By Matt Winkeljohn, for NBA.com
Posted Apr 30 2009 1:21AM
ATLANTA -- As bodies flew, words spewed, technical fouls were called, ankles wrenched and skulls clanked off hardwood, Philips Arena on Wednesday night felt less like home to Game 5 between the Heat and the Hawks and more like a battlefield.
And as this siege moves from autumn into winter, Atlanta appears better stocked for the weather.
A 106-91 win gave Atlanta a 3-2 series lead, left Heat coach Erik Spoelstra angry at Hawks forward Josh Smith for a late circus dunk attempt, and outlined a few emerging themes:
When the Hawks' "front-of-house" player, Joe Johnson, plays the way you'd expect, Atlanta looks like too much for the Heat. His personal series-high 25 points included 13 in the second quarter as the Hawks blew to a 63-40 halftime lead. "It's good to have Joe back being Joe," said Atlanta center Al Horford.
Conversely, it appears the Heat can win or lose whether Dwyane Wade puts up big numbers or not. His 29 points on Wednesday were nowhere near enough. They also came with an asterisk.
Wade started the game with the same stiff back that bothered him in an 81-71 Game 4 loss Monday in Miami.
He missed his first four shots, lumbered as if he'd aged about 20 years, then whacked his head on the floor after colliding with Josh Smith while chasing a loose ball late in the first quarter.
Although he missed just a few minutes of game time while in the locker room, Wade said he was woozy for a while. He scored just six points in the first half.
Sure, he "loosened up" in the second half, scoring 23 points on 8-for-13 shooting. He said he hopes he warms up faster in Friday's Game 6. Count Spoelstra in that camp because without Wade in rhythm, the Heat are rudderless.
"They pretty much pounded us in every way, shape and form," the Miami coach said. "[Wade] looked like he started to loosen up in the second half, and that's encouraging for us. He's starting to feel better the more he goes."
Miami shaved a modest eight points off the Hawks' huge lead in the third, but this Atlanta team may be growing up. They held serve in a 24-24 fourth quarter.
In that period, though, Smith's failed attempt at a between-the-legs dunk with 4:16 left in the game and Atlanta leading 102-82 hacked off the Heat. "They were trying to embarass us," Spoelstra said.
"Yes, we were very insulted by it," said Wade, who earlier was called for a flagrant-one foul on a dunk attempt by Maurice Evans.
Miami can be insulted, but it won't matter unless Wade gets more help from more comrades than center Jermaine O'Neal.
O'Neal scored 14 on Wednesday, and is averaging 16 in the series. But the only other Heat player in double figures is James Jones (barely, at 10.0).
The Hawks have five players averaging double figures, and that does not include Horford, who went down for the remainder of Game 5 with a sprained right ankle with 2:32 left in the second quarter. He's averaging 9.0.
You look at the Heat, and with Jamario Moon (sports hernia) having clocked out of the series after three games, and wonder where might they get any more steady scoring.
Second-year guard Daequan Cook scored 20 in a Game 2 win, making six 3-pointers.
In the past two games, he scored zero and two.
Rookie Michael Beasley scored 12 points with seven rebounds in Game 2, but in Game 4 he scored just two free throws and grabbed one rebound.
Beasley was good for 18 Wednesday, but had just eight points and two rebounds through three quarters, and had nothing -- no points or rebounds -- to do with the Heat's "rally" in the third quarter.
On the flip side, the Hawks have Zaza, Flip and friends.
Atlanta's backup center, Zaza Pachulia had modest totals of six points and six rebounds Wednesday, but his 12-point, 18-rebound performance in Game 4 may have done more to turn this series than anything.
And Wednesday, Flip Murray scored 23 off the bench on nine of 15 shooting with five rebounds and three assists.
With starting forward Marvin Williams out since Game 2 with a sprained right wrist, the Hawks took a couple games to re-calibrate.
They seem good to go now, after a players-only meeting in Miami following their 107-78 loss in Game 3.
"Toughness was part of [the meeting]," said Evans. "We were also emphasizing that we have to play together on both ends of the floor. That why that team picture is right there."
Evans pointed to a photo of the Hawks held up against a wall near Horford's locker with masking tape.
"Coach Woodson put it up and pointed to it and said, 'This is what it's going to take; it's going to take a team effort. Everybody needs to look at this picture and understand it's going to be a team effort, not individual efforts,' " Evans said. "He did that after we lost Game 3."
The Hawks seem to have found themselves.
Miami is searching, complaining.
Woodson would not say what he said to Smith about his dunk attempt, but admitted he said something.
As for all the extra-curricular activity under the baskets, including a hard Solomon Jones foul on Wade that netted two technicals for each team, hey, whadya expect this time of year?
"I don't want our guys to shy away from it, and I don't want our guys complaining," Woodson said. "It's playoff time, and they're letting us play and bang, and it looks ugly at times, but we withstood it tonight."
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