Hawks’ DeMarre Carroll (kind of) explains why he wasn’t on floor to defend Paul Pierce’s game-winner

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The Hawks had an unusual lineup on the floor to defend the Wizards on Game 3’s final possession, but at least part of that was a product of circumstances.

Atlanta’s reserves were the ones who put together a late 21-3 run to bring the Hawks back from the dead, and seldom-used Mike Muscala of all people was the one who hit the three-pointer to tie the game at 101 with 14 seconds left.

So, the lineup that was in place to defend what ended up being Paul Pierce’s game-winner consisted of Kyle Korver, Kent Bazemore, Shelvin Mack, Dennis Schröder and Muscala — a group which, as far as I can tell, had never logged even a single minute together before that fateful possession.

We saw what happened next — Pierce ended up being guarded by the much smaller Schröder for some reason, the help from Bazemore came late, and Pierce was able to elevate for his patented step-back jumper, which banked home just before time expired.

DeMarre Carroll has been the best player for the Hawks in these playoffs, and is one of the team’s better defenders. He should have been out there to lock up Pierce, and in fact, head coach Mike Budenholzer evidently wanted it that way. But somewhat oddly, Carroll seemed to bow out of accepting the assignment.

The Hawks were already dealing with a substandard version of Paul Millsap, who didn’t start because he was dealing with flu-like symptoms, and was largely ineffective in 22 minutes off the bench. If Carroll isn’t right physically as he seemed to indicate (although his answers to why he wasn’t on the floor were far from revealing), Atlanta could be eliminated sooner than anyone expected.