Al Horford blocking Nene in game 5

Al Horford blocking Nene in game 5

Two conference semifinals series can end tonight as the Atlanta Hawks take a 3-2 lead to our nation’s capital to play the Washington Wizards, while the Golden State Warriors have the same advantage before game 6 on the road facing the Memphis Grizzlies.

John Wall came back although it wasn’t enough due to Al Horford’s winning basket, right after Paul Pierce nailed a 3-pointer he thought would seal the deal. An experienced player like him should have known there was enough time for things to change, but he arrogantly made his way to the Hawks bench and yelled ‘series’ at them, thinking it was all over. Now, the pain of dramatically losing game 5 will possibly stand as motivation for the Wizards, who also got knocked out of the playoffs in game 6 of the conference semifinals last year, losing to the Pacers.

I just feel we have a great team that has a chance, even though we’re down one. We fell in this position last year against Indiana. We don’t want to end it at home. We want to have an opportunity to come back and try to close it out in Atlanta. I think the sting of this game is going to motivate us for Game 6. We’re going to go back home with aspirations of winning and making another trip to Atlanta.

The Hawks are on the verge of franchise history. They haven’t been to the conference finals since the relocation to Atlanta. In 1968 they made it that far, when the Hawks were still in St. Louis. The Hawks haven’t been this close since 1988, when they led Boston 3-2 in a second-round series before falling Game 7. But there’s no Larry Bird standing on the other side this time.

Horford had a huge game 5. Besides his game winning basket, he finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Jeff Teague spent the closing minutes on the bench, feeling that leaving Dennis Schroder on the floor gives them a better shot at winning thanks to his defense on Bradley Beal. That kind of team spirit could be the key in a situation these players have never faced before.

Warriors vs Grizzlies

Andrew Bogut tryin to stop Vince Carter in game 5

Andrew Bogut tryin to stop Vince Carter in game 5

Another team that’s on the verge of making some franchise history are the Warriors, who haven’t been to the conference finals in 40 years, back when Rick Barry led them to their only title in the bay area. It’s one more win for Steve Kerr, Stephen Curry, and they’re off to the conference finals, something this franchise has been sorely lacking for so long.

It’s not that the Grizzlies are stepped in rich history. They’ve been to the conference finals just once, but it doesn’t look like they’re good enough to make it this time. Last year they lost a 3-2 lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the conference semifinals, losing to incredible individual basketball from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. This time, they’ve already dropped a 2-1 lead, and Tony Allen coming back is probably not going to stop it.

Adjustments is the name of the game in the postseason, but there are limits to it, especially when your roster and options are a bit more limited compared to the other team. Steve Kerr made his move by moving Andrew Bogut to guard Allen, giving him plenty of opportunities to help out on defense. Joerger didn’t have a counter move, and so playing the Warriors straight up has brought back the dominance to the initial favorites.

Even if Allen comes back in game 6 (he says he’s playing), the Warriors keeping things a bit simpler in the early goings, which means Stephen Curry doing more “point guarding” than shooting will do the trick. It’ll take some very special defensive effort and a rare offensive night from the Grizzlies to drag this into a game 7, something they might have already done one time too many in this series.

Images: Source