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Hawks ready to knock out Heat
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Hawks vs. Heat

When: 8 tonight

Where: Miami

Series: Atlanta leads 3-2

TV, radio: ESPN (Charter channel 32); 790-AM

Web site:

MIAMI — Facing a win-or-else scenario, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat already would figure to have plenty of motivation.

Just in case, the Atlanta Hawks provided oodles more.

Between Mario West’s wild celebration as the first half of Game 5 expired, Josh Smith’s showboating dunk attempt in the final minutes and Hawks radio announcer Steve Holman mocking the NBA’s scoring champion throughout, Wade and Miami are down 3-2 in the series but clearly leading in bulletin-board material.

Whether it will matter when the Hawks try to wrap up this increasingly volatile first-round Eastern Conference matchup in Miami tonight, well, that’s anyone’s guess.

“I’ll go back to something my high school coach always told me: Act like you’ve done something before,” Wade said. “He used to hate when I used to dunk and pound my chest all the time. He told me act like I’ve been there, act like I’ve done it, be classy. Win, lose or draw, you’re supposed to be classy.”

The Hawks have controlled the last two games, running out to huge leads in Games 4 and 5. Tempers flared in both contests, with a combined 100 fouls called, and there was plenty of shoving and staredowns Wednesday in the Hawks’ win.
Heat center Jermaine O’Neal was whacked in the face by Atlanta’s Zaza Pachulia. Wade got knocked to the floor, bumping his head in the opening minutes. Four players got technical fouls after one relatively tame scrum, with Wade in the middle of that one as well.

Playoff intensity, indeed.

And it’s not going to be any different today.

“I don’t want our guys backing down by any means,” Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. “I don’t think we’ve been out there trying to hurt anyone.”

The Heat say they haven’t either, and Wade took offense to Holman’s suggestion otherwise.

When Wade leaped behind Mo Evans and tried to block a dunk attempt in Game 5, both players tumbled to the floor. Wade was called for a flagrant foul, which NBA officials rescinded after reviewing the play Thursday.

“Dwyane Wade tried to hurt Mo Evans,” Holman said.

Wade insisted Holman was wrong.

“Hey, that’s why he doesn’t work in Miami,” Wade said.

And when Atlanta center Al Horford hit the floor with a sprained ankle, Holman suggested the Heat were resorting to “thuggery,” an assessment even Horford disagreed with.

“I just came down very awkward, that’s all,” Horford said.

Horford made the trip to Miami and said he’s a game-time decision for today, but Woodson said he’ll consider starting Solomon Jones instead and continue to bring Pachulia — a force in the last two games — off the bench.

Whether Horford plays or not, the Heat expect more heated battles down low.

“I think it’s going to be an extremely physical game one way or another,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We have to be ready for the physicality of it and just make sure we play our best game.”

Wade got more treatment Thursday and said he’s feeling much better, no longer so pained by the back spasms that slowed him earlier this week and dealing with no aftereffects of conking his head on the Hawks’ floor.

No short-term memory loss, meaning he recalls West stopping him from scoring on the last play of the first half and reacting jubilantly afterward (“Celebration after one stop, that’s funny,” Wade said) and Smith’s exclamation-point dunk try.

Smith tried to swoop the ball between his legs and, in the same motion, go in for a dunk that ended up clanging off the rim.
In Miami’s eyes, the play was an insult.

“I’m not worried about that,” Smith said. “My loyalty is with this team, not the Miami Heat.”

It’s not as if these teams were the best of friends before this series started, either.

Last season, the final minute of a Heat-Hawks game had to be replayed by decree of the NBA because Atlanta’s stat crew charged former Miami center Shaquille O’Neal with a foul he didn’t commit. Tempers started getting hot in Game 4 of this series, and it only escalated in Game 5.

“I don’t mind,” Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. “Let’s turn it up a notch. Part of the game.”

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