Paul Pierce had a miserable game, missing six of his seven shots. Nonetheless, The Truth got one more chance to create late-game magic as the Wizards had the ball down by three with the shot clock off. For one impossible minute, it appeared Pierce had done it again, as he drained a crazy three as the buzzer sounded. Unfortunately for Pierce and the Wizards, the ball lingered on his fingertips a tenth of a second too long. The shocked Wizards were eliminated with a 94-91 loss and will undoubtedly have a bad taste in their collective mouth as they enter the offseason. It was a truly heartbreaking way to lose.
Meanwhile, the Hawks are going to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time ever. DeMarre Carroll had another fantastic game, and it’s not hard to make a case that he has been Atlanta’s most consistent starter these playoffs. Carroll scored 25 points with 10 boards on 9-of-14 shooting with three steals. He converted two huge layups via off-ball cuts when the Hawks were in serious danger of going Full Clippers. For the series, Carroll averaged 16.7 points and 6.5 rebounds on 40.7 percent shooting from distance and 50.7 percent overall. He has earned himself a nice payday this summer.
The Hawks got contributions from all over. Paul Millsap was huge in the first half, posting 15 points and eight boards as he led a run to give Atlanta a six-point halftime lead. Jeff Teague stepped up with 20 efficient points, seven assists and five rebounds.
Al Horford‘s 13 points and seven rebounds may look quiet on the box score, but Atlanta outscored Washington by 14 in his 39 minutes in a game they won by just three. Horford’s interior defense was fantastic again as he completely dominated the Wizards’ bigs. Nene was 2-of-7 with five points while Marcin Gortat was totally neutralized.
Gortat played just 12 minutes, vividly recalling the stretch of the regular season where Randy Wittman lost all confidence in the $60 million center and routinely sat him down the stretch of close games. However, this time there was a legitimate reason why Gortat sat:
Wittman said Gortat is sick. Was throwing up all night.
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgeccastillo) May 16, 2015
While Seraphin posted a strong 13 points and eight boards off the bench, these lineups got destroyed defensively. Gortat not being able to play significant minutes was a killer, especially with Nene playing so poorly.
Bradley Beal capped off his breakout series with another huge effort, scoring a game-high 29 points. It’ll take a while to get over the sting of losing this series in such a brutal way, but internally, the Wizards have to be thrilled at Beal’s development. He averaged 25.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists for the series. Those are star numbers. The next step is for the 21-year-old to stay on the floor for a whole season.
Kyle Korver continued to be bafflingly bad shooting the ball. He missed all seven of his three-point attempts and was just 1-of-8 overall. A few of his early looks were good ones that didn’t rattle in, but he really started forcing it late in the game. At over 38 minutes per game in the playoffs, Korver is probably pretty gassed. He spends the entire game sprinting on offense, often just as a decoy. Atlanta is surely hoping several days of rest will do wonders for his normally epic shooting stroke. He made just 28.6 percent of his triples against Washington.
Pero Antic got the quick hook in Game 6, playing only five minutes. He missed all three of his shots and the Hawks were outscored by eight points in his brief minutes. Mike Budenholzer is in a bit of a jam with this one: Antic has been brutal on both sides of the floor, but the Hawks have zero good frontcourt options off the bench. Mike Muscala is much sounder defensively, but the Hawks have posted an abysmal 89.3 offensive rating with him on the floor in the playoffs, compared to 98.5 points per 100 possessions with Antic, per NBA.com. Mike Scott isn’t a good enough shooter to justify his complete lack of rebounding from the position. The Eastern Conference Finals will be interesting because the Cavaliers will likely play a healthy dose of small ball with LeBron James at power forward. Budenholzer may be able to get away with Carroll at the 4.
The Wizards will have a lot to look back on and question as their long summer begins. What if Pierce got that shot off just a fraction of a second earlier? What if they had converted those three crucial missed free throws down the stretch? What if John Wall didn’t break his freakin’ hand?
All signs point to a largely similar Wizards roster in 2015-16 as Kevin Durant’s 2016 free agency is the true goal for them. Adding a legitimate stretch power forward and embracing their newfound identity would be a great step in the right direction. Assuming Wittman returns once again, will the Wizards revert back to their old inefficient ways? Washington is a team to take seriously in the Eastern Conference going forward, but some key decisions (not all of them Washington’s) will decide the team’s future.