The Washington Wizards, including forward Paul Pierce (34), forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) and guard Garrett Temple (17), watch a replay on the scoreboard as time expires Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91 to advance to the next round. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
The Washington Wizards entered the week feeling good about their matchup against the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks. Up 2-1 in the series and fresh off the high of Paul Pierce’s buzzer-beating fadeaway to end Game Three, Washington’s confidence was high despite the absence at the time of star point guard John Wall, who suffered fractures in his left hand.
But backed into a corner, the Hawks showed their mettle and took control of the series, narrowly taking out the Wizards in six gamesin what perhaps was the best series of the postseason so far. Wall returned to play in the series’ final two games, but it wasn’t enough as Washington missed just enough breaks to send them home for summer vacation. The AFRO recaps the week that was for the Washington Wizards.
May 11: Hawks Fend Off Wizards in Game Four, 106-101
Up 2-1 and with another home game still in store for the surging underdogs, Washington played catchup as Atlanta stayed one step ahead of the sluggish Wizards throughout Game Four. The Hawks avoided a late-game collapse to stave off Washington, 106-101, despite a monster game from Bradley Beal, who scored 34 points to go with seven assists, three steals, one block and six rebounds. He also shot 4-of-8 from deep, showing his knack for stepping up in playoff games. Paul Pierce dusted off some of the rust to flash a series of exciting plays in the first half on his way to a 22-point, five-rebound night. Pierce was 5-of-5 at from long range at one point in the game, but his final two misses from distance proved to be costly for the Wizards. Down 104-101 with less than 10 seconds left, Pierce’s wide open three-point try slung against the back of the rim, and Atlanta secured the rebound. Washington was just one game removed from Pierce’s heroics on a buzzer-beater in Game Three, but the 17-year veteran just couldn’t duplicate the magic.
May 13: Horford Plays Hero as Hawks Hold on in Game Five, 82-81
Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) passes the ball in front of Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap (4) and center Al Horford (15), from the Dominican Republic, in the second half of Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91 to advance to the next round. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Washington looked for a fresh start in Atlanta on May 15 due to the return of Wall. The star guard’s availability gave a boost to the team as it built a 10-point lead against the Hawks, who struggled shooting most of the night before Al Horford saved the day in an 82-81 nail-biter win for Atlanta. The normally hot-shooting Hawks were held in check, shooting 22 percent on the night from long range. But Washington couldn’t capitalize, as they were equally as terrible from the field, shooting 37 percent from the field and just23 percent from deep. Pierce’s corner three-pointer made it 81-80 with close to nine seconds left in the game. Wall blocked Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder’s layup attempt and Nene briefly touched the rebound before Horford swooped into the picture to wrestle the rebound away from Nene and lay it in with one second left on the clock. Wall’s desperation attempt missed while the home crowd at Phillips Arena went crazy. Wall finished with 15 points, seven assists, four rebounds, four steals and two blocks, but was outgunned by Horford who had a standout performance with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks.
May 15: Wizards’ Season Ends at Home in 94-91 Thriller
Down 3-2 and limping back into the Verizon Center off of two heartbreakers, it would’ve been easy for the Wizards to pack it in. But they showed a lot of heart and resolve in a 94-91 thriller that clinched the series for Atlanta and sent the Wizards into their offseason. Washington trailed for much of the night as the Hawks established a 15-point lead in the second half. Beal’s three-pointer cut the deficit to 62-50 midway through the third quarter before Washington mounted a comeback to get the game to single digits going into the final quarter. The Wizards were able to chip Atlanta’s lead down to 94-91 with six seconds remaining. Washington put the ball in Pierce’s hands once again, and for a few moments, it appeared as if Pierce had done the improbable one more time. Pierce’s corner three-pointer shuffled through the nets after time expired, forcing a call for instant replay. That replay confirmed that Pierce’s shot came just as the buzzer sounded, ending Washington’s championship hopes. Beal scored 29 points to go along with six rebounds while Wall added 20 points, 13 assists and six rebounds.