Hawks' Intensity Creates Problems, Places Heat on Miami To Stay Alive

Patrick ParsonsAnalyst IApril 30, 2009

After backing into a two-to-one series deficit, the Atlanta Hawks have responded wonderfully, defeating the Heat convincingly in the last two games.

The Hawks have played with the intensity, the heart, the athleticism and, for lack of better word, the swagger necessary to advance in the NBA Playoffs.

They have frustrated Miami, their coach, and many experts around the league hoping for a Wade/LeBron second-round matchup.

Zaza Pachulia has gotten his hands on every loose ball, taking multiple elbows for his troubles, yet still dives into dangerous territory every possession, undeterred by the contact.

Even Solomon Jones got into the action last night and didn't back down from Jamaal Magloire or Dwyane Wade after the two stumbled off the court still holding each other.

Josh Smith is slowly learning how dangerous he is when he takes the ball to the basket, returning to his slam dunk roots. From his attempted throw-down over both Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Beasley from what seemed 15 like feet away from the basket to his botched between-the-legs attempt with the game in the bag, "Smoove" was trying to throw down.

When asked about the failed dunk after the game, both Wade and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra were incensed over the play. Dwyane for one thought it was unnecessary.

“Yes, we were very insulted,” Wade said.

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So was Spoelstra.

"There at the end, it turned into a highlight show. A pickup-game highlight reel, really trying to embarrass us," Spoelstra said. "Now, we've played five games against each other. I don't think anybody on either side likes each other anymore."

Were the Heat not embarrassed enough after another blowout? A missed dunk was what ticked them off, not the 23-point deficit at halftime or eventual 15-point loss?

Seems as though they are a bit confused to me.

The game got off to a rough start, as Wade and Smith collided early in the first quarter while both were going for a loose ball. The play left the man they call "Flash" reeling on the ground after hitting his head on the court, and he stayed down for a few minutes.

When he was finally helped up and off the court, he headed straight to the locker room, where he stayed while being checked out. D-Wade was eventually given the green light to return and came back, though he didn't really get anything going until after the game had slipped away.

NBA commissioner David Stern was in the stands to watch the game, but that didn't exactly stop the players from getting even more physical.

Solomon Jones, in the game due to foul trouble for Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia, committed a foul on Wade driving to the basket. Both players held onto each other as they tumbled off the court and shared glares and words as they got into each others' faces after the whistle.

Jamaal Magloire, who has seven fouls to go with zero points and only three rebounds this series, then came out of nowhere and shoved Jones. The Hawks' Smith came into the picture to protect Jones, and all four players involved received technical fouls.

And almost directly following that play, on a breakaway by Maurice Evans, Wade (with a "seriously" hurt back and head, remember) somehow caught up and fouled the Hawks' spot-starter from behind as he went up for the dunk. Both players went to the floor hard, and a flagrant foul was called on Wade.

Bu that would be the the last moment of excitement for the half, as the Hawks made it to halftime with a 23-point lead.

Wade, who had 17 of the Heat's 30 third-quarter points and finished with 29 for the game, helped the Heat cut the deficit down to 15 heading into the fourth quarter.

But Miami was unable to cut the lead down much more, and Dwyane once again found himself playing 40 minutes in a double-digit loss. It was strange considering how banged up he has been all series.

The Hawks are just a game away from advancing to face Cleveland and hope to close out the series on Friday in Miami, though they will once again have to do it without Marvin Williams.

Also, after spraining his ankle in Wednesday's game, Al Horford will be a game-time decision, and if he can't go, Solomon Jones will get the start in his place.

The Heat, who were so offended by Josh Smith's "antics" near the end of the game, can perhaps use it as some motivation. They need to play with some intensity at home, or will be taking the rest of the Playoffs off.

James Jones and Jermaine O'Neal have both stated that their team will be coming back to Atlanta for a Game Seven, though.

“We’ll be back,” said Jones shortly after the Game Five loss, while Jermaine O'Neal told a reporter “Don’t make any plans for Sunday, I promise you, we’ll be back here Sunday.”

If the Hawks have any say in it, the only reason Jones or O'Neal will be back in Atlanta this weekend is to party their pain away somewhere in Atlanta's crowded night scene.

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