(SportsNetwork.com) - The Atlanta Hawks will try to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday when they travel to the Verizon Center to meet the Washington Wizards.
The Hawks haven't advanced past the second round since the elimination of first-round byes back in 1967 when the team was in St. Louis.
Atlanta put itself in this position Wednesday with a dramatic, 82-81 home victory in Game 5 at Philips Arena.
Al Horford's putback layup with 1.9 seconds left gave the top-seeded Hawks a 3-2 series lead. Horford's bucket capped a masterful performance of 23 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. He became the first Hawks player to record 20- plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus blocks in a postseason game.
The game was tied inside 30 seconds when Paul Pierce, who beat the buzzer with a step-back jumper to win Game 3 for the Wizards, tried to penetrate and had the ball poked out by Kyle Korver. That led to a 2-on-1 break for the Hawks, and Horford and DeMarre Carroll made three passes between them before Carroll's layup gave them an 80-78 lead.
Pierce got a chance to redeem himself at the other end and delivered. Out of a timeout, Bradley Beal drove baseline and passed to an open Pierce in the corner for a 3-pointer that put the Wizards back in front with 8.3 seconds left.
The Hawks went to 21-year-old reserve point guard Dennis Schroder, who drove to the basket and delivered an awkward attempt that caromed off the backboard. Horford timed his jump perfectly and skied for the loose ball, securing it and landing before softly finishing the game-winner.
John Wall, who started after missing the previous three games with five non- displaced fractures in his left hand and wrist, put up a halfcourt heave that missed everything at the horn.
Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague scored 14 points apiece, and Carroll had 10 points and 10 boards.
"Everybody is participating," said Horford. "It's all about the team here. We're doing whatever it takes to win the game."
Beal paced the Wizards with 23 points, and Wall posted 15 points and seven assists in 37 1/2 minutes.
The teams combined for 44 turnovers and 9-for-39 shooting from 3-point range in the lowest-scoring game of the postseason so far. However, Washington was able to build a seemingly comfortable margin in the fourth.
A prolonged Atlanta scoring drought led to a 71-63 Washington lead. The Hawks went 5:26 to open the fourth without scoring a point.
Millsap finally split a pair of free throws and Beal answered with a jumper at the other end. The Hawks took a full timeout at 5:32, and whatever was discussed in the huddle changed the game.
Horford, who drew a foul on Pierce leading into the timeout, made a pair of free throws. On the next Hawks possession, Korver tickled the twine with a deep 3-pointer from the right wing, and Horford followed with a corner 3 that had the Hawks within one.
Schroder, who assisted on both 3-pointers, owned the next portion of the game. He found Horford for a long jumper, then scored on consecutive possessions with a mid-range shot and floater in the paint.
Pierce finally snapped the 14-0 run with a 3-pointer from the left wing, and Marcin Gortat got a layup to go with 51 seconds left to tie the game.
From there, the Hawks put themselves into the winner's circle thanks to timely clutch play, and some miscues from Washington.
"Turnovers. Turnovers," said Wizards coach Randy Wittman. "When we were up nine, we gave them too many easy baskets off our turnovers. Let them get right back in the game."
Game 7, if needed, will be Monday night back in Atlanta.