ATLANTA — Quick, name the starting lineup for the Atlanta Hawks.
Stumped? You’re not alone.
Despite a lack of recognizable players beyond All-Star forward Paul Millsap, talented young point guard Jeff Teague and perhaps 3-point specialist Kyle Korver, the Hawks have shown just how far hard work, intelligence and a steadfast belief in the system can carry a team.
Eighth-seeded Atlanta has a 3-2 lead against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers and can complete a stunning upset by winning at home Thursday night.
The Hawks finished 18 games behind Indiana during the regular season but have largely controlled the postseason series, building double-digit leads in all five games. Atlanta is coming off an especially impressive performance in Game 5, racing out to a 30-point lead on the road and holding on for a 107-97 triumph.
“Everyone wants to talk about what’s wrong with us,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “I think a lot of this goes to the way they’re shooting it and the way they’re playing.”
The Hawks could’ve wrapped up this series already, squandering a chance to take a commanding 3-1 lead at home in Game 4. Atlanta failed to make a field goal in the final 4½ minutes and lost 91-88.
Now, they’ve got a chance to finish off the Pacers at Philips Arena.
“We’re just trying to play blue-collar, competing, aggressive basketball,” Atlanta forward DeMarre Carroll said after the Hawks practiced for about an hour Wednesday. “Everyone on this team is competing. Everybody is playing hard. Even the coaches. A lot of the things we do after practice and before practice go unnoticed.”
Indeed, the players give much of the credit to rookie head coach Mike Budenholzer, who has brought to Atlanta the lessons learned as a longtime assistant under San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. That means physical, aggressive play at the defensive end, ball movement and penetration to create scoring chances, and a roster full of players who can hit the outside jumper.