Winning Game 5 at home was just the appetizer for the Hawks . The main course comes tonight in Game 6 at American Airlines Arena.
Find a way to subdue the Miami Heat, and the Hawks can move on to the Eastern Conference semifinals, where LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers await in a series that could begin as early as Sunday afternoon.
The Hawks lead this series 3-2 and can clinch it tonight. Lose, and Game 7 will be played Sunday afternoon at Philips Arena.
"I don't know why anybody is even mentioning Cleveland," Hawks captain Joe Johnson said after practice Thursday. "We've got Miami on our minds right now. That's it. We're not thinking about anything but the Heat right now. We'll worry about whatever comes next when we get to that point."
They better stay focused on the Heat. Because if a wild Game 5 was any indication, Game 6 will be full of physical play and intense drama.
There were four technical fouls and one flagrant foul, a call on Heat superstar Dwyane Wade that was rescinded Thursday by the NBA. The game was marked by hard fouls, highlight-reel plays and bruised bodies and egos.
"We challenged them and things got physical," Hawks backup center Zaza Pachulia said. "So we should expect the same thing in return. We just have to be prepared for it all."
Pachulia could be the center of attention tonight for several reasons. Hawks starting center Al Horford sprained his right ankle before halftime in Game 5 and will be a game-time decision.
If he can't play, Pachulia and Solomon Jones will have to fill the void, something Pachulia has mastered in this series.
It was his dirty work --- 18 rebounds and 12 points --- that helped lift the Hawks to a Game 4 victory Monday in Miami.
"In the playoffs, sometimes guys get in foul trouble or whatever, so we need everybody," Pachulia said. "But I've been in this situation before, so it's nothing new."
Hawks coach Mike Woodson wishes his team had experience in close-out games. That would have made explaining the dynamics of such a game much easier Thursday. He knows the Heat will fight like crazy to push the series to Game 7.
"It's going to be a hostile environment," Woodson said. "We didn't fare well in Game 3 there. But our last game there we played pretty well. And that's the game I want to remember, in terms of how we started the game and how we finished. And we're going to need that same sort of effort in order to get out of there with a win."
Since the start of Game 4, the Hawks have outworked the Heat across the board. They've beaten them on the boards (77-62), in assists (38-28), scoring in the paint (72-48), second-chance points (32-18) and fast-break points (27-10).
They've also defended well, holding the Heat to 42.8 percent shooting from the floor and 28.5 percent from beyond the 3-point line.
"I think defense is the key for us," Pachulia said. "We know how to win. When everybody does the little things, we're a tough team to beat. And in the last two games, we really did those things."