#1 – Atlanta Hawks
So far this series, the Atlanta Hawks are a perfect 3-0 at home within the comfy confines of Philips Arena. The problem is the Hawks are 0-2 in Brooklyn and the series heads back to the Barclays Center for Game 6 on Friday night. With a victory on Friday, Atlanta can finally close out the underdog Nets and prepare for the well rested Washington Wizards in round two.
The Hawks jumped out to an early lead and then came on strong down the stretch to defeat the pesky Nets in Game 5, but Brooklyn showed tremendous toughness and, like they have for the majority of the series, refused to quit.
After being dominated on the boards in the first three contests of the series, the Hawks own a 98-75 rebounding advantage over the Nets in the last two contests. All-Star center Al Horford led the way with 15 rebounds in Game 5 and all but one Hawk (Mike Scott) who logged minutes grabbed at least one rebound.
Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer switched his normal routine of getting his bench guys a solid bit of nightly court time and instead played every starter at least 35 minutes in Game 5.
One of the main heroes for the Hawks in this series has been the stellar play of unheralded forward DeMarre Carroll on both sides of the floor. Offensively, Carroll is averaging 17 points and 7.6 rebounds versus the Nets. Plus, the veteran is shooting a blistering 42 percent (11-for-26) from three-point range in the series.
#8 – Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets had the heavily favored Atlanta Hawks on the ropes and in serious trouble after evening the series 2-2 at home. However, the Hawks won Game 5 to break the series tie and now it’s “win or go home” for the veteran-laden Nets on Friday.
After recording a whopping 35 points and seven assists in the team’s Game 4 victory, former All-Star guard Deron Williams put up only five points, six rebounds and six assists in Game 5. Williams’ struggles offensively have impacted the Nets throughout the series.
Despite the loss, there were a few positives for Brooklyn to lean on moving forward.
One positive for Brooklyn is the play of their bench, which outscored Atlanta’s second unit 41-16 in Game 5 led by Alan Anderson (23 points) and Jarrett Jack (18 points). The duo combined to shoot 6-of-7 from beyond three-point range. The second positive was Game 5 marked the first time all series former All-Star Joe Johnson shot at least 40 percent from the field (7-of-15), finishing with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Aside from Williams’ struggles, former All-Star center Brook Lopez came into the contest averaging 21.3 points, 11 rebounds and 2.3 blocks on 54 percent shooting. However, in Game 5, Atlanta limited the big man to 15 points and only three rebounds on 31 percent shooting from the field.
Who wins Game 6?
The home team hasn’t lost a game in this series, so if the trend continues, Brooklyn will survive to force a Game 7 on Sunday. The heavily favored Hawks know what’s at stake and factor in the knowledge Washington is getting plenty of rest and time to prepare strategies to limit Atlanta in round two.
The Hawks will close out this series on Friday night in Brooklyn and advance to round two.
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