Wednesday night’s raucous ruckus in Philips Arena offered enough mood swings to make a long, dramatic movie with some actors working out of character beside leading man Al Horford, and a couple of them breaking script.
For channel surfers, the Hawks’ 82-81 win could be wrapped up neatly over the final, frantic 35 seconds.
There were the Hawks and Wizards, tied at two games, tied at 78-all, tied with merely 17 fouls called against each even though players surely took more bumps and bruises than that when there was, of course, a mad scramble.
The Wizards won.
A Horford jumper had rattled in and out, and then the ball was batted roud by players from both teams. To the floor it finally went.
Down went Washington guard John Wall, as if pouncing on gold.
Hawks were nearby, but the Wizards called timeout with 32.6 seconds left — before Atlantans could tie up the treasure.
Kyle Korver did not play the role sharpshooter role effectively Wednesday, making just 1-of-5 shots for 3 points.
Yet none of his career playoff-high six steals was bigger than the last.
Naturally, the ball ended up with Hawks’ foil Paul Pierce near the top of the circle. But he made a mistake.
Korver broke the plan, left his man, reached in and poked the ball away.
“I saw him open, and then he kind of turned his back to me,” he said. “I didn’t really want to do it because I was guarding [Otto] Porter, and he’s been really good this series when you turn your head cutting. But I saw an opportunity, and took a stab at it.”
Horford and DeMarre Carroll quickly launched a two-on-one break, Wall backpedaling like mad as the Hawks tossed the ball back and forth while running him down.
Near the basket, Horford passed to Carroll one last time. A layup with 14.9 seconds left was good for an 80-78 lead.
Again, Pierce. His 3-pointer from the left corner bumped the Wizards ahead 81-80 with 8.9 seconds to go.
Right in front of the Hawks’ bench, Pierce turned and said with authority, “Series!”
“Obviously, that one hurt,” Korver recalled.
Korver would throw the inbound pass, and then serve as a decoy.
Head coach Mike Budenholzer called for the ball in the hands of second-year point guard Dennis Schroder, who played the final 7:29, including the last 5:32 without starter Jeff Teague on the court at all.
It left Schroder in the unsual position of go-to man, as in go-to-the-basket.
Moments after the inbound pass, he barrelled down the lane.
Wall blocked his shot.
“The last play was an opportunity to get in the paint, get to the basket, see if we could score,” the coach said. “We wanted our bigs to go to the offensive boards and see if they could finish if we weren’t able to make the initial shot.”
Schroder may have been bumped on his drive. Horford definitely rattled Nene, knocking Washington’s big man to the floor while rebounding.
No whistles. No surprise.
“It’s the playoffs,” Schroder said. “I think the refs don’t call as much as the regular season.”
Horford was on the high left wing as the play began, 22-plus feet away.
He found his way to the loose ball, though, and dumped it back in with 1.9 on the clock. Hawks win 82-81.
“I wasn’t supposed to be involved in the play at all,” Horford said. “I was supposed to set a screen for Kyle, which I did,” Horford said after becoming the first player in Hawks history to record at least 20 points (23), 10 rebounds (11) and five blocks in a playoff game. “When I saw the ball go up, I just ran in there.”
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