About as exciting as a missed dunk

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:15 PM ET

The series has been neither compelling nor competitive.

Regardless of which team emerges later this afternoon, neither will be given much of a chance as the well-rested Cleveland Cavaliers and King James await.

It's Game 7 and the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks have one final chance to create some kind of magic and lasting impression.

The NBA's motto of "Where Amazing Happens'' hasn't quite applied to this series.

As theatre goes, it's been as lacklustre as Josh Smith's ill-fated and ill-timed between- the-legs dunk that left plenty of egg on his face.

As drama goes, there has been very little in a series that has produced an average margin of victory of 18.5 points.

The most competitive game involved a 10-point spread. There have been two complete blowouts by margins of 26 and 29 points.

The Hawks figure to be in better shape, even though no one has been able to figure out this series.

The Hawks will be at home and if they can keep Dwyane Wade from going off, they will be off to the second round for the first time since 1999.

Last spring, the Hawks won over many fans in the opening round by winning three games against the Boston Celtics, each at home, only to get blown out in Game 7.

Jermaine O'Neal, when healthy, has shown flashes, Joe Johnson continues to show that he's among the game's elite, youngsters such as Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers and Joel Anthony have stepped up and Wade has provided further proof why he's as good as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

But Smith's attempted dunk in Game 5, barring something truly special today, might be the timeless impression of a seven-game series that hasn't had the feel of a seven-game series.

A red-faced Smith apologized to Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra before Game 6 in Miami, where Wade put up 41 points.

"That was for our fans," Smith said of his missed dunk in the fourth quarter. "They've been great to us all season and they were out in full force.

"I was rewarding them for helping us get the win. I was just trying to show our fans some love in return for what they've given us all year. It was nothing more than that.

"When I hear people questioning why I'd do something like that or wondering if I was trying to mock the other team, I just wanted coach Spoelstra to know that wasn't the case."

In any case, the Heat and Hawks do get an opportunity to make amends this afternoon.

It doesn't have to be close to the Celtics-Bulls epic, which concluded last night in Beantown, but having a game come down to the final quarter, let alone the final possession, would be nice.

"We've put ourselves in this position and I like our position," Hawks head coach Mike Woodson said.

"We wanted to have a chance to host Game 7."

Given the stakes, Spoelstra welcomes the moment.

"This is pressure-packed,'' he said. "This is a whole different game. There's nothing better than a Game 7. It'll give you goose bumps. There's nothing better in all of sports.''

Hopefully the Heat and Hawks oblige.

DALEMBERT DILEMMA

The 76ers, who showed no heart in losing at home to the undermanned Magic in Game 6, have a delicate issue to resolve in the form of Samuel Dalembert, the Haitian-born, Montreal-raised centre who has done little to endear himself to the Philly organization.

Dalembert needs a change of scenery and the Sixers would be better off with a more consistent piece.

The problem, as always, is money.

Dalembert is owed $11.4 million US next season and $12.2 million the following season.

The Sixers need a trading partner, something that proved futile when they peddled Dalembert prior to the trade deadline in February.

The team wants to re-sign Andre Miller, a free agent this summer, and needs as much cash available to make it work.

"Right now, he's a member of the Sixers,'' general manager Ed Stefanski said of Dalembert. "We hope he gets better over the summer and works on the things we asked him to work on."

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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