If the Atlanta Hawks can repeat their shooting performance from Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers, they will win their first playoff series in three years. Mike Budenholzer can thank his bench for decimating the Pacers and leading the Hawks to a 107-97 victory.
In fact, the Hawks would probably have beaten the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers or the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls tonight. Atlanta came out firing in the first quarter and just kept going, tying an NBA record with nine 3-pointers in the second quarter. The Hawks built a 21-point lead at the half and led by as many as 30 in the third quarter.
The Pacers crowd sat in stunned silence as Kyle Korver and Mike Scott rained shots from beyond the arc with amazing accuracy, combining for 10 of the Hawks’ 15 3-pointers made. Scott came off the bench and had a phenomenal game, including four straight trays in the second quarter that eviscerated the Pacers’ defense and had the boobirds calling from the rafters.
The Hawks’ bench was on a mission tonight. Shelvin Mack, Louis Williams and Scott combined for 45 points and each played 20 or more minutes. With Pero Antic shooting poorly and Jeff Teague playing in pain, this performance could not have come at a better time. Budenholzer knows that he has some weapons on the bench and his starters can get a breather without a huge dropoff in production.
If the bench continues to provide this type of spark, the Hawks will be a dangerous team for anyone in the playoffs.
The Pacers’ bench, on the other hand, was terrible. Five players combined for 23 points and 11 personal fouls. In fact, the Pacers spent most the game whining about fouls. Frank Vogel stood incredulously as his No. 1 seed was pushed against the ropes and pummeled like a boxer past his prime. Roy Hibbert is still doing his best “Weekend at Bernie’s” impression and his absence is killing Indiana. Hibbert finished with zero points and zero rebounds in 12 minutes.
Game 6 is not a foregone conclusion by any means, but Atlanta is primed to pull off the improbable. The Pacers squandered the momentum from their Game 4 win and were bullied on their home court by role players on a mission. If they are sent home early, the Pacers can look to the demoralizing loss in Game 5 as the turning point.