Back in Indiana, the Pacers reclaimed the paint and pushed the Hawks to the brink of elimination with a 106-83 victory. Here are three thoughts from a lopsided Game 5:
1. The Hawks’ playoff road misery continues
The Hawks have now lost all three games in Indiana in this series by a combined total of 55 points. They also have lost eight straight on the road in the postseason.
They trail three games to two and face elimination on Friday at Philips Arena in Game 6.
This game was close for about a quarter and a half before some of the same problems of the past continued, along with a few new wrinkles thrown in.
For the second time in this series in Indiana, the Hawks received three technical fouls in a game. That’s the kind of loss of composure that the Hawks did not have in their two home victories.
Once again, they were badly outrebounded. This time it was 51-28. Showing that rebounding is not all about size, the game’s leading rebounder with 12 was Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, who stands 6-foot-5. Hawks coach Larry Drew has emphasized throughout the series the need to block out but, for whatever reason, that message does not seem to get through on the road.
Lastly, the Hawks shot a dreadful 33 percent (25 of 75). Indianapolis native Jeff Teague led the way in that dubious department, hitting just 3 of 16 shots for seven points. Al Horford shot 5 for 14 and Devin Harris shot 3 for 9 and was a team-low minus-28 to round out an ugly night of statistics.
2. In pivotal Game 5, David West delivered
After Game 4, West was unable to come up with answers for his ineffectiveness in the series and looked both dejected and bewildered. He shot 5 for 14 in that game, finishing with 15 points in 39 minutes, but he vowed to improve.
West delivered in Game 5 with a series high for him (and game high) of 24 points. During the second quarter, the brawny 6-9 forward scored 12 of his team’s 13 points during one stretch as the Pacers went from a 31-28 deficit to a 41-35 lead that they would never relinquish.
He started that run with two consecutive layups. Then he added a pair of jumpshots before a jump hook that he banked in, giving him 10 straight points. That was only interrupted by D.J. Augustin’s free throw for a technical foul on the Hawks’ Ivan Johnson. West finished off that series with another bank shot, giving him 16 of the Pacers’ 41 points at that juncture.
He made 11 of 16 field goals on the night and the Hawks had no answer for him. Horford, primarily assigned to defending West, was minus-16 on the night. Previously, Paul George had been the Pacer who had hurt the Hawks the most in their two losses in Indiana.
3. The pendulum swings back for Josh Smith
After Josh Smith dominated Game 4 to help even the series on top of a strong effort in Game 3, the mercurial forward put forth an inconsistent effort. He shot 5 for 16 for 14 points and had only five rebounds.
Just as Smith got into foul trouble in Game 2 that cost the Hawks, he did the same on Wednesday and was limited to 26 minutes. He picked up his fourth foul with 8:16 left in the third quarter but with the game seemingly in the balance and the Hawks trailing by 11, Drew elected to leave him in the game.
Fifty-one seconds later, George drove the lane and instead of recognizing the situation and letting him score, Smith committed his fifth foul. He then received a technical on top of it for arguing the call.
He was forced to sit on the bench for the next 10:19 – critical minutes as the Pacers pushed the lead to 15 by the time he returned to the game.
Smith said if the Hawks played with the same energy, effort and togetherness that they did in Games 3 and 4, they would succeed in Game 5. They could not sustain that on Wednesday and, as a result, were blown out.