With some help from Al Horford in the final seconds, the Atlanta Hawks secured a much-needed victory over the Washington Wizards in Game 5 on Wednesday night. However, there is still an important task at hand for the top-seeded squad, and the Hawks will have the opportunity to close things out on Friday night with a road win in the nation's capital.
Of course, nothing is likely to come easy for Atlanta, especially given the presence of John Wall. Washington's All-Star point guard returned in Game 5, and while he was largely quiet in the second half, Wall still represents a significant upgrade over the likes of Ramon Sessions and Will Bynum. Earlier in the series, the Hawks managed to secure a split in the Verizon Center, but that outcome came with Wall wearing a suit, and the challenge is larger this time around.
From a Hawks perspective, Game 5 was all over the place on the offensive end, and Mike Budenholzer will undoubtedly expect improvement on Friday. Jeff Teague and Dennis Schröder (absent his late heroics) combined to shoot 9 of 25 from the floor with 11 turnovers, Kyle Korver converted only one field goal, and as a team, the Hawks issued 25 (!) giveaways in the game. Defensively, it was a strong performance over 48 minutes, but given the change in venue, it would be aggressive to rely on that level of play in back-to-back contests.
Obviously, Game 6 does not qualify as a "must-win" for the Atlanta Hawks. They have the safety net of a Game 7 at Philips Arena on Monday evening, and that must be mentioned. However, this is a team that desperately needs a bit of rest in order to achieve their ultimate goal, and if the Hawks can finish this series with a strong showing on Friday, they will have four full days to travel and rest before beginning the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Make no mistake, there is no place for getting ahead of ourselves. The Wizards have proved to be a worthy opponent over the body of this series, and Game 6 should be a 48-minute battle. Stay tuned throughout the day, and we'll try to guide you through it.
Game Date/Time: Friday, May 15, 7:00 p.m. ET
Location: Verizon Center, Washington, DC
Radio: 92.9 "The Game" FM