NBA playoffs 2017: Behind Paul Millsap’s ‘winning play,’ Hawks even series with Wizards

An improbable bucket with 4:58 left in the fourth quarter by Paul Millsap punctuated the Hawks’ 111-101 victory over the Wizards in Game 4 of their first-round series.

Millsap grabbed an offensive rebound and immediately lost his balance after contact from Marcin Gortat. He caught the ball in the middle of the paint and ended up outside of the lane, hurling the ball toward the basket as he tumbled to the floor.

“For all the kids out there you gotta practice that play,” Millsap said with a wry smile. “It was just a hustle play. I practice fall-away shots. There’s a place for those. I’m trying to work for boards, and I felt the contact, so I threw it up.”

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The Hawks led 97-93 at the time and the Wizards, behind a standout performance by Bradley Beal (32 points on 11-of-23 shooting), were streaking. Mr. MMA himself Markieff Morris had just scored a bucket to bring the Wizards within four.

On the ensuing possession, Millsap snatched the most important of his nine rebounds, and the putback gave him the biggest bucket of his 19 points, plus the free throw to put Atlanta up by seven. While Millsap tried to downplay the moment, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer credited Millsap’s finish as a major key to victory.

“It was a huge play,” Budenholzer said. “But that’s also what Paul does, even when he’s not shooting well, he always finds a way. We call those winning plays.”