BOSTON — Robert Williams III stood in the corner as TD Garden rose to its feet. The Hawks’ fourth quarter comeback snuck up on them too, waking up to realize Atlanta tied the game after trailing by 10 minutes earlier as Al Horford launched a corner three-point shot. It fell out of the rim and landed in Williams III’s hands as he poured it up and in for a lead.
Williams III traveled to the other basket and rose to the rim as Trae Young slide by Horford, the Hawks guard hitting three shots from deep and dishing a flurry of assists to pull Atlanta ahead after trailing by 10 points with 5:14 remaining. After Williams III won the jump ball at mid-court, he rushed to the rim and landed an alley-oop finish. That and a pair of White free throws with 7.3 seconds remaining gave Boston a chance to clinch the series.
Young took it away. One more heave from deep feel with one second left and the Hawks saved their season — 119-117.
Brown wore his right hand protection after ditching it for an 11-for-15 finish in Game 4. He extended the surge with a 10-for-13 first half, flushing a pair of threes and scoring 23 points. His bag expanded to hit Tatum with a bounce pass in the pocket for what should’ve been an open layup. He jumped into the post and hit Jalen Johnson with a series of spinning post moves before finishing inside, then he later dropped a left-handed layup in the basket.
The run pushed the Celtics ahead 59-48 after trailing for much of a close first half to that point, managing 60% Hawks three-point shooting, including makes from John Collins, Jalen Johnson and Onyeka Okongwu, players who hovered at or below 30% from deep during the regular season. Joe Mazzulla tested the longevity of the run by matching Collins’ minutes with Robert Williams III in drop coverage, forcing a 1-for-3 stretch from the Hawks big man.
Malcolm Brogdon, meanwhile, entered midway through the quarter to build and manage Boston’s lead, hitting a pull-up two, a three and finishing through De’Andre Hunter for a three-point play to quickly reach double-figure scoring. Tatum scored following a slow start after Horford, who blocked five shots in fewer than three quarters, stopped Young in the lane and sent Brown out, who fired a pass to Brogdon, who found Tatum cutting across the paint. Young hit a long two to end the quarter that bounced around a fell, keeping the Hawks within 10, where they’d stay into the second half.
Atlanta bothered Tatum throughout the game with double teams as he started 5-for-15, but he often found Smart to his side flaring or rolling out of screens. Smart shot 4-for-8 and Brown found him in the same situation midway through the third, when Sam Hauser checked in after a strong first half stint earned him double-digit minutes. Young’s alley-oop to Collins after a Tatum live ball turnover and a three kept the Hawks within single-digits. He met Hauser at the rim, who he isolated all series, in help position after Young drove Rob as Hauser rejected him and sent Tatum out in transition for a needed slam.
Hauser split four three-point attempts and picked up a loose ball Tatum mishandled, tossed it up from the free throw line and it fell after hitting the rim twice and backboard. He caught an errant Tatum pass in the corner that deflected off two Hawks and fed it back to Tatum for an open two at the rim.
Boston braced a 9-for-16 Hawks charge into the fourth as Young led early offense and peppered Hunter, Collins and Okongwu with passes. Blake Griffin entered the game and drew the crowd to its feet, successfully batting the second of two misses by Brown at the free throw line off Atlanta to set up a Tatum mid-ranger. White blocked Young for a second time, who waved off official Josh Tiven as they ran up the floor. Tatum hit Brown in the corner for three several plays later and found White downhill for two.
The Celtics led by eight when Mazzulla called timeout to cap the run of three straight Hawks baskets. Brown missed a turnaround and Tatum lost the ball to Hunter, who deflected his pass with White open in the lane and chased it into the back court. Young hit a pair of step-back threes as Horford returned to switching against him, stopping the next one before fouling him on the drive. A costly Tatum technical foul put the Hawks ahead by one on three Young free throws.
Williams III secured a key stop and flushed an alley-oop before Smart played tight defense and fouled Young at mid-court, boosting the guard to 35 points to go with his 13 assists and a one-point lead. Brown set up White to drive downhill and arguably the MVPs of the series combined to put Boston up one more time at the free throw line. Young stole the lead back seconds later, stepping into his fifth and final three. Tatum, who shot 8-for-22, launched a prayer with 0.5 seconds remaining that landed far to the right of the rim,.
Game 6 is on Thursday in Atlanta.