The Atlanta Hawks demonstrated just how tough they are in Wednesday’s win over the Brooklyn Nets. Al Horford has been playing through a dislocated finger throughout the series, and although he seemed to be concerned about it during much of Game 5, the stats didn’t show it. Horford shot an impressive 10-of-17 from the field and finished with 15 rebounds and five assists on top of his 20 points.
Horford clearly outplayed the other team’s key big man in the contest. Brooklyn’s Brook Lopez drained just 4-of-13 field goals and finished with only 15 points and four rebounds despite the fact that he played over 38 minutes in the game. Lopez simply couldn’t find his rhythm, and with the Nets now facing an elimination game at home in Game 6, Lopez will need to be a lot better if his team is to make it back to Atlanta.
That said, even with Lopez’s sub-par outing, the Nets were able to stay in the game thanks to guards Alan Anderson, Joe Johnson and Jarrett Jack. Anderson put together a particularly spectacular effort, pouring in 23 points on 9-of 11-shooting overall and 4-of-4 from downtown. He displayed the kind of poise and willingness to throw up shots that can make Anderson an all-or-nothing proposition some nights, and on Wednesday he indeed brought his “A” game.
Johnson on the other hand didn’t shoot as well as Anderson, but did provide several key three-pointers late to keep the Nets close before the Hawks pulled away at the end of the game. The 18 points represented Johnson’s most efficient effort in the series as the seven-time All-Star posted his production on 46 percent shooting.
Jack added 18 points off the bench and scored 12 straight for the Nets at one point during a fourth-quarter charge after the Hawks took a 12-point lead into the final frame.
All of that turned out to be for naught, however, as the Hawks finished with all five starters in double figures and three starters scoring at least 20 points. As much as Horford had a big game, teammate DeMarre Carroll was equally good, pouring in 20 or more points for the third game in a row. And while Jeff Teague (who had an ankle injury scare in the game) and Kyle Korver also shot the ball well for the Hawks on Wednesday, it’s clear that Carroll is the X-factor in the series.
Carroll enjoyed a breakout year with 12.6 points per game during the regular season, but he has stepped his game up another level in the postseason, scoring at least 17 points in four of the five games against the Nets. While he did put together an absolute dud performance in Game 2, making just a single field goal, he has been the most consistent Hawk on the court otherwise.
Thanks to the emergence of Carroll as a playoff performer and generally solid play of the All-Stars around him, the Hawks will now look to close out the Nets at the Barclays Center on Friday night. Historically, the team that wins Game 5 with the series tied goes on to the next round 82 percent of the time, so Brooklyn is on the ropes. At the same time, it remains to be seen if the Hawks can deliver the knockout blow, something the franchise has had trouble doing in recent years, even though the present version of the team appears far superior than previous iterations.