Winning Game 5 was the easy part for the Hawks. They got to do that at home.Now comes the hard part: closing out the Miami Heat on the road, a place that hasn't been kind to these Hawks recently.
Game 6 in this first-round playoff series is Friday night in Miami, where the Hawks turned the series around Monday with a tough Game 4 win before a hostile crowd.
And if they want to move on to face Cleveland in the second round, they'll have win another road game in this series or come back to Atlanta for Game 7 on Sunday.
"Now comes the hard part," Hawks forward Josh Smith said. "When somebody is on the doorstep of getting eliminated, that's when it gets real. We just have to go back down there to Miami and handle business. We have to go down there with a business attitude and play our game."
The Hawks' celebratory mood Wednesday was tempered a bit before halftime when starting center Al Horford sprained his right ankle with 2:32 to play. Horford was sandwiched between Heat star Dwyane Wade and James Jones on a baseline drive to the basket and came down awkwardly. He had his ankle placed in an ice-compression boot at halftime and did not return.
"It did swell up a little bit, but we got on it so fast I think that helped," Horford said after the game. "I think (Thursday) will be the real test, where we can see how it is. But if I can get some treatment on it the next couple of days we'll see by Friday."
If Horford can't play, that means the Hawks would have to finish the series without two starters. Starting small forward Marvin Williams hasn't played since spraining his wrist late in Game 2 and is likely out for the remainder of the series.
"We can't let anything stop us," Smith said. "If we're trying to finish this thing off right, we have to grind through with whoever we've got in uniform."
HAWKS 106, HEAT 91: Joe Johnson's breakout game was long overdue. Four games into the Hawks' first-round playoff series against Miami, he still hadn't registered a signature performance.
Until Wednesday night, when he cranked up his offense and led the Hawks to a victory over Dwyane Wade's Heat in a critical Game 5 before a sellout crowd at Philips Arena.
Johnson finished with 25 points, six rebounds and six assists -- by far his best all-around game of the series -- as the Hawks moved one step closer to finishing off the Heat. They lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 coming up Friday night in Miami.
Johnson got plenty of help Wednesday, particularly from Flip Murray, who torched the Heat for 23 points, including 15 in the second half to keep the Hawks' double-digit lead safe.
"We finally found some offense in this series," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "Joe finally had a breakout game. I thought Flip Murray was huge coming off the bench. We were able to score a little bit tonight."
Wednesday's game was marred by rugged play on both sides. The teams were whistled for four technical fouls and one flagrant, on Wade in the second quarter.
A game the Hawks led by 23 points before halftime turned into a grappling match early. Wade and the Hawks' Josh Smith collided chasing a loose ball near midcourt with 3:47 to play in the first quarter.
Wade needed assistance to get up off the floor and into the Heat locker room, where he stayed until early in the second quarter.
Things got crazy minutes later when Solomon Jones fouled Wade on a drive to the basket with 9:55 to play.
Jones and Wade went nose-to-nose before Heat reserve center Jamaal Magloire interrupted by shoving Jones. Smith intervened on behalf of Jones, and by the time everyone was separated there were double technical fouls issued for all four players.
Wade was called for a flagrant foul 1 on a hard foul on Mo Evans on a fast break with 9:11 to play, a lick that served to inspire the Hawks. They went on a 35-17 run after that play to blow the game open.
"That's what playoff basketball is all about," Evans said. "It's as physical as anything you'll ever do in basketball. That's why when you have success, you know it was well earned."