If there’s one thing Atlanta Hawks fans know well, it’s the terror of a large lead. It sounds counter-intuitive, but every Atlanta fan has been conditioned by past failures to worry about blowing a big early lead. It’s an agonizing form of ecstasy. When the Hawks took on the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 of the playoff series, I certainly didn’t expect the Hawks to be up 30 points during the second half. That actually happened, but so did that dwindling of that lead down to single digits.
The first quarter was nothing special. Both teams played to 1 point margin in favor of the Pacers. However, the second quarter is when things went completely insane. Mike Scott entered the game in the second quarter, and proceeded to go completely unconscious shooting the basketball. Scott reeled off four 3-pointers in a row without missing. Then Sheldon Mack got involved. He started knocking down impossible shots, and found himself +29 at one point in the quarter. It was crazy as the Hawks went on a 26-6 run to start the second quarter. At the halftime horn, Atlanta was up 61-40.
The third quarter was a non-issue. The Hawks played the Pacers close and only gave away a point of their 21 point lead, meaning they were up 20 going into the last quarter. That’s when the game turned into heart attack mode for Hawks fans. You knew the Hawks wanted to grind clock, which they did with every possession. However, the shots that were falling like rain before suddenly dried up. Smelling blood in the water, the Pacers attacked the rim and started making outside shots in horrifying combinations. The Hawks were like a aging prize fighter absorbing final round blow after blow, hoping to stay upright long enough for time to run out.
The lead was 20. Then it was 15. Then it was 9. Panic was setting into the stomachs of every Hawks fan like a cold brick. Shot after shot missed while the Pacers went on a 20-9 run. That’s when Kyle Korver came up with probably the biggest shot of the game. With all confidence dwindling away, Korver drained a 3-pointer from way downtown to take the crowd out of it, and extend the Hawks lead back to 12. That would put the game back in check for the Hawks as they tried to work the last 3 minutes of the clock. Luckily for Atlanta, they had built up a big enough lead to keep the Pacers from mounting one of the biggest comebacks in playoff history.
The players of the game were Mike Scott and Sheldon Mack. Both guys combined for 37 points off the bench, and they were both responsible for the Hawks accumulating the huge lead in the second quarter. Also getting a MVP nod was Kyle Korver with his five 3-pointers and team-leading +21 point margin. The Hawks as a team shot an astonishing 55% from beyond the arc, and 50% from the floor for the entire game. They managed to score over 100 points while also committing 16 total turnovers. Even though it wasn’t pretty at the end, it was all Hawks all game.
Leading 3-2 in the series, the Hawks will come back to Atlanta on Thursday with a chance to clinch. If you’re not watching that game, and a chance at some NBA upset history, I don’t know if I can call you a basketball fan.