Paul Pierce stepped up and played the hero again, but his timing just wasn't quite right.
Seconds after Pierce hit a go-ahead three-pointer, Hawks center Al Horford scored a game-winning putback layup to lift Atlanta to an 82-81 victory over Washington in Game 5 on Wednesday.
This one went all the way down to the wire, thanks in part to the dramatic return of John Wall, who took the court for the first time since injuring his hand in Game 1. The back-and-forth endgame sequence saw Pierce, who previously hit a game-winning fadeaway jumper in Game 3, knock down a three-pointer from the left corner to give the Wizards an 81-80 lead.
Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer turned over his final possession to Dennis Schroder. The second-year backup guard drove hard into the paint, but Wall soared high to block his shot attempt near the basket area. In the scramble for the carom, Horford came up with the ball as Wizards forward Nene crashed to the court. The three-time All-Star then calmly put home the game-winning basket with 1.9 seconds left despite swipe attempts from Wall and Otto Porter.
Washington was out of timeouts and had to settle for an unsuccessful desperation heave at the buzzer.
Horford finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap each added 14 for Atlanta.
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Wall chipped in 15 points, seven assists and four steals.
The victory gives Atlanta a 3-2 series lead over Washington. Game 6 is set for the Verizon Center on Friday.