WASHINGTON — Paul Pierce.
The Wizards, missing injured star point guard John Wall, mustered 78 points between Pierce, Nene, Marcin Gortat, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter in his absence.
They built a 21-point fourth-quarter lead, and then watched the Atlanta Hawks erase it.
The lead officially evaporated into dust when Mike Muscala came off the bench to hit the game-tying three-pointer.
The score 101-101 with 14.8 seconds left in regulation, a painful death seemed only an overtime away.
Beal, after a Wizards timeout, would bring the inbound pass up to the top of the key, then pass the ball off to Pierce in the free-throw circle, with 6.5 seconds quickly disappearing.
Pierce made immediately clear he would hold the ball for the final shot.
“Here comes Pierce,” the television announcer said, “with five seconds left.”
“Pierce with three… Pierce with two…”
Pierce, with Atlanta guards Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder falling into him, leaned back for a fall-away long two at the horn.
With everything going against them, the Wizards were Game 3 winners. And took a 2-1 Eastern Conference semifinal lead.
Asked by ESPN’s Chris Broussard, moments after hitting the game-winning buzzer-beater off the backboard, if he called ‘bank,’ The Truth looked around Verizon Center, surrounded by celebratory euphoria, then leaned into the mic.
“I called game,” he said.
When you believe in curses, you have to believe in magic.