WASHINGTON — Paul Pierce's banked-in 21-foot jumper at the buzzer gave the Washington Wizards a 103-101 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night, even with an injured John Wall reduced to cheerleading, and after a 21-point lead had dwindled down to nothing.
The Wizards lead the Eastern Conference semifinal series 2-1.
Washington was missing Wall, its All-Star point guard, for a second consecutive game because of a broken left hand, but it was the Hawks who seemed out of sorts most of the evening.
The Wizards led by 21 with less than 10 minutes left — and then held off Atlanta, which used a 17-0 run to get within three points with less than 3 1/2 minutes remaining and tied the game on Mike Muscala's 3-pointer with 14.1 seconds to go.
But Pierce came through as the clock hit zero, falling to his back on the court with both arms raised. Bradley Beal, who had 17 points and eight assists, was the first teammate to reach Pierce, throwing playful punches at the 37-year-old veteran's chest.
The rest of the Wizards then mobbed Pierce, with Wall jumping up and down near the joyful pile. When Pierce rose, Wall pulled off his teammate's red headband.
Game 4 in the best-of-seven series is Monday night at Washington.
It was the second straight day a bank shot at the buzzer won an NBA playoff game. Derrick Rose hit a banked 3 to give Chicago a 99-96 victory over Cleveland on Friday.
Pierce scored 13 points and hit three of the Wizards' 10 3s.
Nene, who totaled two points in Games 1 and 2, scored 17 for the Wizards in Game 3, as did Otto Porter.
Nene missed his first shot Saturday, making him 0 for 10 in the series, then hit his next six, including a driving hook, a finger roll, a 21-foot jumper, and a three-point play after ripping a loose ball away from Hawks forward Paul Millsap.
Dennis Schroder and Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 18 points apiece.
Millsap was out of the starting lineup because of flu-like symptoms, and looked lethargic once he did get on the court. He came in averaging 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds this postseason and wound up with eight points and two rebounds Saturday.
Wall, meanwhile, had a grand ol' time watching his team improve to 6-1 in the playoffs, including 3-0 at home.
Wearing a jacket and tie, he sat next to the coaching staff on the sideline, a beige brace protecting his left hand. He has five non-displaced fractures in his non-shooting hand and wrist from a fall in Washington's Game 1 victory at Atlanta.
Wall held up three fingers when Drew Gooden made a 3 to make it 83-65 late in the third quarter. When Atlanta's Pero Antic whiffed on a long jumper seconds later, Wall waved his right arm to encourage the fans' chants of "air ball!"
While Ramon Sessions took Wall's spot in the starting lineup, Beal ran the point for stretches, including a pass to Porter for a fastbreak dunk that made it 78-61 with a little more than 3 1/2 minutes to go in the third quarter.
Porter celebrated by yelling and flailing his arms, a rare display of emotion for the often-mild-mannered second-year forward who played college home games for Georgetown in the same arena.