Invisible for most of Game 3 vs. the Atlanta Hawks, Paul Pierce made his presence felt when the Wizards were desperate for an answer. Tied at 101 with 14 seconds left in the game, Pierce gladly accepted the switch of the smaller Dennis Schroder guarding him and calmly backed him down, stepped back and over the help defense banked in the jump shot.
It was a a major sigh of relief for the Wizards, who'd blown a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter without John Wall (left wrist) for the second game in a row, in front a sellout of 20,356 at Verizon Center. They lead the series 2-1.
Those were Pierce's only points of the fourth and it overshadowed what otherwise had been a solid performance for the Wizards until the Hawks' reserves engineered a comeback.
The Hawks went on a 17-0 run to cut the deficit to 94-91 on a series of three-pointers from Dennis Schroder and Mike Scott. Down 101-98 with 14 seconds left, Mike Muscala buried a three-pointer to tie the score on a broken play to set up Pierce's heroics.
Nene had his best game of the series, going 0-for-9 in the first two games, and made 6 of 7 shots to start en route to 17 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Beal had 17 and a playoff career-high eight assists.
Porter had 17 points, nine rebounds and four assists. Marcin Gortat added 14 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
The Hawks were led by Jeff Teague, who had his best game of the series with 18 points, and his backup Dennis Schroder scoring 18 to lead the late comeback. Schroder scored 16 in the fourth.
TURNING POINT: The Wizards led by double digits throughout the second quarter, and by as many as 18 twice, en route to a 56-43 halftime edge. They held a double-digit lead entering the fourth and lost all of it until Pierce's shot at the buzzer.
NUMBERS GAME: The Wizards shot 37-for-78, 47.4%, a 43-38 edge in rebounds, but the Hawks had a 50-38 edge in paint points and 25-11 in fast-break points.
DANGEROUS PLAY: Already dealing with a bad right ankle, Beal survived a scare when he had a breakaway basket but was fouled from behind by Teague. He was in the air and vulnerable when Teague came from behind and struck him across the head and sent Beal tumbling. Beal had to be restrained by teammates as Teague walked away. Upon review, it was ruled a Flagrant 1 foul and Beal made both foul shots.
SICK LEAVE: Paul Millsap was bothered by the flu and didn't start. The Hawks tried to get away with Pero Antic against Nene and it wasn't a good result. Millsap entered at 7:10 of the first after Nene's consecutive baskets at the rim helped the Wizards lead 11-4. He didn't score in missing two shots and had two turnovers as the Hawks trailed 28-18 after the first. Millsap, not Antic, started the third quarter. Millsap was just 2 of 6 for eight points.
SLOW START: The Hawks scored 37 and 28 points to open Games 1 and 2 of this series. Eighteen is their low, and just two more than their playoff low going back to a first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets. The Hawks only made 1 of their first eight shots and shot 7-for-22 in the period, 31.8%.
QUALITY TIME: After appearing in garbage time of a blowout of Game 4 for the Toronto Raptors, Will Bynum had his most significant run. He played six minutes of the second quarter. Bynum shared the backcourt with Ramon Sessions and got into the paint, but his first pass was a turnover. He drained a contested corner three-point shot for a 37-24 lead that got the Wizards on a run to lead by 18. He also picked up three fouls in that span. Bynum returned to play 13 minutes in the fourth and got to the basket in transition while drawing a foul on Mike Muscala. Bynum drove past Kent Bazemore to get in the paint and left it for Porter for a layup for their first 20-point lead at 94-74. Bynum re-entered in the final 24 seconds when the Wizards needed ball-handlers and made both foul shots for a 101-98 lead to end with nine points.
UP NEXT: Both teams likely will practice lightly Sunday before playing Game 4 at Verizon Center on Monday (TNT, 7 p.m. ET).