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News » Winner moves on

Winner moves on

Winner moves on
They've spoken at length all season about the sanctity of their home court.

How important it was for them to build a legacy there and how unbelievably important it was to them to have home-court advantage come playoff time.

This is what the Hawks have been clamoring for since the first day of training camp, and even before then, a chance to decide their fate on their own floor as opposed to somewhere else.

So they'll get their wish this afternoon in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat.

The floor at Philips Arena is where their season continues or ends, depending on the outcome.

But make no mistake about it, this game, this all-important game, is the one they insist they've been working for all season.

"When we showed up for training camp we said we didn't want to end up like we did last year," Hawks captain and All-Star Joe Johnson said of the Hawks' Game 7 loss in the first round last year in Boston. "We didn't want to be in that position again, and we fought to make sure we did not end up like that. Now, here we are in another Game 7, but this time it's on our floor. And we have to take care of home."

It won't be easy. Not with Heat superstar Dwyane Wade, the NBA's scoring leader, coming off of his best game in the series, a 41-point effort in a Game 6 blowout victory over the Hawks on Friday night in Miami.

For all the energy and effort the Hawks put into getting to this point, the Heat need only one more inspired performance to shove the Hawks aside and move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals and a date against Cleveland.

"Our guys have done what they were supposed to earn the right to finish this series off," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "And at the end of the day, I don't want [TNT analysts] Kenny [Smith] and Charles [Barkley] talking about us going fishing. We want to move on. And that's how our guys are looking at it now. It's a one-game series now. They know they've got to lay it all on the line."

Woodson said he'll resist the urge to deliver a fiery pregame sermon about the magnitude of the event. He doesn't think either team missed that message in a series filled with three runaway wins for both teams.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra saw his team rise to the challenge in Game 6, fighting off elimination in a close-out game by smashing the Hawks by 26 points.

Might Sunday be the day the series finally delivers a competitive game?

"Who knows, maybe this will be the most epic of the games," Spoelstra said. "It's probably what everybody's been waiting for. I imagine both teams will be ready for this with their energy and their focus. It just takes a little edge to tip the series. Game 7, I think both teams are going to come out extremely competitive and focused."

Point guard Mike Bibby was the only Hawks player to play that way early in Game 6.

Al Horford was on the bench, nursing a sprained right ankle that Woodson said will not keep him out of the starting lineup today. Marvin Williams was on the bench with a sprained right wrist that has cost him all but five minutes of the past four games. And Johnson picked up two quick fouls that sent him to the bench and limited his effectiveness the entire night.

But there will be no room for excuses today. Not with the season riding on the outcome of this one game.

"We all know what this is and what's at stake," said Bibby, by far the Hawks' most consistent player throughout this series. "Nobody needs a reminder. It's about what we do when the lights come on, though. Because you don't get any second chances on this one. It's Game 7. You win or you go home. It's as simple as that."

Hawks -Heat GAME 7: 1 P.M. TODAY (ABC, 790 AM)

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 5, 2009


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