Ever since dislocating his pinky finger late in Game 1, Al Horford has seemed out of sync. While the injury has not affected his playing time, it is clear that the injury has been affecting his play. In the first four games of the series, Al Horford averaged a mediocre 12 points on some poor shooting of around 42%. However, he has been able to rebound at a more productive rate, grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game in the series. Clearly, the taped up pinkie finger has been bothering his shot. Those rythym 16 foot jump shots that have been money for Horford his whole career have turned into bricks in the series versus the Nets. He admitted that his shot was off due to the injury. However, its clear that his pinky has healed. Horford bounced back in Game 5 with 20 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. It was an absolute monster performance for the Atlanta star Center. Coincidentally, in the midst of this huge performance, Al Horford found that 16 foot jumper. Horford hit a few huge jumpers down the stretch, erupting a noisy Phillips Arena crowd. His jumpers sealed a 107-97 win for the Atlanta Hawks
Many people, including myself, believe that in order for the Hawks to be an elite team, Jeff Teague must be at the top of his game. Jeff Teague is going to have to be able to make the plays at the end of games. If this series has shown us anything, it is that the games will be tight. It does not matter who we are playing, in the playoffs, the games are going to come down to the wire. Jeff Teague needs to be able to answer the bell in these situations. No, he does not have to take the last shot or any shots, but he does have to be able to create penetration and create a shot for himself or a teammate. In Game 5, Jeff Teague was terrific. He finished with 20 points and 8 assists and was the man down the stretch of a tight playoff game. He hit a big 3 to stretch the lead to,93-89, and then helped salt the game away with his passing and his driving layups. Jeff Teague was terrific in Game 5, but this kind of aggressive play needs to come more consistently if the Hawks want to keep advancing.
Unlike the first two stars, our third star has yet to do a negative thing in the series. Ironically, it is Demarre Carroll who has played like the Hawks All-Star. He averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds in the first 4 games of the series and has been a constant pest on defense. However, Game 5 might have been his finest game yet. Demarre scored 24 points (19 in the first half) and collected 7 rebounds. He led the Hawks in scoring again and played crucial defense on both Jarrett Jack and Joe Johnson down the stretch. Demarre has always been extremely reliable on the defensive side, but his offense used to be a question mark. Now, Demarre has become an extremely reliable offensive player. Carroll can shoot the three terrifically and also has the ability to take the ball and finish at the rim. The Hawks cannot let this guy walk in the offseason, but that is a topic for another day.
I have to give a little shout out to Pero Antic. Although it was nothing spectacular, Pero Antic was pretty good again in Game 5. He took 3 shots, all three-pointers, and made 2 of them. He also went 2 for 2 from the line and overall just looked like he was playing with more confidence. I have been calling for Antic’s head all season, but I have to step back and say, good job Pero.