Atlanta Hawks (-4.5, 199 o/u) at Washington Wizards
Among all the buzzer-beating bank-shots over the weekend, none was more impressive than Paul Pierce’s game-winner against the Atlanta Hawks (65-26, 26-19 away). The dagger from “The Truth” gave the Washington Wizards (52-37, 32-12 home) a 2-1 series lead, which they’ll look to extend tonight in Game 4 (4:00 PM Eastern at the Verizon Center).
“Usually, I like to save those type of shots for later rounds,” a confident Pierce said after the game.
In many ways, the Wizards win was a typical NBA playoff game with a lot of runs and all the action taking place in the last two minutes. Even though Washington played without the injured John Wall, and watched a 21-point lead disappear in the fourth quarter, the 37-year-old Pierce saved the day with what could be one of the last big moments in his 17-year career.
“I’m still soaking it up,” Pierce said, “because I don’t have too many more of these left.” Pierce finished with 13 points on 5/12 shooting, while three Wizards (Nene, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter Jr.) all had 17.
Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore gave Pierce credit, despite fluky nature of the shot, “That’s what he does. He’s a future Hall of Famer. He’s been there before. His favorite [saying] is, ‘This is why they brought me here,’ and he showed us.”
For the better part of the fourth quarter, the story was the Hawks’ bench, which brought the team all the way back from more than 20 points down. Rookie Dennis Schroder had 18 points on 50-percent shooting to lead the way.
Atlanta head coach Mike Budenholzer said, “You feel like you’re not going to be able to close that gap.” But the team tied the game with just over 14 seconds left.
With all the momentum firmly on their side, the Hawks were looking and feeling good at that point. But Pierce had other ideas, hitting the fallaway jumper for the win.
“Took my time,” Pierce said. “You know, wanted to make sure I got the shot off with no time on the clock. I’ve been in those situations many times.”
Now up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, the Wizards – sans Wall – remain 4.5-point underdogs at home against the top seed in the East. But the Hawks haven’t played like the 60-22 team they were during the regular season. The Wizards’ moneyline (+158) is the play tonight.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)