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Al Horford Carries Hawks To Wild 82-81 Game 5 Victory

Paul Pierce hit another backbreaking late three-pointer, but Al Horford dominated all night and was not to be denied. After Pierce’s jumper put the Wizards up one with 8.3 seconds to go, Dennis Schröder missed a layup with the clock winding down. Horford somehow snatched the rebound away from Nene and put it back with less than two seconds remaining. With no timeouts, the Wizards had to force up a prayer, and the Hawks survived with a 3-2 advantage in the series.

Horford finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and five massive blocks on 10/18 shooting. The Hawks had several terrible scoring droughts on Wednesday, but it was Horford who bailed them out nearly every time. His six offensive rebounds were critical, none more so than the game-winner. The blocks were fantastic, but Horford was dominant in many ways defensively, shutting down the Wizards’ paint attack.

While Schröder missed the shot that Horford gobbled up to win it, the Hawks would have been dead in the water without him. Schröder gutted through a tough stretch that had most of Twitter aggressively questioning Mike Budenholzer’s lineup choices. Coach Bud ultimately put Kyle Korver back in, but kept Schröder in place of Jeff Teague. That confidence paid off, as Schröder then assisted Korver on his only three, found Horford in the corner for another three, and also scored five quick points in addition to another assist. The Hawks went on a 14-0 run in that stretch to go up 78-73.

Of course, the biggest development of the night was the surprise return of John Wall. Playing with a broken hand, Wall was still dynamic. He had 15 points, seven assists and four steals in a hearty 37 minutes. It was an admirable performance, but he clearly was playing through a serious injury. Wall turned it over an uncharacteristically high six times and only made one free throw. If he can gut through another one for Game 6, the Wizards will be right there.

Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are a big part of that, and they kept up their strong play. Beal turned in 23 points and seven rebounds with three blocks in another huge effort. It’s quickly becoming typical for the young shooting guard.

While Porter missed 10 of his 13 shots, his defense was excellent once again. Furthermore, he took 11 shots inside the arc after not attempting any in Game 4. He gave Korver fits when matched up with him and added 10 key rebounds. The Wizards feed off his frenzied activity on both ends, and they outscored Atlanta by six in Porter’s 33 minutes.

Korver had another awful shooting night, going one for five on all three-point attempts. While he made the critical deep three that jump-started Atlanta’s final run, Korver was uncomfortable the entire night. To be fair, he turned in a fantastic defensive game. The shooting guard had a whopping six steals and two blocks; he was constantly making plays in the thick of the action. Many will rightfully ruminate on Korver’s shooting slump, but the other contributions he offered Wednesday were just as noteworthy.

Washington will regroup and come out firing at home in Game 6. With Wall back and effective, these teams look close to dead even. The Hawks look like a 60-win team at times, like during their dominant run to seal Game 5. But they also started the third quarter with a long scoring drought and didn’t score in the final quarter until nearly five and a half minutes had passed. They’re wildly inconsistent right now, and Wall and Beal are unguardable at times. The Hawks have the upper hand at the moment, but the Wizards are far from done.

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