It looked bleak early, but the Atlanta Hawks finally found a rhythm and returned to form with a 110-83 blowout win over the Boston Celtics in Game 5. Atlanta takes a 3-2 edge in the series and can close things out with a win in Boston on Thursday.
Through the first four games of the series, the team that got off to the best start ultimately won the game. Atlanta trailed 20-15 at the end of the first quarter and made just 6 of their first 34 shot attempts. Boston pushed the lead to as many as 10 early in the second quarter before the Hawks finally regained their form and went on a run to lead by 10 at the half.
"The guys tonight, even in the first quarter, even after the way they were getting after it defensively, set a tone," Mike Budenholzer said following the game. We just needed to get a little bit of a rhythm, maybe play with more pace, more ball movement, the stuff we've been talking about all year. In the second quarter, they seemed to find that rhythm."
Atlanta led 47-39 at the break but the run didn't stop there. The Hawks kept pouring it on in the third and put the game away outscoring the Celtics 42-23 in the period to push the lead to 89-62 heading to the fourth. Atlanta shot 62 percent from the field in the quarter and forced the Celtics into 10 turnovers.
"Obviously, Mike Scott off the bench was great," Budenholzer added. "Kent Bazemore had a big second quarter. The whole group....Thabo's energy, Thabo's activity. It was just a good team win. All up and down the roster, guys played well on both ends of the court. Now we just have to take this same type of mentality, the same type of effort, and take it on the road."
Perhaps the most impressive part of the win for the Hawks is that they record a blowout without big scoring contributions from Paul Millsap or Al Horford. Millsap once again did a little bit of everything finishing with 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists but took just 10 shots in the game.
Horford missed his first eight shots from the field and found himself on the bench during Atlanta's big second quarter run. Horford finished with six points, eight rebounds and four assists on 2 for 11 shooting.
Mike Scott led five different players in double figures with 17 points off the bench. Jeff Teague and Kent Bazemore each finished with 16 while Kyle Korver chipped in 13 including three made three pointers.
"The first quarter wasn't so good, Korver said." We came out and wanted to do so well. We were really aggressive and probably rushed things a little bit. Mike Scott hits that first three and Baze hit a bunch of them. We fed off the crowd and got a ton of momentum. We carried that into halftime and then came out in the third quarter and played lights out."
Bazemore knocked down all four of his three-pointers and scored 12 of his 16 points during Atlanta's second quarter run.
"It's definitely contagious, but I think what changes is, we just said 'let it fly,' Bazemore said when asked about how the Hawks overcame the slow start. "I think we loosened up a little bit in the second quarter. Guys were just more aggressive shooting shots. I think in the huddle, we understand, we've been there so many times, where defense has been stellar but we haven't been able to make shots. We got to the point tonight, where it's just like 'man, just go out and let it go."
Hawks hold Isaiah Thomas in check in Game 5
After being a catalyst for the Celtics in Games 3 & 4, the Hawks held Isaiah Thomas in check in Game 4. Thomas went scoreless in the first half going 0-4 from the field. Atlanta threw some different looks at him defensively and kept him at bay for much of the evening.
Thomas would finish with seven points, three assists and three turnovers while going 3 for 12 from the field. He tweaked an ankle in the fourth quarter but left the court under his own power jogging his way back to the locker room.
"Always on a night like this, there are sometimes when guys have a little bit of an off night," Budenholzer said when asked about the defensive effort on Thomas. "Hopefully our activity and our effort was good on him. I don't think you can take any pause. We have to be just as good or better against him. We know how important he is."
Schröder bounces back with solid performance
It has been a long struggle for Dennis Schröder dating back to the final months of the regular season but he had his most effective game of the series in Game 5. Schröder finished with nine points and two assists in 14 minutes off the bench. The best sign for him was that he wasn't forcing the issue. He moved the basketball and looked to set up teammates which was something that we talked about prior to Game 5.
For the first time this series, Schröder wasn't a net negative for the Hawks on the court. He was playing well until he was whistled for a technical foul for screaming in the Thomas' face following a dunk by Thabo Sefolosha.
The Hawks need Schröder to play within himself and not let his emotions get the best of him when they head back to Boston in Game 6.