WASHINGTON: Paul Pierce banked in the game-winner on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) to lift the short-handed Washington Wizards to a 103-101 NBA playoff victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Pierce’s heroics gave the Wizards a two-games-to-one lead over Eastern Conference top seeds Atlanta in their best-of-seven second-round series — and thwarted the Hawks’ bid to rally from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit.
There was no such drama in Memphis, where the Grizzlies took a 2-1 series lead over Western Conference top seeds Golden State with a 99-89 victory over the Warriors.
In Washington, Wizards coach Randy Wittman could afford to joke when the dust had settled.
“Had it all the way, huh?” quipped Wittman after watching his team squander a 21-point lead only to win it at the last gasp.
Washington’s All-Star guard John Wall, who has five fractures in his non-shooting left hand, watched from the sidelines in street clothes as his team built a comfortable lead, only to see it evaporate in the final 10 minutes as the Hawks, sparked by their reserves, stormed back with a 21-3 scoring run.
That included a stretch of 17 unanswered points to make it 94-91 with 3:12 to play.
Mike Muscala pulled the Hawks level with a three-pointer with 14.8 seconds to play.
Pierce held the ball for the last shot and banked in a jumper as the buzzer sounded, sparking a wild celebration among his teammates.
The Wizards managed nicely without Wall, sharing the ball with 27 assists and 37 baskets. Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Nene contributed 17 points apiece.
Jeff Teague had 18 points for Atlanta, Al Horford added 14 and DeMarre Carroll chipped in 12.
In Memphis, Spanish big man Marc Gasol had 21 points and 15 rebounds and Zach Randolph scored 22 for the Grizzlies as they held off a Warriors team that had finished with the best regular-season record in the league.
Golden State, whose explosive offensive talent includes newly-crowned NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, had comfortably won the first game of the series, improving to 5-0 this post-season.