Key Legislature: Wizards 91 vs Hawks 94 — A Piercing Shot To The Heart | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Key Legislature: Wizards 91 vs Hawks 94 — A Piercing Shot To The Heart

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Updated: May 16, 2015

Truth About It.net’s Key Legislature: a quick run-down and the game’s defining moment(s)
for Washington Wizards second round playoff contest No. 6 versus the Hawks in Chinatown.
via Rashad Mobley (@rashad20) from the Verizon Center.

DC Council Key Legislature

by Rashad Mobley.

The play that produced Paul Pierce’s shot, like most of Washington’s offensive possessions the entire night, was disjointed, slow as molasses to take shape. It seemed more improvisational than scripted by its end. Ramon Sessions inbounded the ball, John Wall sprinted past DeMarre Carroll to receive the ball from Sessions, and immediately got in a three-point stance. As he dribbled toward the center of the court, he was corralled by Carroll, Al Horford and Kyle Korver, which meant someone was open. In his postgame presser, John Wall told the media exactly how the play was supposed to go:

“The play was for me to catch the ball, be patient…and when Brad was going one way I was looking for him, and then Paul was going to come back the other way. I saw that time was ticking, so we ended up just trying to make a shot. Give credit to those guys they did a great job of just switching out and talking, and we couldn’t get the look that we really wanted.”

Wall got the ball to Pierce in the corner, and immediately Horford and Korver had him trapped. Pierce absorbed the contact from Korver, slid slightly to the left as Otto Porter cleared out, and then let the shot go:

 

Pierce nailed the shot, the crowd went ten times beyond wild, journalists tried (and failed) to maintain their neutrality and the Verizon Center thought it had once again witnessed the greatness of The Truth. Then it slowly began to unravel.

First the officials went to the videotape, then that same videotape ran on an endless, repetitive loop on the big screen in the Verizon Center. The most damning of all the frames was frozen, and showed the ball still attached to Pierce’s hand when the dreaded game-ending red light had shone. The refs waved the shot off, the crowd let out a collective groan, and the Hawks began tentatively celebrating as if there was still a chance the referees could change their collective minds once more. The Wizards players begrudgingly congratulated the Hawks players, and then began that slow walk of shame from the court, for some, and the arena, for others.

Some players like Bradley Beal and Drew Gooden took time to reluctantly slap fives with the fans. Other players like Rasual Butler and Nene were in no mood to exchange pleasantries. And there was Paul Pierce, who slapped fives with fans before giving them a poignantly demonstrative military-style salute. At the time it looked like an innocuous gesture that signified the end of the season. But given Pierce’s emotional postgame presser—one where he mentioned how hard it was going to be to give up basketball after 32 years of playing: that salute could have very well been a farewell to playing basketball overall, not just in Washington.

The kneejerk, visceral reaction is to blame the loss on the expiration of a tenth of a second Pierce did not have, but in reality the game was lost much earlier. The Wizards, except for Beal, did not play with that proverbial, impalpable sense of urgency so often described by coaches and players alike over the first three quarters. Nene and an ill Gortat could not secure offensive rebounds, and the Wizards scored just 39 points on 34 percent shooting in the first half. Early in the second half, the Wizards found themselves down 15 points because Wall and Beal could not stay with DeMarre Carroll, and Pierce could not guard Paul Millsap in the paint or the perimeter.

Kevin Seraphin—who Garrett Temple later called the MVP of the game—did his best to offset the disappearances of Nene and Gortat, and Otto Porter did yeoman’s work on the offensive boards (with six total), but it was not enough. Even in the fourth quarter, when the Wizards chipped away and eventually took the lead over the Hawks, only Bradley Beal (13 points in the quarter) had any semblance of offensive rhythm, while no other Wizard scored more than three points. Their offense was predictable, desperate at times, and highly ineffective.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the floor, the Hawks’ scoring was evenly distributed among the four starters (except for Korver, who Beal smothered in this game, and the entire series). The Wizards didn’t know whether Carroll would score via a cut to the basket, or if Teague would break down the defense and find Horford or Millsap. In the final minutes of the game, when the Wizards were trying desperately to gain the upper hand, Teague twice broke the defense down and found Carroll wide open for easy layups. It was a microcosm of the entire night: The Wizards would work hard for a basket that was the result of a broken play, and the Hawks would just methodically and effectively pass the ball until the easiest of easy baskets was available. Atlanta’s last score came via a Carroll layup, and Washington’s last shot was a tightly contested fadeaway shot in the corner that ultimately didn’t count.

This was the second consecutive year that the season was ended at home in the sixth game of a series. Last season, it was the Pacers—specifically David West—who came into the Verizon Center and sent the Wizards home for the season. Paul Pierce watched that game, decided his presence would improve the team and help the Wizards protect their home court, and joined Washington a couple of months later. Pierce buoyed the Wizards in the Raptors series, and won Game 3 of this series against the Hawks and seemed poised to carry the Wizards to a seventh and deciding game in the Peach State. But Pierce had just four points on 1-of-7 shooting and was a non-factor until a last shot that was ultimately a non-factor as well. Two years and two losses in Game 6’s and no trips to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The basketball gods, who hovered lovingly over Pierce the entire playoffs, decided to pay someone else a visit.

‘I was about to cry. I said, `Not again.’ … But the basketball gods were on our side.’ —DeMarre Carroll

 

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Rashad Mobley
Reporter/Writer at TAI
Rashad has been covering the NBA and the Washington Wizards since 2008—his first two years were spent at Hoops Addict before moving to Truth About It. Rashad has appeared on ESPN and college radio, SportsTalk on NewsChannel 8 in Washington D.C., and his articles have appeared on ESPN TrueHoop, USAToday.com, Complex Magazine, and the DCist. He considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar a hero and he had the pleasure of interviewing him back in 2009.