Trae Young nailed a last-gasp three-pointer as the Atlanta Hawks stunned the Boston Celtics 119-117 to keep their Eastern Conference postseason campaign alive on Tuesday, while Denver and Phoenix booked their places in the next round with series-clinching victories.
A nerve-jangling game in Boston was settled when Young drained a 29-footer with 1.8 seconds remaining to silence the Celtics’ TD Garden crowd and set up a game six in Atlanta on Thursday.
Young, who finished with 38 points, 13 assists and four rebounds, said the Hawks had been determined to extend the series following the suspension of key guard Dejounte Murray.
Murray was suspended for one game after a clash with a referee after game four on Sunday.
“We were missing a big piece of ours and we want him to play game six, so we want to go back home and have him with us,” Young said of Murray.
“I didn’t feel there was any pressure on me. Obviously we were without (Murray) but we all had to step our game up another level — not just me, we all did tonight. Total team win.”
Hawks coach Quin Snyder praised his team’s refusal to buckle in a game that the Celtics had controlled for long periods.
“We were tough-minded,” Snyder said. “It’s tough to be down through the whole game. We were hanging in there and hanging in there. We just didn’t capitulate.”
The Celtics, leading the series 3-1, had looked to be cruising to victory after dominating for most of the second half to lead by 13 points midway through the fourth quarter.
But with Boston poised to wrap up a 4-1 series victory, Young and the Hawks took over with a startling late rally in the closing minutes that whittled away the Celtics lead.
Young nailed back-to-back three-pointers to level the scores at 111-111 with 2:42 remaining and then hit three free throws to help Atlanta take a 114-113 lead.
Robert Williams handed Boston a one-point advantage to make it 115-114 to the Celtics with 25.6 seconds left on the clock.
But a rash foul by Boston’s Marcus Smart presented Young with two more free throws to edge the Hawks into a 116-115 lead.
Young then had a nervous moment after conceding a foul on Derrick White, who shot two free throws to put the Celtics 117-116 ahead with 7.3 seconds left on the clock.
Young however responded superbly, calmly bringing the ball up court before launching a pullup three-pointer to give Atlanta a 119-117 lead before Boston’s final desperate last attack fizzled.
Suns, Nuggets advance
While Boston were left ruing a wasted opportunity to wrap up their series, there were no such concerns in the Western Conference for the top-seeded Denver Nuggets and fourth seeds Phoenix.
The Nuggets squeezed home 112-109 against the Minnesota Timberwolves to complete a 4-1 series win while the Suns wrapped up their series with the Los Angeles Clippers by the same margin with a 136-130 victory in Arizona.
The Nuggets, who will face Phoenix in the conference semi-finals, were made to work hard for their win by a Timberwolves team who jumped out to an early 15-point lead in the first quarter before gradually being reeled in.
Jamal Murray led the Nuggets scorers with 35 points while reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic bagged his second triple-double of the series with 28 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists.
Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer that would have forced overtime as the Timberwolves’ season came to an end.
Edwards finished with 29 points while Karl-Anthony Towns added 26.
In Phoenix, Devin Booker erupted for 47 points while Kevin Durant poured in 31 points to spark the Suns to victory over the short-handed Clippers.
The Clippers, missing the injured Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, fought bravely to lead by 10 early in the second half.
But when Booker took over with 25 of 50 Phoenix points in a lopsided third quarter, the Clippers were left chasing the game.
Los Angeles somehow managed to close to within two points with just under two minutes remaining before Durant settled Phoenix with a layup and two free throws to make the game safe.
“Those guys don’t stop fighting,” Booker said of the Clippers afterwards.
“That’s been the story of the whole series. Even though they were down men, we knew they were going to bring it.”
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