The Philadelphia 76ers dominated play for three quarters on Wednesday night. Then the fourth quarter started and everything changed as the Atlanta Hawks overcame an 18-point deficit to take the lead with less than 90 seconds left in regulation. In the end, it was the Hawks who left Wells Fargo Center with a 109-106 victory.
The Hawks trailed by as many as 26 points in this game and made all of the necessary plays down the stretch to turn what looked like an absolute blowout into an exciting finish. As he has been all series, Trae Young was fantastic as he finished the win with a game-high 39 points to help lead the comeback. On the other side, Joel Embiid dominated early but did not receive enough help when it mattered most as his 37 points ultimately came in a losing effort.
With the win, the Hawks are now in the driver's seat in this series with a 3-2 lead entering Game 6 on Friday night at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
1. Hawks make a historic comeback
A few nights ago, the Hawks made up an 18-point deficit to steal Game 4 from the Sixers and tie the series. That was an impressive turnaround, but it was nothing compared to what they pulled off in the second half of Game 5 on Wednesday, and they came back from a 26-point deficit to earn a 3-2 series lead.
The Hawks trailed by 20-plus for a large chunk of the game, and couldn't get anything going on the offensive end. At one point, things were so bad that SportsLine's live simulation model gave them just a two percent chance to win the game. But late in the third quarter they finally found a little bit of momentum, and carried that into the fourth, outscoring the Sixers 40-19 in the frame.
Here's just a quick list of some impressive facts about the Hawks' huge comeback:
- Biggest playoff comeback in Hawks franchise history
- Fourth-biggest playoff comeback in NBA history
- Per Stathead, teams had been 476-3 when up by 18 points or more heading into the fourth quarter of a playoff game
Now, the Hawks head back to Atlanta with a chance to end the series and advance to their first Eastern Conference finals since 2015. No one could have seen this coming after the Sixers took a 2-1 lead in this series, and the Hawks deserve a ton of credit for the fight they've shown in the past few games.
2. Lou Williams comes up clutch
Lou Williams hasn't played a huge role for the Hawks in the playoffs. He was playing a few stints off the bench here and there most nights, but was averaging just seven points in 11.9 minutes per game. Nate McMillan couldn't take him off the floor in this game, however, as Williams was instrumental in the Hawks' comeback.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Hawks were down by 18, and had only put 71 points on the board. If they wanted any chance to getting back into the game, they needed to turn things around on the offensive end immediately. Luckily for them, they had just the player to provide a spark off the bench.
Williams did what he's been doing his whole career, and got hot in a hurry. He racked up 13 points in just over four minutes, and at one point scored 11 straight points for the Hawks. He finished the night with 15 points on 7-of-11 from the field, and the team was a whopping plus-31 when he was on the court. Williams isn't going to get many headlines after this one, but there's no way the Hawks win this game without him. This was a big time performance from the veteran.
3. Embiid dominates early, fades down the stretch
Coming into Game 5, almost all the discussion was centered around Joel Embiid. He was a disaster in the second half of Game 4, going 0-for-12 from the field in the second half as the Sixers collapsed. Afterward, he admitted his knee was bothering him, and it wasn't clear how healthy he'd be for this game.
Early on, there didn't seem to be any problems. He was dominant on both ends, and made his first eight shots en route to 17 first-quarter points. There was nothing the Hawks could do to slow him down, and it looked like it was going to be a long night for Clint Capela and Co.
But whether it was fatigue or his knee flaring up -- he had a few rough landings and at one point came down clutching his uninjured knee -- Embiid didn't have the same impact down the stretch. He scored 13 points in the second half on 3-for-9 from the field, and also missed two crucial free throws in the final seconds that could have cut the deficit to one. It's not like he had much help, considering Seth Curry was the only other Sixers player to make a shot in the second half, but the fact is this wasn't good enough from Embiid.