In a seven-game NBA Playoff series, the winner of Game 5 takes the series 83 percent of the time. That stat tells you exactly how much was on the line for both the Atlanta Hawks and the Chicago Bulls last night in the United Center. Win this game and the Eastern Conference Finals await. Lose and you might as well start planning your summer vacation.
Luckily for the fans of both franchises and for basketball fans in general, each team gave a brilliant effort and it was the kind of game that had just the right amount of quality basketball mixed with energy and passion that makes for an exciting contest. It was also the kind of game that the Playoffs are all about.
Chicago came out and looked as if they were trying to put the game out of reach early as they lead by as many as 15 points at one point and finished the first quarter up 11 on Atlanta. But the Hawks battled back in the 2nd quarter and showed that they weren’t going anywhere as they outscored Chicago 21-16 and found themselves down just 6 points by halftime.
In the third quarter, the Hawks outscored Chicago once again and briefly took the lead for the first time in the game on the continued brilliance of Jeff Teague (21 points, 7 assists, 0 turnovers, 8-11 shooting) who seemed to put the team on his back. The quarter was also highlighted by some chippiness between Carlos Boozer (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Josh Smith (16 points, 7 rebounds) in which both players were assessed double technical fouls on a Boozer elbow to the face (possible fine and/or suspension?) after a JSmoove dunk. Tom Thibodeau also used a more defensive oriented lineup that hasn’t been seen in this series (Rose, Gibson, Deng, Asik, Gibson). It seemed to throw the rhythm of Atlanta off and give Chicago momentum heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, it was the Derrick Rose (33 points, 9 assists, 2 turnovers) and Taj Gibson show. Both players accounted for 11 points apiece, with all of Gibson’s points coming in the final quarter. Chicago outscored the Hawks 26-15 in the final period to take a 3-2 lead going back to Atlanta on Thursday where they’ll look to close the Hawks out and advance to the ECF for the first time in 13 years. —Bryan Crawford (@_BryanCrawford)