The last four playoff series the Hawks have been a part of have been decided in six games. Tonight, eighth-seeded Atlanta has a chance to continue this stretch and complete a huge series upset with a win at home against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers.
If the Hawks pull it off, they would advance to face fellow Southeast division representative Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals
The Pacers will be under intense pressure when they enter Philips Arena, to what is expected to be a sell out crowd, and will be looking to steal another win on the road to bring the series back to Indiana for Game 7.
Game 5 was a statement of sorts by the Hawks, who saw huge contributions from the bench in their vital road victory to take a 3-2 series lead. Mike Scott’s second quarter effort of 17 points in a six minute span pushed the Hawks out to a big lead and was teamed with a 13-point period from Shelvin Mack.
The Pacers did seem to stomach the 41-19 message the Hawks sent in the second and made a solid comeback effort after halftime before falling short in the end 107-97.
Atlanta didn’t seem like the same team in the second half. They focused more on the starters and a few showed signs of struggle that hurt the team’s execution. The Hawks will be looking to build off their efforts in the first half of Game 6, and Mack and Scott may receive a bump in playing time to build off their strong performances.
Pero Antic struggled throughout Game 5 and pushed Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer to look to Scott and 14-year veteran Elton Brand to fill the void. Pero will be looked upon for improvement as Game 6 begins and if his struggles continue, look for the coaching staff to opt for more minutes for Brand as well as Scott.
Jeff Teague was rather quiet in Game 5, but the team will need him to return to his dominant play if they want to closeout the series at home.
The Pacers had five players reach double-figures in scoring, none of which were Roy Hibbert.
Hibbert continued to struggle and finished the game without putting any points on the board in addition to failing to grab a single rebound. He is the first center to go scoreless and reboundless in a postseason game when played at least 10 minutes of action since 1995.
Plus there’s this bad news:
With Hibbert struggling, the Pacers looked to a smaller lineup and found much more success. The “small-ball” will likely continue from Indiana and the Hawks will need to find away to defend better in those situations.
The Highlight Factory tonight should be home to one of the best turnouts the Hawks have hosted all season, and winning in front of a sold out crowd would be huge for the team as they hope to continue their playoff campaign.
The “Red Out” for tonight at Philips Arena that was announced this morning will be awesome and likely strike fear into the hearts of each Pacers players as the crowd will be engulfed in a sea of blood. Add to that, excitement will be at an all-time high now that the #PACisBACK!
Hopefully the team is just as excited as the fans are about everything and can deliver a series-clinching win at home.
No lineup changes are expected for what could be the series finale.
Game 6 is set for 7 P.M. ET and will air nationally on NBA TV; locally on Sports South.