If you weren't fully aware, the Atlanta Hawks are here to remind you just how fast they can flip the proverbial switch from one game to the next. While going through the motions as they finished out the final six games of the regular season, I wondered out loud if they could possibly flip the switch once the playoffs began. They answered that question with an emphatic yes as they took Game 1 in Orlando. Last night they showed that they are also fully capable of flipping the switch back in the other direction as they turned in a rather lack luster performance in a 101-76 defeat in Game 5.
No doubt having a 3-1 advantage in the series with Game 6 back in Atlanta played a part in last night's outcome. It was also a stark reminder at how this team can't be fully trusted and that no lead is safe in a playoff series.
Dwight Howard picked up his second foul with 5:39 to go in the first quarter and immediately headed to the bench. After Josh Smith hit 1 of 2 at the line, Atlanta trailed 10-9 and had an ample opportunity to take control of the game with Howard saddled to the bench for the remainder of the quarter. At least that was what was supposed to happen. In retrospect it looked like Atlanta relaxed both offensively and defensively with Howard out and the result was the Magic's supporting cast finding their rhythm while building a 26-13 first quarter advantage.
That rhythm had been missing the entire series and now Atlanta fans have to hope that this performance doesn't jump start the long dormant Orlando offense. It is no secret that the Hawks defense wasn't very good. They were a step slow in just about every area defensively, but lets give a little credit to Orlando and Stan Van Gundy. For really the first time in the series, the Magic played like their back was against the wall. When Howard picked up that second foul, it would have been really easy for Orlando to simply have folded. They instead took the fight back to the Hawks and like we have seen many times this season, Atlanta wasn't interested in putting up much of a fight.
If Atlanta goes on to win Game 6, then the Game 5 loss will likely be forgotten. However, Atlanta has now put themselves into position where they must treat Game 6 like their Game 7. A return trip to Orlando could equate to an epic collapse for this Hawks team. Often when their backs have been against the wall, this Atlanta team has come up with its best performance. That is a must now, with potentially the whole season riding on Game 6.