Welcome back to our countdown of Hawks memorable playoff moments. As you may have noticed, we’ve made it to number 1!
#1: Al Horford saves the day
2015 Conference Semifinals vs Wizards, Game 5
Was there any ever question about which playoff moment would take the number one spot? This was one of the most iconic moments in franchise history, and was one of the main reasons that the Hawks made it to their first Eastern Conference Finals.
As we all know, the Hawks had recently completed their first 60-win regular season in franchise history, complete with a record 4 all-stars. However, none of that mattered in Game 5 against the Wizards. The two teams had split the first four games of the series, with each team winning one road game, setting up a pivotal Game 5 in Atlanta.
From the opening tip, Washington appeared rejuvenated from the return of star point guard John Wall, who had missed Games 2-4 with a wrist injury. The Wizards simply had more energy for the first half, seeming to beat Atlanta to every loose ball. It was Al Horford’s monster 23-point, 11-rebound, 5-block game that kept the Hawks in the game.
Atlanta used a huge run in the third quarter, spearheaded by Horford, to take a lead. The fourth quarter was a grueling, grind-out bloodbath. With the score knotted at 78 and under a minute to play, Atlanta forced a turnover, and the 6’10 Horford led a fastbreak which ended with a DeMarre Carrol layup. However, our old friend Paul Pierce responded with a three in the corner to give Washington a 1-point advantage with 8 seconds left. Atlanta had one last chance to win the game.
Following a timeout, Dennis Schroder retrieved the ball at halfcourt, drove to the rim, and was blocked by John Wall. However, no one boxed out Al Horford, who came swooping in to secure the rebound off the backboard and softly laid the ball through the net with just a second left as the crowd’s noise nearly took the roof off of Philips Arena. A John Wall halfcourt shot missed and the Hawks were victorious.
Even though this wasn’t the series-clinching win (that came in Game 6), Horford’s putback still shifted the momentum of the series in Atlanta’s favor. While Horford’s departure from Atlanta to the Boston Celtics in 2016 understandably left a bitter taste in many fans’ mouths, his game-winning putback in Game 5 played a huge role in getting the Hawks’ their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance, and thus earned its spot atop this list.