Two of the Atlanta Hawks' three wins in this series easily could've have gone the Wizards' way, and that belief will fuel them Friday when the teams meet for Game 6 at Verizon Center.
"It's a tough one to swallow, especially we had a nine-point lead with five minutes to go," said Paul Pierce. "We got to do a better job at closing out the game, running our offense. Too many turnovers in the fourth. Be able to execute a lot better. It comes down to one rebound, but it shouldn't have come down to that.
"The sting of this game is going to motivate us for Game 6. Guys will be really fired up knowing we let one get away. So we're going to go back home with aspirations of wining and making another trip to Atlanta."
Pierce is referencing the 82-81 loss at the buzzer in Game 5 when Al Horford grabbed an offensive rebound over Nene for a putback and victory to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead.
"I got to get in there, get my hands dirty, go in for the rebound, it's on all on us," Pierce said. "It's not on one player you can point a finger at. Once the shot goes up with the game on the line we all got to gang rebound. Lesson learned."
The Wizards almost lost a 21-point lead in Game 3, which they pulled out 103-101. It's a trend all season, such as when the Wizards lost a 25-point lead and had it cut to three vs. the Portland Trail Blazers. The season is littered with such examples. How about the 35-point lead vs. the Miami Heat, minus Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, that was dwindled to one?
They still won both of those games, as uncomfortable as it might've been, but the pace comes out of the offense. They Wizards walk the ball up every possession, the opposing defenses play more desperate and the result is they end up taking forced shots to avoid the 24-second violation. That puts the other team in transition because of long rebounds or simply negates possessions for the Wizards because of turnovers.
"That's the point where we're supposed to turn up the heat, push the (lead) to 12, 13, 14 points and close the game a lot better," Pierce said. "Gotta to a better job of making the extra pass, moving the ball. That's basically it."
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