 91
Friday: Heat 98, Hawks 72
Sunday: at Atlanta, 1 p.m., ABC