The Pacers are just one loss away from becoming the sixth No. 1 seed in history to lose in the first round of the NBA playoffs ...(Read more)

Hawks On the Verge of Series Win after taking 3-2 lead over the Pacers

The Pacers are just one loss away from becoming the sixth No. 1 seed in history to lose in the first round of the NBA playoffs after falling 107-97 tot the Hawks in Game 5. Atlanta now leads 3-2.

The Pacers’ catastrophic collapse over the last month hasn’t so much been a fall from grace as a reckless base jump from the top of the Eastern Conference without a parachute. The team’s No. 1 seed now serves more as a painful reminder of what they should be rather than a bade of their accomplishments. And yet all that withstanding, the Pacers still seemed like a sure-fire thing to beat the Hawks, the postseason’s only sub-.500 team, in the first round of the playoffs.

If you picked the eighth-seeded Hawks to topple Indiana, then you either live in Fulton County, Georgia, have a direct blood-line connection to one of the team’s players or made a mistake when filling out your bracket (indulge me and pretend like we fill out NBA playoff brackets).

Now we’re five games into the series and it’s tough to imagine Atlanta not winning after watching them take a 3-2 lead with yet another convincing win, looking once again like the team more resemblant of a No. 1 seed.

So why do we spend so much time talking about what’s wrong with Indiana rather than what’s right with Atlanta? Because we honestly still don’t know what to make of these Hawks. They went 37-45 during the regular season, haven’t had their best player since December and yet somehow just beat a 56-win team in three of their last five games.

We know what the Pacers are: a disaster. We spent almost an entire season watching them stifle the competition and play like title contenders. Now they’ve become so confounding, so disjointed and so miserable that they’ve left Larry Bird looking like this:

It’s gruesome to see a man a proud as Bird in such despair and disbelief, but not as gruesome as the sights he’s been taking in during this series. Indiana’s defense — ranked No. 1 in the league during the regular season — has been reduced to a blue-and-gold welcome mat. The team’s offense, once anchored by Paul George, steadied by David West and Roy Hibbert and sparked by Lance Stephenson, now has the cohesion of paint thinner. And one of the most disciplined and physical bunches in the league now possesses the mental makeup and body language of a bunch of middle schoolers.

Shelvin Mack scores 20 points, Paul Millsap adds 18 points and the Hawks take a commanding 3-2 series lead with a 107-97 Game 5 win over the Pacers.

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