Atlanta’s Al Horford swooped in to snatch an offensive rebound and dropped in a shot from right under the basket with 1.9 seconds remaining to give the Hawks an 82-81 victory over Washington on Wednesday and a 3-2 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference semifinals.
Golden State also took a 3-2 series lead, but in more comfortable style, as the Warriors beat Memphis 98-78.
Atlanta went more than 7 minutes in the fourth quarter without making a basket, then ripped off 14 straight points to take the lead.
Then there was another sudden shift as Atlanta went cold again, and it looked as though Washington’s Paul Pierce had doomed Atlanta for the second time in the series. Having already made a buzzer-beating winner in Game 3, he got open in the corner and swished a 3-pointer with 8.3 seconds left, putting the Wizards up 81-80.
Pierce taunted the Hawks bench and home crowd on his way back down the court before bowling over teammate John Wall, who was playing for the first time since Game 1 after fracturing several bones in his left hand.
Wall didn’t mind, throwing up his hands in celebration. The Wizards were on the verge of heading home with a chance to wrap up the series.
Atlanta had one more chance.
The Hawks gave the ball to backup point guard Dennis Schroder, who ignited a fourth-quarter rally and stayed in the game at the suggestion of All-Star Jeff Teague, who watched the closing minutes from the bench.
Schroder drove down the lane and put up a shot, which was swatted off the backboard by Wall. But Horford yanked the ball away from Nene, who tumbled to the court, leaving the Hawks center all alone under the basket. Horford, who had 23 points and 11 rebounds, put back the easy shot on a night when both teams struggled offensively.
“I wasn’t supposed to be involved in the play at all,” Horford said. “When I saw the ball go up, I just ran in there.”
The Wizards threw up a wild shot from halfcourt that didn’t come close as the horn sounded. The sellout crowd nearly stormed the court, held back by security while the Hawks celebrated. Horford screamed and pumped his fists, having put the Hawks one victory away from advancing to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since the team moved to Atlanta from St. Louis in 1968.
About 10 minutes after the Wizards lost, there was more heartbreak for D.C. sports fans. The Capitals were eliminated from the NHL playoffs with a Game 7 overtime loss to the New York Rangers. At least the Wizards still have a chance. Game 6 is Friday night in Washington.
“These guys are fighting. I love it,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said.
“They made one more play than us.”
Wall, who fractured several bones in his left hand in the series opener and missed the next three games, wound up with 15 points, seven assists and four steals.
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 23 points.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry turned in an MVP-worthy performance to lead the Warriors to a home victory over Memphis.
Curry scored 18 points on six 3-pointers and added a career-playoff high six steals to go with seven rebounds and five assists.
Klay Thompson snapped out of his shooting funk and scored 21 points, and Harrison Barnes had 14 for the Warriors, who will travel to Memphis for Game 6 on Friday.
With defensive stopper Tony Allen sidelined with a left hamstring injury, the Grizzlies struggled to contain Golden State’s streaky shooters. The Warriors made 14 of 30 shots from 3-point range, while Memphis made just four of 15 from long distance.