The Atlanta Hawks weren't a complete no show in Game 5 but lets just say their performance was less than inspiring. All of the momentum that they seemed to build with victories in Games 3 & 4 in Atlanta disappeared in the 106-83 loss. Even with his team facing elimination for the first time in the series, Larry Drew opted not to practice his team on Thursday and dismissed them after a brief meeting.
"I know our guys are not just physically fatigued but I think they're mentally fatigued as well," Drew said. "I wanted to just allow these guys to kind of get away, kind of regroup, kind of recharge a little bit as we're getting ready for Game 6. I brought them in and spoke to them. But I just really felt the best thing today was to get away from it, get away from us, get away from everybody and get ready for tomorrow."
From an Xs and Os standpoint Drew is probably right. The Pacers and the Hawks have now played nine times counting the regular season and it is unlikely that either team has any surprises left for the other. Drew has battled his team's inconsistencies all season so taking a day to regroup could be a sound strategy.
If the Hawks are able to force a Game 7 they will have to figure out a way to solve the Pacers on the road. Atlanta has lost five straight games in Indiana counting the regular season and haven't had an answer for the Pacers' physical defense.
"We went into a hostile environment knowing that Indiana would come out and give us their best shot," the coach said. "We have to be able to respond to it. The way to respond is not to lose our composure, and we did. We lost our composure."
The words "mental toughness" have been spoken a lot over the last few playoffs that these Hawks have been in. Many of the players have changed but still those questions linger and they hover over the heads of Atlanta's trio of leaders in Josh Smith, Al Horford and Jeff Teague.
Before they can worry about Game 7 though they must worry about getting a victory in Game 6. The Pacers have lost 13 straight games at Philips Arena but the Hawks shouldn't expect them to just roll over.