The Hawks continued their impressive play on Monday on the road against the Pacers with a 107-97 win in Game 5 of their first-round series at Bankers Life Field House. The Hawks have won two of three on the road in this series and now hold a 3-2 series lead and can close it out on Thursday at Philips Arena in Game 6. Overall, the Hawks have beaten Indiana, which finished with the best record in the regular season in the Eastern Conference, in its own building in three of four meetings this month, including one in the regular season.
Since the Hawks began their run of seven straight playoff appearances in 2008, they are 2-2 when they have had a chance to close out a series. They lost Game 7 to eventual NBA champion Boston in the first round in 2008, defeated Milwaukee in Game 7 the next season in the first round and in 2010 in the first round against Orlando they went 1-1, losing Game 5 and then winning Game 6. Significantly, they are 2-0 at home in those situations.
Here are three observations on the win:
It was impossible to see it coming. Hawks reserve forward Mike Scott put on a performance worthy of Pacers Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. Atlanta began the second quarter down by one point and then Scott single-handedly gave the Hawks a sizable lead that grew and grew like the fabled beanstalk of nursery rhymes.
Starting 54 seconds into the quarter, Scott made four 3-pointers in a span of 1:47 to give the Hawks a 33-21 lead. He wasn’t done. He added a putback and then another 3-pointer with 5:29 left. In all, the second-year player scored 17 points in less than a six-minute span of the quarter. He made all six of his shots, five of them 3s. This from a player who entered the game averaging 7.5 points per game in the playoffs.
But he did not act alone. The Hawks made nine 3-pointers in the period — a franchise playoff record — including two by Kyle Korver, and one each by Shelvin Mack and DeMarre Carroll. One game after shooting 35 percent for the game, the Hawks shot 66 percent from the field in the first half and 67 percent on 3-pointers.
It was a dramatic turn of events. Indiana started the game strong, as usual, and led 12-7 with 6:51 left in the first quarter. From that point until halftime, the Hawks outscored the Pacers 54-28. In a way, the game was reminiscent of the Hawks’ 107-88 regular-season win at Indiana on April 6 in which Atlanta led by 55-23 at halftime.
Scott played 23 minutes but did not score again, failing to connect on his final three attempts in the second half.
The Hawks’ lead grew as large as 30 points, 80-50, after Carroll made a 3-pointer with 7:05 left in the third quarter.
Nonetheless, the Hawks still had to make some big shots down the stretch to put the game away, as Indiana whittled 21 points off that lead with 4:04 left in regulation after C.J. Watson’s driving layup. Indiana largely got back in the game because the Hawks went almost the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter with just one field goal.
On the possession after Watson cut it to single digits, Korver made the shot of the game and, again, it was via the 3-pointer. The NBA 3-point arc is 23 feet, 9 inches. Korver had to be easily five feet behind it, maybe more. He launched a shot that went clean in, pushing the Hawks’ lead back to 12. It was the kind of demoralizing, killer-instinct 3-pointer that Pacers president Larry Bird made his trademark during his playing days.
Korver finished with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting, all 3-pointers. He also was a game-best plus-21 in a team-high 42 minutes. For the game, the Hawks made 15 3-pointers on 27 attempts (56 percent).
In the final few minutes, Paul Millsap (18 points) had a basket and Mack had two free throws to put the game out of reach.
While Scott was an unlikely hero, so was Mack. He finished with team highs of 20 points and five assists in 25 minutes. It was the second time in the series that Mack, who played collegiately at Butler in Indianapolis, came up big in Indianapolis. In Game 1, also a Hawks win, he made 2-of-5 3-pointers and scored eight points in 14 points.
But on Monday, he was even better. In his first four playoff games in the series, Mack had averaged 5.5 points but he had 13 by halftime.
The Hawks needed it on a night when Teague was not great. The starting point guard had three turnovers to four assists and scored 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting.
Helped by Mack’s effort, the Hawks stand one win away from pulling off arguably the biggest playoff upset in franchise history and advancing.