Paul Pierce came up big when it counted against the Atlanta Hawks. Reuters

One thing many NBA fans have grown to accept is that they should think twice about counting out Paul Pierce. On Saturday, the veteran forward banked in the winning jumper at the buzzer to lift the short-handed Washington Wizards past the Atlanta Hawks in Game 3 at Verizon Center in Washington, 103-101. The Wizards lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1.

The Hawks tied the game, 101-101, when big man Mike Muscala nailed a three-point shot to cap a fourth-quarter comeback.

But with 14. 1 second left, the Wizards went to Pierce. Defended by Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder, Pierce drained a step-back jumper just inside the three-point arc as the buzzer sounded. The 37-year-old was mobbed by teammates as he laid on his back.

"I'm still soaking it up," Pierce said, "because I don't have too many more of these left."

The Wizards led by 21 points with less than 10 minutes left. The Hawks outscored the Wizards in the fourth quarter, 35-18. Pierce's shot may have prevented an embarrassing loss to Atlanta, and perhaps shifted momentum.

Atlanta's bench combined for 50 points. Jeff Teague and Schroder each scored 18 for the Hawks.

The Wizards are still without John Wall, whose future in the 2015 playoffs remains uncertain. Guard Bradley Beal and forwards Nene and Otto Porter each scored 17 points for Washington.

Game 4 is on Monday in Washington.

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