Whatever thrills and finesse the epic Bulls-Celtics series has possessed, the Heat and Hawks have combined for none of it -- but their battle is just as undecided.
The lopsided game was both another blowout in a series defined by them, and nothing less than a coming of age.
It's been ugly all along for Atlanta and Miami; no team trailing at the first quarter has come back, and there's been no loss under double digits. In fact, the margins of victory: 29, 15, 26 (Miami), and 26, 10, and 15 (Atlanta). Both teams have shown up ready to rout the other -- just never on the same night.
So what should have been a showcase for Wade's MVP run found him hobbled by injury and the whole series behaving like the box scores were written on a slinky.
The Heat, however, would trade the glory of winning close for just winning it. And they very well might, if their supporting cast finishes its education in NBA Playoffs 101. After Wade implored them to act like they've been there, rookies Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley showed the poise that defined their NCAA tournament days.
Beasley joined Shaquille O'Neal and Caron Butler as the only Heat players with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in a playoff game (he had 22 and 15). Chalmers and his five steals tied another Heat playoff record, and kept Atlanta's Mike Bibby scoreless in the second half (and in place, with a little bit of shoving -- that's our boy!).
The Heat have to feel more confident going into Game 7 knowing the youngsters have it in them.
James Jones also nabbed 11 points, helping Miami to an insurmountable early lead. But for the billionth time, it was really all about Wade, who looked even more dominant against the Hawks than before his back spasms. The performance was signature MV3, from the 41 points to the run-down block of Ronald Murray's layup to the posterizing of mouthy Zaza Pachulia.
The only thing Wade couldn't do? Go back in time and make the series more compelling.
Miami fans, however, will be more than happy to find the beauty in the breakdown -- so long as the breakdown is Atlanta's.