Horford’s last-second put-back lifts Hawks past Wizards
ATLANTA — Al Horford wasn’t going to let the Truth hurt the Hawks again.
Horford, Atlanta’s All-Star forward, outhustled several Washington Wizards for an offensive rebound and scored on a put-back with one second left to give the Hawks an 82-81 win Wednesday at Philips Arena.
The win gives Atlanta a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is Friday in Washington. Game 7, if necessary, would be played Monday in Atlanta.
In a back-and-forth thriller, Washington forward Paul Pierce hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds to play. Nicknamed the Truth, Pierce already beat Atlanta with a last-second basket in Game 3 of the series and looked as if he did it again.
Horford would have none of it. On the Hawks’ ensuing possession, Horford flew in to follow a missed shot by backup point guard Dennis Schroder and hit a game-winner that will be talked about in Atlanta for a long time.
“I wasn’t even supposed to be involved (in) the play,” Horford said of the winning rebound and put-back. “It was just a hustle play.”
Horford also made a big play on the Hawks’ previous possession, stealing the ball from Pierce and leading a two-on-one fastbreak that resulted in a go-ahead layup by forward DeMarre Carroll.
Horford finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks to help the Hawks spoil the return of Wizards point guard John Wall.
Wall, who missed the previous three games with an injured wrist, made a surprise return and played well. He scored 15 points and dished out seven assists in 37 minutes, but also committed six turnovers.
“Considering everything, I thought he played great,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said of Wall. “I didn’t ever see him play tentative or wince or seem to have anything bothered him. And he played like John, all-out.”
Guard Bradley Beal had 23 points and seven rebounds for the Wizards, who absorbed their first loss of the postseason with Wall in the lineup.
The Wizards led 73-64 with 5:32 to play and appeared to be in complete control. But Horford and the Hawks weren’t done.
Atlanta guard Kyle Korver, who hadn’t hit a shot all game, drilled a deep 3-pointer that trimmed the deficit to 73-69. Horford followed Korver’s 3-pointer with one of his from the corner, cutting the margin to one and electrifying the crowd for the final four minutes.
“Electric, electric,” Horford said of the atmosphere. “We’ve had big wins here before, but nothing like this. This was something. We couldn’t even do the postgame interviews (on the floor).”
Atlanta won despite turning the ball over 25 times and shooting 5-for-22 (22.7 percent) from the 3-point arc. Carroll and point guard Jeff Teague each finished with 14 points, helping the Hawks overcome an off night from Korver, who had just three points.
Washington committed 19 turnovers and hit just four of 17 (23.5 percent) long-distance shots. Center Marcin Gortat finished with 14 points, and Pierce added 11.
“They made one more play than us,” Wittman said. “But these guys are fighting hard, and we’ll just have to play better Friday.”
The Hawks led for much of the first half but went cold in the final five minutes of the second quarter. The Wizards took advantage, closing out the half with a 19-6 run. Washington led 47-41 at halftime.
The Wizards’ lead grew to 10 early in the third quarter, after Atlanta turned it over on five of their first six possessions. The Atlanta coaching staff, players and the home crowd was frustrated. The frustration finally boiled over, resulting in a heated verbal exchange between Carroll and Pierce at the nine-minute mark of the quarter. Both players were called for technical fouls, but Atlanta took the motivational edge.
The Hawks went on a 15-7 run and regained the lead on two free throws from backup center Pero Antic. Atlanta took a 63-62 lead into the fourth quarter.
“Coach told us to play mad,” Carroll said. “For me, it’s just getting a little Junkyard Dog out of me. It worked tonight.”
NOTES: Approximately an hour before tipoff, the Wizards announced that PG John Wall was active and would start. He missed the last three games with five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist, his non-shooting hand. However, after a successful warmup without padding on the wrist, Wall was deemed ready to play. ... Atlanta’s bench outscored Washington’s bench 18-9. F Otto Porter Jr. was the only Wizards reserve to score. ... The Hawks are the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs for the first time since the 1993-94 season. Atlanta has never reached the conference finals.