WASHINGTON — Avoiding overtime in Game 6 when Paul Pierce’s potential tying 3-pointer was released after the clock expired, the Atlanta Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time by beating the Washington Wizards 94-91 on Friday night.
The Hawks held on thanks primarily to DeMarre Carroll’s playoff career-high 25 points, including two layups in the last minute off assists from Jeff Teague.
After Al Horford went 1 of 2 from the free-throw line for a three-point lead, the Wizards inbounded the ball with 6.4 seconds left. They got the ball to Pierce, who won Game 3 on a banked-in buzzer-beater, then put Washington briefly ahead late in Game 5 with a 3. This time, his 3 from the corner swished through, but after a couple of anxious minutes for both teams, a replay review determined it was too late.
Once trailing 2-1 in the best-of-seven series against the Wizards, the Hawks won three straight games. They improved road teams to 6-0 this postseason in Game 6s.
Now No. 1 seed Atlanta will host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the conference finals on Wednesday night.
It’s the Hawks’ first trip to a conference final since the NBA realigned into conferences in 1970-71. The team had not won two playoff series in a single year since moving to Atlanta for the 1968-69 season.
Teague and Paul Millsap both added 20 points for Atlanta, which won 60 games during the regular season but was about a .500 team for part of the postseason.
Playing with a broken left hand that forced him out of Games 2, 3 and 4, John Wall attacked the rim as if completely healthy and finished with 20 points, 13 assists and six rebounds.
Wall began the game with a beige bandage on his left wrist and black padding on the top of that hand. But in the second half, the black padding was gone.
Bradley Beal scored 29 points, including a baseline jumper to cap a 9-0 stretch and give Washington an 88-87 lead with a little more than 3 1/2 minutes left.
Atlanta kept turning the ball over and failed to make a field goal for more than 5 minutes, a drought that finally ended when Millsap made a 16-footer to go up 89-88.
Both teams struggled to score from there. For the Wizards, there was a shot-clock violation, Nene missed two foul shots and Pierce missed a 3 try, part of a 1-for-7 shooting night that produced only four points. He also struggled on defense, picking up four fouls.
After losing Game 5 at Atlanta on Wednesday night on a closing-seconds putback by Horford, the Wizards came out in a bit of a fog in Game 6.
They made only two of their first 12 shots, and just three of their first 16, going scoreless for more than 4 minutes while falling behind 15-7.
On one particularly ugly possession in a half full of them, Pierce missed a 3, Marcin Gortat flubbed a tip-in try, and Wall airballed a runner.
The game was tied at 39 with about 90 seconds left in the first half, before a six-point spurt gave Atlanta a 45-39 halftime lead.
Carroll scored 10 points during an 18-4 run by Atlanta that extended into the third quarter.
The Hawks then went up by 15, before Washington got within 72-64 entering the fourth.
But even Pierce couldn’t stop Atlanta from advancing to face Cleveland.
Hawks: Kyle Korver missed all seven 3-point tries in Game 6, making him 12 for 42 from beyond the arc in the series. … The franchise’s only NBA championship came in 1958, when it was based in St. Louis.
Wizards: Kevin Seraphin, who can leave as a free agent after the season, had eight points and four rebounds in the first half, double what he had been averaging per game this postseason. He finished Friday with a career playoff-high 13 points and eight rebounds. … Nene had five points, Gortat had two. … Washington has lost its past seven playoff elimination games at home, including Game 6 of the second round against the Indiana Pacers last season.
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