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Hawks notebook

Adjustments paid dividends

Lineup change produced result

Celtics guard Rajon Rondo tried, but he couldn’t cut down Hawks center Erick Dampier in the first quarter. Celtics guard Rajon Rondo tried, but he couldn’t cut down Hawks center Erick Dampier in the first quarter. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / May 9, 2012
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ATLANTA - As a result of losing Games 2, 3, and 4, the Hawks made changes to their lineup for Tuesday’s Game 5. Because of Al Horford’s torn pectoral muscle, it was a lineup that hadn’t been seen in Atlanta since January. But it was one the team turned to for perhaps its last chance at finding answers.

Horford was back in as a starter, along with Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith.

This was the lineup the Hawks were supposed to have this season.

One of the most important alterations was the defensive assignment for Johnson, putting him back at shooting guard, and taking him off defensive duties against Paul Pierce.

“We’ve played four games where he’s had to defend Paul in all four games, and kind of wanted to give it a different look now, and see if that can generate a little more offense out of him,’’ said coach Larry Drew. “He’s been chasing Paul around for four games, and that’ll put a little wear and tear on you.’’

In a game of adjustments, it was time for the Hawks to make one.

Johnson finished with 15 points, taking 17 shots - more than the eight he had complained about after Game 4. He started slowly, making just one of four shots in the first quarter, but warmed up for 9 points in the second.

Asked if he thought things opened up for him with Horford on the court more, Johnson said, “Not really. I thought Al was open a lot inside, so I was just trying to make the right play. I felt every time I had the ball, whether we ran pick-and-roll, they were doubling and I was just trying to make the best play.’’

Premature talk

Before Tuesday’s game, Drew was already forced to answer questions about what might happen to the Hawks should they lose Game 5 and be out of the postseason. “I think sitting down with management, they’ll be making the final decisions for us, the direction as far as what to do with the club,’’ Drew said. “Some of these guys have been together for a little while. We’ll just talk about all the possibilities, which we do every year.’’ With the win for the Hawks on Tuesday night, those questions get pushed back for at least a couple more days.

Hairy ending

On the final play, with seconds left and the Hawks having possession, Drew said, “My heart was racing a hundred miles an hour on the last sequence.’’ Neither team was able to get a shot off, with possession moving from the Hawks to the Celtics to the Hawks . . . Smith gave his view of Rajon Rondo’s steal, the one that gave the Celtics the chance for a last-second shot that never happened. “His wingspan - I’ve played with him for a long period of time,’’ Smith said. “Knowing him, knowing his wingspan plus his fingers - long fingers - I didn’t think he was going to get to it. He was able to make a huge play for them.’’ . . . Drew said that Zaza Pachulia (foot) will not necessarily be available against the Celtics in Game 6. The Hawks are planning to proceed as if he won’t be able to play . . . After the game, Drew said that Smith continues to have discomfort in his knee, but will also continue to play through the pain. Before the game, Smith had said, “It’s pretty good. I’m in it to win it. I’m here to play, so I can’t worry about my knee.’’ He seemed to be slowed at times on Tuesday night . . . The Hawks are not scheduled to practice on Wednesday, with the team traveling to Boston.

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.

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