How important is Game 5 between the Atlanta Hawks and the Washington Wizards?
Well, in simple terms, extremely important. Over the course of NBA history. teams that lead a 7-game series by a 3-2 margin go on to claim victory 85.3% of the time. Given that the series is currently knotted at two games each, that is a pivotal swing, and with the game taking place in the friendly confines of Philips Arena, the pressure is on the top-seeded Hawks.
The elephant in the room, of course, is the status of Wizards point guard John Wall. The All-Star reportedly began dribbling with his injured left hand on Tuesday, perhaps lending some credence to the notion that he could play in Game 5, and that is an incredibly interesting subplot. There is no question that Wall would be limited by the five (yes, five) non-displaced fractures in his hand and wrist if he were to give it a go, but on the flip side, Wall finished Game 1 with the injury and would still represent a significant upgrade over the likes of Ramon Sessions and Will Bynum.
Because we won't know about Wall's status until (much) closer to game time, the Hawks must concentrate on an internal evaluation. Atlanta operated at an extremely high level offensively for much of Game 4, including a 65-point first half that harkened back to the club that went undefeated for an entire calendar month. It was no coincidence that the offense got going while Jeff Teague (and Dennis Schröder, to a lesser extent) improved his individual play, and Teague continues to be the offensive pulse of the club.
Still, there was a dip in the level of consistency during the second half, and putting together a 48-minute effort continues to be a focus for Mike Budenholzer and company. Wednesday would be a good time to deploy that type of all-hands-on-deck performance, and with a veteran team on the other side, the Hawks can expect the best effort possible from the Wizards in this spot.
As we've outlined throughout the series, the Atlanta Hawks are better than the Washington Wizards, and that is magnified if John Wall isn't on the court. Still, some would argue that the Wizards have operated with more visible urgency in this series, and in front of what should be a raucous home crowd at Philips Arena, the Hawks will aim to flip that narrative on its ear.
Game Date/Time: Wednesday, May 13, 8:00 p.m. ET
Location: Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM