Thursday, May 14, 2015

Horford Flyed High and Stole the Win for the Hawks

When game 5 between the Hawks and Wizards tipped off last night all eyes were on John Wall, who started the game despite having 5 fractures in his left hand.  As everyone focused on Wall, Al Horford quietly did his thing, and as the game progressed, Horford stole what should have been the John Wall show.

After the 1st quarter, the Hawks were up 23-19.  Although the Wizards were down, it was impressive that they were still so close.  Atlanta came out red hot and was firing on all cylinders.  The only problem that they faced was John Wall, he was also firing on all cylinders, and has a bit more horsepower.

In the second quarter it became clear, Washington needed John Wall on the floor.  Their offense had trouble flowing without him.  Both Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat were getting great looks under the basket off of Wall's penetration.  Bradley Beal also benefited from his play because when the Hawks defense would collapse on Porter, Gorat and Wall, he was ready to launch up a jumper from the outside.

The Wizards outscored Atlanta 28-18 in the second quarter despite a breakout quarter by Mike Muscala.  Although many people don't even know who he is, Muscala finished with 8 points and was the reason Atlanta was able to hold off a Wizards run going into halftime.

Coming out of the half, Al Horford switched into beast mode.  In the third quarter he began to dominate the boards, protect the rim, and also carry the Hawks offensive responsibilities.  We would later find out, he was only warming up at this point.

While the Wizards got out on the break and ran, the Hawks tried to slow the game down and pound the ball inside.  Even though the game was low scoring, each team still had troubles defending one another.  For the Hawks, they had trouble defending against the fast break.  It seemed every time Washington was running the floor, only Kyle Korver was back to stop it.  Although Korver was there, no one else was and the Wizards had a feast on the fast break.  On the other hand, the Wizards struggled to slow down the Hawks bigs inside, which eventually cost them.

Although many may argue John Wall was the difference maker for Washington, Bradley Beal was their most important player.  Not only did he contribute to their offense, but Beal also shut down Kyle Korver, and grabbed 3 steals on the defensive end.  All in all, Beal made all the hustle plays and discretely helped the Wizards stay in the game.  He finished with 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists.

While the Wizards got off to a blazing hot start in the 4th quarter, it was not enough.  The Hawks made a run of their own and Kyle Korver knocked down a deep three pointer in order to spark a late Hawks run.  Then Al Horford knocked down a 3 and helped extend an 8-0 run for Atlanta.  It seemed the game was ready for the Hawks to take, but the Wizards were still secretly hanging around.  With only seconds left Paul Pierce knocked down a three to give Washington and 81-80 lead.  While Hawks fans were in shock after Pierce's shot, their beloved team rushed down the floor and got an open look at the rim.  Wait, no, John Wall came in and blocked the shot off the glass! But Al Horford rushed into the paint and snatched up the rebound right out of Nene's hands, and layed the ball back up to give them an 82-81 lead.  With about a second left in the game, the Wizards had no timeouts and heaved up a halfcourt prayer to try to win the game.  It fell short and so did the Wizards hopes to win game 5.

Horford finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocks.  Not only did he carry the Atlanta offense all night long, he also dominated the paint on the defensive end a helped change many shots, and finally he also scored the game winning basket for them.

Although John Wall played like an animal, he fell short.  Despite the fact, he still finished with 15 points, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 5 fractured bones.  John Wall displayed one of the best efforts in NBA Playoff history, but in the end his effort was still not enough.

Even though the Wizards seemed to be in control early in the 4th, they fell apart late.  Now they are down 3-2 and have to win two straight games in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.  With John Wall's health questionable as the playoffs continue, they really needed a win tonight.  Instead they will have the improbable task of coming back against the Hawks.  Meanwhile, the Hawks are only two games away from the Eastern Conference finals and have two games to try to advance.  At this point, it seems that Al Horford's performance tonight may have been the most important by any player in the whole series.  He may have just given the Atlanta Hawks the boost they need to advance on closer to the NBA Finals.

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