Horford’s heroics give Hawks 3-2 series lead
Published on Thursday, 5/14/15, at 6:30 p.m. Eastern.
For the first time since 1988, the Atlanta Hawks own a 3-2 series advantage in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Things didn’t work out so well the last time the organization was in this situation. In Game 6 at the old Omni against Boston, the Celtics took a one-point lead in the final minute.
Atlanta called timeout and had plenty of time to get a quality shot for the win. Mike Fratello naturally called a play for Dominique Wilkins to get the ball. However, when Cliff Levingston took the inbounds pass, he chose to attack the basket and missed a wild left-handed hook shot.
The series shifted back to Boston Garden for Game 7. It remains one of the best games in NBA postseason history and featured what was perhaps the best showdown of superstars in a mano a mano duel from the heavens in the fourth quarter.
Wilkins and Larry Bird had answers for each other throughout the final stanza. Wilkins would score a game-high 47 points, draining an incredible 19-of-23 shots from the field. In the final 5:57, Bird and Wilkins scored 11 points apiece, but the Celtics captured a 118-116 victory.
This time around, Atlanta will be on the road for Game 6 at Washington. If not for Horford, it would be an elimination game for the Hawks, who trailed 73-64 with 5:32 remaining in Wednesday’s Game 5 at Philips Arena.
Horford posted his seventh double-double of these playoffs (in 11 games), scoring 23 points to go with 11 rebounds, five blocked shots and two assists, including a helper to DeMarre Carroll on a perfectly-run fast break with the duo passing back and forth without any dribbles off a steal from Kyle Korver. It ended with Horford’s touch pass to Carroll for a go-ahead bucket.
Trailing by two in the final minute, the Wizards found Paul Pierce open in the corner for a trey and the veteran buried it with 8.2 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Dennis Schroder attacked the basket only to have his shot rejected off the backboard by John Wall, who had returned to the lineup after a three-game absence (broken bones in wrist/hand). The Wizards had two ‘bigs’ under the basket for the rebound, but a hustling and hungrier Horford soared across the lane and wanted the ball the most.
The two-time national-title winner at the University of Florida snared the board, gathered himself, and then went up for the putback bucket. With no timeouts left, Washington’s Wall missed a halfcourt shot at the buzzer.
The ‘under’ was an easy winner and the Wizards took the cash as seven-point underdogs. Atlanta trailed by seven at intermission and was a seven-point ‘chalk’ for halftime wagers, so its backers got the money on second-half bets.
Sportsbook.ag has the updated series price as Atlanta -650, Washington +480.
Tip-off for Friday’s Game 6 in D.C. is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. The Wizards are 2.5-point favorites, while the total is 197.