ATLANTA, GA - MAY 08: Forward Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks dribbles around center Ryan Hollins #50 of the Boston Celtics during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 8, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
When asked how I thought the Hawks would perform in Game 5 prior to the game I really didn't have an answer. This year this team has shown a resiliency at bouncing back from sub par performances but we have been burned in previous seasons when we hoped they would rise to the occasion. Atlanta rose to the occasion but it certainly wasn't easy and a late turnover gave the Celtics the last chance at victory. However, the Hawks survived and now force Game 6 against a Celtics team that suddenly looked just a little bit tired.
Thoughts from the Game 5 performance:
Al Horford was simply amazing and showed just how much this team missed him this season. When I wrote the update about him starting there was no way I was expecting him to play more than 20-25 minutes. He told Tracy Wolfson before the game that he was sore and had some inflammation from playing in Game 4 but the situation dictated that he play. Play he did for 41 minutes scoring a game-high 19 points and finishing with 11 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. He is the first big up the floor on the break constantly and his energy was sorely needed on this night.
Josh Smith and Marvin Williams got off to slow starts but both came alive during the rest of the game. Williams ended up hitting 5 of 9 shots and three from beyond-the-arc while finishing with 15 points. Smith was just 6 of 16 shooting the ball but grabbed 16 rebounds and handed out six assists despite four turnovers.
Joe Johnson made some comments after Game 4 and before Game 5 but I would caution reading too much into them. The "I didn't get enough touches" comment came after a game that he got up eight shots and no regular player is going to be happy with those kind of touches and should we really want Joe to be happy with eight shots? The comment about team energy was posted by a Boston reporter and we don't know what the context of the question was.
Joe's game is a struggle against a team like Boston and his unwillingness late in the game to attack quickly nearly cost the Hawks. He finished with 15 points and four assists on 6 of 17 shooting but as he gets older he is going to have to learn to adapt his game.
Jeff Teague deserves mention but he once again put up a 16 points and five assists line that I have come to expect from him in the playoffs. His pick and roll with Al Horford after two straight failed possessions gave the Hawks a much needed basket late. Its time to put just a little more trust in him and give him the ball let him direct at the end of games.
If you throw out the blowout loss in Game 4 the winning team has won the rebounding battle. Atlanta out boarded the Celtics 41-33 in Game 5 with Josh Smith and Al Horford combining for 27.
Atlanta's rotation shortened again and Jason Collins played just 10 seconds as Erick Dampier was the first big off the bench. Its hard for me to complain a lot but the curious decision to go with Willie Green down the stretch over Kirk Hinrich was head scratching.
All in all a solid performance and while their back is still against the wall they now have the opportunity to flip the script on Boston and throw all of the pressure their way. With the Hawks nothing is ever easy it seems and we should probably give up expecting such.