The Atlanta Hawks will host the Brooklyn Nets for Game 5 of their first-round series matchup of the 2015 NBA postseason tonight, and if you haven’t noticed, this series has just gotten very interesting.
The Nets avoided an improbable 3-1 series deficit, upending the Hawks at home on Monday night in OT, 120-115, led by an unlikely hero, Deron Williams. Williams scored a team-high 35 points, in addition to seven assists, and looked a lot like the player the Nets thought they were acquiring from Utah earlier in his career. In the fourth quarter alone, Williams scored 16 points and with contributions from Brook Lopez, scoring 26, and clutch shots from Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young, the Nets tied this series, 2-2, and have forced the No. 1 seed to take a hard look in the mirror.
And this is exactly why the natives of Atlanta have a reason to fill Philips Arena Wednesday night in a sea of red. Tickets are averaging $53.17, with a get-in of just $17 for this pivotal Game 5. There will be plenty of Philips Arena parking, though, through ParkWhiz, to make it easier to attend the game.
Despite the Hawks going 5-5 in their last 10 games to complete the regular season, two of those wins came against the Nets. In fact, Atlanta swept the season series from the Nets, 4-0, by a margin of 17 points per game, and through the first two games of this series, the Hawks validated those decisive stats.
They took care of home-court, and traveled to Brooklyn last Saturday with a comfortable 2-0 series lead, aiming for the sweep, but the Nets had other ideas, and it lies within the makeups of how both teams are organized. While the Nets have struggled all season long to become the true essence of a “team,” the Hawks have embodied that with the second-best record in the NBA and the 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year in Mike Budenholzer.
The Nets, on paper, are not as talented a group, with Williams no longer among the best point guards in the game and an aging All-Star in Joe Johnson. Conversely, the Hawks are a team built upon journeymen and over-achievers. And that talent the Nets boast has shined through the last two games, albeit at home. Brook Lopez has continued to feast down-low and Williams, in Game 4, looked a lot like the $99-million dollar man the Nets are paying him to be. As a result, fans are very active in trying to get their Nets tickets for Game 6, or even for one of the contests in Atlanta as they try to steal one on the road.
With the change in events, the momentum has shifted to the away team while the Hawks are hoping to not become the 2015 version of the 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks. It’s also worth noting that the Hawks are a little nicked up at the moment. Paul Millsap is nursing a shoulder injury, suffered April 4, coincidentally against the Nets, in which he missed the next five games before appearing in the regular season finale. Furthermore, Al Horford dislocated a finger on his shooting hand during Game 1.
It’s a concern how much these injuries are hobbling the frontcourt of the Hawks. Look for them to bounce back here and reclaim their mojo, after such a strong performance throughout the regular season. After playing prisoner to Williams’ exploits in Game 4, you can expect Jeff Teague to respond on both ends of the floor, as well as for Kyle Korver to correct his shooting woes, having scored a playoff-low two points in Game 3, and not being much sharper in Game 4. Also watch out for Horford and Millsap to stay out of foul trouble, stretch the floor and terrorize the Nets on the boards.
As far as the Nets are concerned, the threat they pose to the Eastern Conference regular season champs is what haunts every superior team challenged by an inferior bunch: a team that simply believes, which is enough motivation to amount into wins.