The Atlanta Hawks advanced to the NBA semi-finals for the first time in 45 years with a 94-91 win over Washington in game six Friday after the referee waved off Paul Pierce’s three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Hawks will face LeBron James and the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers, who eliminated the Chicago Bulls in game six of their Eastern Conference series Thursday.
“We made just enough plays down the stretch,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. “I think it was just a great team effort. It was a heck of a series. We’re ready to move on and prepare for the next round.”
In the late game, Stephen Curry made eight three-pointers for the Golden State Warriors, who join the Hawks in the next round after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 108-95 in game six of their Western Conference series.
Forward DeMarre Carroll had finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who survived a hectic finish to win another nail-biter over the Wizards.
Forward Paul Millsap tallied 20 points and 13 rebounds and guard Jeff Teague scored 20 points for Atlanta, who went through despite squandering a 15-point lead in the second half.
The Hawks, who beat Brooklyn in the first round, had not won two playoff series since 1958, when they were based in St. Louis and won the NBA title.
They are making their eighth consecutive playoff appearance.
“I think for our organization, it’s something to be proud of,” Budenholzer said. “There was a lot of work put in all year. But we’re more in the moment and continue to look forward. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Pierce’s off-balance shot, which swished through the net from the left corner, would have sent game six into overtime, but replays showed the ball was still on his fingertips when time ran out.
“I almost had a heart attack,” said Teague. “He just doesn’t give up.”
Pierce won game three last Saturday for the Wizards with a jump shot that he banked in at the buzzer.
He nearly won game five on Wednesday with a shot from beyond the arc, but Atlanta ended up pulling it out on Al Horford’s putback in the last seconds.
In Memphis, Curry finished with 32 points and 10 assists for the Warriors, who locked up their first appearance in the final four since 1976.
Curry drained a 60-foot buzzer-beater at the end of the third quarter and the momentum carried into the fourth, where Golden State put the Grizzlies away.
Jeff Green attempted to beat the third-quarter horn by pulling up from the top of the arc, but Andre Iguodala blocked the three-point shot. Curry scooped up the ball and flung a desperation shot that sailed cleanly through the rim.
His shot kickstarted a 10-0 run which helped open up a commanding 15-point lead.
The Warriors will face the winner of game seven between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers, set for Sunday in Houston. – Agence France-Presse