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May 2, 2009, 02:56 AM ET
Playoff Prospectus: Atlanta-Miami Game 6

by Kevin Pelton

Just the one game last night, so we’ll go the Unfiltered route …
Miami 98, Atlanta 72 (Series tied 3-3)
Pace: 81.4
Offensive Ratings: Miami 120.7, Atlanta 88.3

This is the bizarro Bulls-Celtics series, going the full seven games with an average margin of victory of 21.8 points per game. Last night’s Game 6 was no exception, with the host Heat taking a 14-point lead after one quarter and breaking the game open after halftime to go up by 20-plus points.

As always for Miami, everything started with Dwyane Wade. Shaking off the back injury that limited him in Games 4 and 5, Wade was at his best, scoring 41 points in 39 minutes. He got to the free-throw line 17 times and recaptured his stroke from beyond the arc, making three triples. Wade carried the load on a night when, with Jermaine O’Neal missing the game because of a concussion, he got relatively little help. Michael Beasley scored 22 points, but needed 25 shot attempts to get them. Beasley was much more effective on the glass, pulling down 15 boards.

Atlanta suffered through an offensive nightmare, scoring 30 points after halftime. With Al Horford sitting out and Marvin Williams limited to five minutes late in the fist quarter and early in the second, the Hawks were down to seven rotation players and virtually no margin for error. The only Atlanta player to find any sort of an offensive rhythm was Mike Bibby, with 20 points.

One of the surprises of this series has been how poorly Joe Johnson has played. In Game 5, Johnson got to the free-throw line 15 times. Other than that, he’s struggled to make shots, hitting 39.1 percent from the field and 4-of-15 from three-point range. And Johnson has more turnovers (20) than assists (18). Ouch.

For Maurice Evans and Zaza Pachulia to have clunkers is not surprising; they’re being asked to do way more than usual because of the Hawks’ injuries. Atlanta could have used a good game from Josh Smith. Nope; he shot 3-of-13 and did not make anything other than a layup all night.

So now we get a Game 7, and I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe the entire series will be redeemed by a brilliant finish; maybe we’ll get another anticlimactic outcome that makes us wonder the point. The Heat now seems to have the slight health advantage, since Joel Anthony is more capable of stepping into the lineup than Solomon Jones. If O’Neal returns, the difference in terms of health is a sizeable one. In this series, however, Wade’s play has trumped anything else, and momentum has been short-lived. If you know what to expect from Game 7, you’re a step ahead of me.

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