When things finally clicked for the Atlanta Hawks, the Brooklyn Nets didn't have an answer.
For the first part of Game 6, it had a familiar feel to the rest of the series. Atlanta came out of the gate quickly only to watch Brooklyn chip away at the lead in the second quarter. The Hawks made 72 percent of their field goal attempts in the first and quickly built a 36-23 lead. However, as they had done so often in this series, the Nets answered back in the second outscoring Atlanta 22-15 to cut the deficit to 51-45 at halftime.
This time, however, the Hawks slammed the door shut on the game and the series with a dominating third quarter out scoring the Nets 41-21. Atlanta's ball movement was crisp and their defense was smothering. They made 16 of 24 attempts in the quarter and recorded assists on 15 of those made baskets.
Fans had been waiting for Atlanta to deliver the knockout punch to Brooklyn who made this series much tougher than anyone would have thought.
The Hawks admittedly didn't play well through the first three games but seemed to start to turn the corner despite a loss in Game 4.
"We lost Game 4, and you never want that to happen," Mike Budenholzer said following the game. "But I think we were moving in the right direction, 4, 5, 6. At the end of the day, you got to get back to work and get prepared for Game 1. If you assume anything, you're in trouble. But I think this was great for us, to play playoff basketball, to compete like you have to in the playoffs."
The series began with questions surrounding the health of Paul Millsap who had missed five of the last six regular season games with a shoulder injury. As the series wore on, his play picked up and he was the catalyst in Game 6 finishing with 25 points, nine rebounds, and six assists.
Atlanta didn't make it through the series opener before losing another frontline player. Al Horford suffered a dislocated pinky in the second half of Game 1 and battled the effects for most of the series. Like Millsap, he learned to deal with the injury and saved his best for the last two games of the series. Horford finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in Game 5 and added 18 points and seven rebounds in Game 6. All the while quarterbacking the team on the defensive end of the floor.
Millsap and Horford's play improved as the series went along, but if there was an MVP award to be handed out it would have likely gone to DeMarre Carroll. Carroll scored at least 20 points in four of the six games of the series, he averaged a team-best 17.5 points and knocked down 47 percent of his three-point attempts. He was Atlanta's most consistent offensive option while spending the majority of the series matched up against Brooklyn's Joe Johnson. Carroll was the only member of Atlanta's starting five not to make the All-Star game this season but during this series he was clearly an All-Star performer.
Jeff Teague shows that its possible to dominate a game without scoring a point
Jeff Teague missed all five of his field goal attempts in Game 6 and did not attempt a free throw. Still he was the focal point of Atlanta's attack accounting for 13 of the team's 34 assists while turning the ball over just one time. Kyle Korver talked about Teague's performance with NBA.com's John Schuhmann after the game:
"His presence and his fingerprints were all over the game," Korver said of his point guard. "It's one of the best games I've ever seen Jeff play. His focus and energy really fueled that third quarter."
Teague recorded back-to-back steals early in the third quarter that helped ignite Atlanta's run. He was in control for the entire game and showed that he can be a threat even when he is not scoring the basketball.
Dennis Schröder quietly has best game of series in Game 6
The progression of Dennis Schröder was one of the biggest stories for the Hawks this season. However, he struggled throughout the first round series with the Nets before finding himself somewhat in Game 6. Schröder finished with 12 points and four assists on Friday. He made six of his first 10 attempts before missing all three of his shot attempts in the fourth quarter during garbage time. The best news for Atlanta is that he showed some of the poise that was on display during the regular season.
Nets prove to be worthy opponent
Coming into the series, not many people gave Brooklyn much of a chance to challenge Atlanta. The Hawks quickly found out that the Nets had no intentions of just rolling and for a brief moment looked like they were poised to pull off an improbable upset. Atlanta didn't play well early on in the series, but the Nets were a big reason why.