A 107-97 Game 5 victory for the Atlanta Hawks has the Indiana Pacers on the brink of elimination, with the No. 8 seeded Hawks now leading the No. 1 seeded Pacers 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
The Hawks have the chance to clinch the series upset with a win in Game 6 at home in Atlanta on Thursday night.
Tonight’s contest started off close. The Hawks trailed by one point after the first quarter, but then had an offense explosion in the second quarter in which they outscored the Pacers 41-19 to build up a 61-40 halftime lead.
Atlanta would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game despite a furious comeback effort by Indiana in the fourth quarter that trimmed the lead down to nine.
Atlanta’s incredible first half was buoyed by the performance of Mike Scott, who scored 17 points on 5-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc in just 11 minutes to help the team go on a 30-6 run in the second quarter. This run helped the Hawks join the 1970 Milwaukee Bucks as the only teams in the modern era of the NBA to score more than 40 points and give up less than 20 points in a single quarter of a playoff game.
Paul Millsap had a strong effort for Atlanta with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 assists. Kyle Korver added 16 points and a team-high 9 rebounds, three of those points coming on a clutch fourth quarter shot from about five feet behind the arc as the shot clock expired. This shot took the life out of the home crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and helped quell Indiana’s comeback efforts.
Paul George notched his fifth double-double for the Pacers in the series with 26 points and 12 rebounds to go along with 6 assists and 6 steals.
This marked the first game of the series in which Roy Hibbert was truly a non-factor, as he finished with 0 points and 0 rebounds in just 12 minutes of play.
Taking many of his minutes off the bench was C.J. Watson, who finished with 15 points in 27 minutes and served as the spark plug during the Pacers’ fourth quarter comeback attempt. Indiana got as close as eight points in the final minute of the game.
With so much media coverage directed at Indiana’s collapse in the second half of the regular-season, many, including myself, thought the team would bounce back with a strong playoff push.
No one really gave the Hawks much of a chance. Of the 18 ESPN experts polled on how they thought the series would play out, every single one chose Indiana, and only one person predicted the Hawks would even push the series as far as seven games.
As we now know, if the Pacers are to win the series they will have to do so in seven games.
Atlanta will have a chance to close out the series at home on Thursday, May 1st at Phillips Arena. Tip-off is 7 PM ET.