PIERCE HITS GAME-WINNING BANK SHOT AS WALL LANGUISHES ON BENCH
Washington Wizards floor general John Wall missed his second straight playoff game with five non-displaced fractures in his wrist and lots of swelling in his left hand. In Game 2, Wall’s lack of presence lead to a number of turnovers that ended up being a difference in the game, even though his team fought hard to claw their way back. In Game 3, Wall’s teammates stepped up as the Wizards had five players in double figures. After blowing a 21-point lead with 10 minutes to go in the game, Paul Pierce sent the fans home happy with a buzzer-beating bank shot giving the Wizards a 103-101 win.
After nailing a three-pointer for the Wizards first points of the game, Pierce left the game with a shoulder injury after trying to draw the charge on DeMarre Carroll. His teammates picked up the slack, starting with Nene who would score back to back baskets against the less defensive Pero Antic, leading to an 11-2 Washington run. As hot as Nene was to start, hitting back-to-back jumpers, the Hawks were getting too many opportunities on offensive rebounds directly leading to points. Out of a Randy Wittman timeout, the Wizards went on a 9-0 run late in the quarter that gave them their first lead after the first quarter this series, 28-18.
After a slow start to the second quarter for both teams, with just a bucket each in the first three-plus minutes of action, things started to pick up. Although Atlanta was starting to up its shooting percentage from sub 30 percent to 35.5, the Wizards were outhustling the Hawks. Otto Porter stole away a defensive rebound after he missed a jumper and finished between two defenders with a reverse layup.
Moments later Nene took the ball away from Millsap after not expecting the pass and finished at the rim plus the foul. The strong defense was starting to translate into offense before things got ugly. Beal secured an outlet pass from Porter and was off to the races before Jeff Teague grabbed up high at his head and threw him to the ground. Beal came up hot and was restrained. Teague was assessed a flagrant-one foul and the Wizards cashed that possession into five points. The Wizards 18-point lead was Atlanta’s largest deficit so far in the playoffs. The Wizards maintained a decent lead at halftime with a 56-43 advantage.
Atlanta came out to a hot start in the third led by Teague, who was aggressively attacking the rim. The Hawks cut the deficit to single-digits, but the tide changed slightly after an additional altercation. Beal fouled Teague hard going to the rim (not dirty), but Teague bucked at Beal and picked up a technical foul, which fired the crowd up. Beal came back with his own 3 to stretch the lead back out to double digits. Even with Teague trying to will his team back with nine points in the quarter, the Wizards made enough big shots to control the game, including a three-ball from Drew Gooden. The Wizards ended the quarter on a 7-1 run and secured their largest lead of the game at 19 and headed to the fourth quarter up 85-66.
With the Hawks’ Al Horford going to the locker room with a reported lower right leg injury, Nene went back to work in the post. Nene drew fouls and had a put-back bucket to put back some energy in the crowd. That set the table for Will Bynum to receive the outlet pass from Ramon Sessions and go in for a layup — plus the foul — against a flopping Mike Muscala (Horford’s replacement).
The Wizards pushed their lead up to 20, but Atlanta made a solid push on a 7-0 run that forced Wittman to call timeout with 6:11 remaining. The Wizards began to self-destruct as the Hawks extended out their run to a whopping 17-0. Thankfully, Washington got much needed buckets from Bradley Beal and Marcin Gortat late in the game to give them a five-point lead with 1:17 to go. Atlanta was forced to play the foul game at the end but were still within one possession before Muscala tied the game on a three pointer with 14.1 seconds left in the game. When all looked lost, the Wizards followed the Nationals walk-off in suit as Pierce hit a jumper off the backboard as the Wizards escaped with a 103-101 victory. The Truth would later say that he did not call bank when he released the shot, Pierce said he called game; such is exactly why the Wizards were brilliant in bringing the future Hall of Famer to the nations capital.
Why the Wizards Won:
- The Atlanta Hawks are known for their three-point shooting abilities. Tonight the Wizards shut them down from beyond the arc as the Hawks were just 7 of 23, while the Wizards were thriving with 10 made shots from beyond the arc.
- Filling in for Wall: Bradley Beal had a playoff career high eight assists, Sessions chipped in with six assists, and Porter had a career high 17 points.
- Post production for the Wizards as Nene came alive for the first time in the series. He and Gortat combined for 31 points on 16 shots, 15 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocks, and 2 steals.
The Wizards have at least one more home game on Monday night before having to return to Atlanta. With the possibility of following the Capitals by going up 3-1 in the conference semifinals, DC continues to rise. It is unlikely that Wall would be able to suit up unless the swelling in his wrist comes down significantly, but as he has reiterated he will take things day by day. However, the Wizards showed that they had the ability to dominate the Hawks for parts of the game even without their leader. The Wizards were able to not loose all momentum possible by sealing the deal at the end and now have the opportunity to push the #1 seed to the brink of elimination in front of the Verizon Center faithful.