Horford Gives Hawks 3-2 Lead over Wizards

Bo Churney —  May 14, 2015

Hawks game operations tried to conduct a post-game interview with Al Horford over the PA system after the game.

The crowd was so loud that it went on deaf ears.

Horford hit the game-winning layup after crashing the boards off of a missed Dennis Schröder drive to give the Hawks an 82-81 win and a 3-2 lead over the Washington Wizards in the Conference Semifinal. The shot was the bookend to a dominate game for Horford, who led the Hawks with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and five blocked shots.

“Al has been the cornerstone for us — for the Hawks — for a bunch of years,” said Kyle Korver on Horford. “It wasn’t just that play, though. Al played an amazing game.”

Horford was the steady force for the Hawks over the final 5:31 of the fourth quarter, which started with the Hawks down 73-64. In that time period, Horford scored nine points off of two free throws, a corner 3-pointer, a 20-foot jumper, and the game-winner. For good measure, Horford also blocked a layup attempt by John Wall and assisted on a DeMarre Carroll layup in transition during the Hawks’ comeback.

“We didn’t quit after being down,” said Horford.

Horford was not the only one to lead the Hawks down the stretch, as Coach Budenholzer made a surprise move by going with Dennis Schröder at point guard to close the game.

“We’ve been trying to keep Jeff kinda fresh, where he doesn’t get fatigued playing long stretches, so we were giving him a minute or two there around the five minute mark. We had him at the table to go back in. We made several plays and Dennis made a couple of them himself, and Jeff took over coaching and said leave him in.”

The move paid off as Schröder, who had been atrocious for most of the game, delivered in one of the biggest moments of his career. Schröder scored a couple of baskets and had three assists over that critical 5:31 time frame. Even his mistakes, like missing the layup with four seconds to go, turned into positives for the Hawks.

Schröder helped overcome the efforts of John Wall, who returned after missing three games due to the broken bones in his left hand. Wall appeared unfazed by the injury, racking up 15 points, seven assists, four steals, and two blocks to lead Washington.

Kyle Korver, who has been off with his shot for the series, impacted this game with impressive defensive effort, collecting six steals and blocking two shots on Wednesday night. Korver’s only 3 of the night came in the fourth quarter during the Hawks’ comeback, where he fired from 28-feet to cut the deficit to five.

It is worth mentioning that Paul Pierce made the go-ahead 3-pointer with about eight seconds left. This was Pierce’s reaction:

Well, it’s not quite over yet, is it Paul?

With the 3-2 lead, the Hawks now have a chance to close out the series in Washington on Friday. A win in either Game 6 or Game 7 would give the Hawks their first trip to the Eastern Conference Finals and would break the team’s streak of 14 consecutive losses in second round series.

Bo Churney

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