“Strictly about business,” Wade said. “Now we move on.”
To Sunday. To Game 7.
Wade scored 41 points, Michael Beasley busted out of a slump with 22 points and 15 rebounds, and the Heat stayed alive by routing the Atlanta Hawks 98-72 in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference first-round series Friday night.
So a wild back-and-forth series—three routs for the Hawks, three routs for the Heat—will be decided Sunday in Atlanta.
“No pressure on us,” Wade said. “We’re the underdogs in this series.”
Mike Bibby scored all 20 of his points in the first half for Atlanta, which fell behind by 15 in the opening quarter, cut the deficit to nine by halftime, but never really challenged from there. Flip Murray and Joe Johnson added 13 apiece for the Hawks, who lost a first-round Game 7 last season against Boston.
That, though, didn’t come with the comfort of the home-court advantage they’ll enjoy Sunday. It’s winner-take-all time, with one team going to Cleveland to open the second round against LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Tuesday, the other heading into the offseason.
“Game 7. That speaks for itself,” Hawks forward Josh Smith said. “It’s two young teams that want the same thing. We’re going to have to come out focused and with energy. Hopefully, we’ll answer the challenge.”
The wacky run of outcomes continued: Atlanta’s wins have been by 26, 10 and 15 points. The Heat have prevailed by 15, 29 and 26 points.
“They did what they had to do tonight and played extremely well,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “We were just there.”
James Jones scored 11 points for Miami, nine in the first quarter. Just like every other game in this series, the team that took control early kept it throughout, and Miami wasted no time in putting Atlanta on its heels.
The Hawks hoped they would be in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon for Game 1 of the second round. Instead, they got blown away, meaning they still haven’t won a playoff series since 1999, or prevailed in any best-of-seven matchup since 1970 — a staggering drought.
They’ll get one more chance.
“It’s going to be hectic,” Beasley said. “It’s going to be crazy.”
Wade spent two days imploring his teammates to match the Hawks’ challenge. He mentioned Beasley by name, asking the rookie to live up to his star billing.
Two hours before game time, he was out on the court, taking shot after shot after shot. Something must have clicked; Beasley finished 11-for-25 from the floor.
The Heat needed him, too. Udonis Haslem only played 11 minutes, saddled by foul trouble, and Jermaine O’Neal didn’t play at all, thanks to a concussion suffered when Pachulia struck him during Game 5.
But for as good as Beasley was, it was all about Wade.
“He was a titan tonight,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The fourth quarter brought a slew of signature moments for the NBA’s scoring champ. Early in the fourth, he rushed downcourt and blocked Murray’s layup attempt, got the rebound—and then got knocked to the floor by Murray.
Wade got up, softly high-fived Mario Chalmers, then dunked on Pachulia moments later as the sellout crowd roared with delight. They won’t get that treatment Sunday, and the Hawks found solace in that.
“We came into this with home court advantage,” Johnson said. “And now we have that opportunity to finish it in our house.”
Wade finished 16-of-17 from the foul line. … Hawks F Marvin Williams returned from a sprained right wrist. He played only 5 minutes, missing his lone shot. F Al Horford (sprained right ankle) warmed up but did not play. … Joel Anthony started for O’Neal and played 35 minutes, going 2-for-3 for six points and eight rebounds. … Smith apologized to Spoelstra before tip-off for his showboat dunk attempt in the latter minutes of the Hawks’ win in Game 5. “A class move on his part,” Spoelstra said.