Hawks take a mental break before crucial Game 6

ATLANTA — Hawks coach Larry Drew said his team “flipped the switch” after falling down in its first-round playoff series with the Pacers.

If the Hawks want to avoid elimination in Friday’s Game 6 at Philips Arena, they’ll have to pull off that trick again, coming off another road loss in which the coach said his team lost their composure.

For the second time in the series, the Hawks received three technical fouls during a loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Drew said he does not think it will be harder to put the 106-83 loss behind because tempers were burning, in his words, “way too hot.”

“You know what? If we were still on the road it would be (harder), but now that we’re coming home, we saw the results of when we do lose our composure and I thought we did in Games 1 and Games 2 and then we come home and we almost flipped the switch a little bit,” he said, “where it appeared that we just played through a lot of calls. It was kind of like a role reversal where (the Pacers) were kind of complaining a little bit.

“… We have to get back in that frame of my mind we had for Game 3: Go out and play between those lines and put it all into it and play through all situations,” said Drew. “I’m expecting our guys come to back and bring that same mentality.”

To help the cause of forgetting about Game 5, Drew required very little of his players on Thursday. He gathered them for a few words but no on-court session and no video. Most were gone shortly after 1 p.m., the time when the session originally was scheduled to begin.

Within that strategy, Drew reflected upon his 10 seasons as an NBA player. He said that neither grinding down his players nor cracking the whip were the answer.

He wants them to “regroup, recharge,” saying Game 6 will not be won by Xs and Os.

“I know our guys are not just physically but I think they’re mentally fatigued as well,: he said. “… I brought them in, spoke to them and truly felt today best to get away from it, from us, from everybody.”

The only player of whom a little more was required was point guard Jeff Teague, who had by far his worst game of the series. Teague made 3 of 16 shots and totaled seven points. Drew met individually with Teague — the only player with whom he did so – and told him not to worry so much about scoring because he does so many other things for the Hawks.

Kyle Korver, the only player to speak with the media on Thursday, said he thinks the Hawks can put the game behind them. Korver has made 12 of 27 3-point shots (44.4 percent) in the series.

“I think we just have to be the aggressor,” he said. “Over the course of a game there’s 50/50 calls. Usually the more aggressive team gets the call. We’ve been more aggressive at home so we can’t look to Game 7. We just have to focus on Game 6 and try to be the more aggressive team.”

What Korver said about being more aggressive is borne out by one statistic: the team’s field-goal percentage. The Hawks had their best shooting performances in Games 1 and 2 (50.0 and 49.4 percent, respectively) – both games they lost. At Philips Arena, they were more scrappy and rebounded better and won by shooting 42.7 and 44.6 percent. Thursday’s shooting percentage of 33.3 was their lowest of the series by a good margin.

Korver hopes the Hawks can benefit from the energy of the Philips crowd as they did in their victories in Games 3 and 4.

“You know, there’s reason people play for home court in the playoffs,” he said, “because it’s easier to get wins at home than on the road. The crowd gets behind you and feeds your energy and we’re an energy team.

“If we’re not playing with high energy, we’re not a slow-it-down-grind-it-out-one-on-one team. That’s not our strength and that is a strength of (the Pacers) so the more we can make it an up-tempo game and get out and run and scrap and play with high energy and double-team, scramble out of it — that’s when we’re at our best.”

While the Hawks are not looking ahead, if they do win, they will have to do something neither team has accomplished thus far: Win on the road. Of the NBA’s 111 seven-game series in history, the road team has won Game 7 21 times (18.9 percent).

“Closing out a team is tough,” Korver said. “If a team has pride and they know it’s win or go home, especially when the team that’s down is at home. I think we’re going to come out and play with a lot of energy. Hopefully, we play smart. We’re going to try and get this win.”