Nuggets, Bulls and Hawks stay alive
Facing elimination, the Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls and the Atlanta Hawks beat separate foes and forced Game 6 in their respective first-round playoff series.
The Nuggets survived a 43-point performance from Kobe Bryant and edge the Los Angeles Lakers 102-99.
Andre Miller scored 24 points, including two free throws with 12.8 seconds left, and added eight assist as Denver extended their playoff series against the Lakers.
Meanwhile, Al Horford scored 19 points and hit Atlanta's final two baskets and came up with a huge defensive play to make sure the Hawks kept their season going with a frenetic 87-86 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference playoffs Tuesday night.
"I wanted to bring that energy to the team," Horford said.
That he did, dribbling out at the head of fast breaks and diving fearlessly on the court for loose balls, not the least bit worried about reinjuring the pectoral muscle that kept him out most of the season. In addition to leading the Hawks in scoring, he grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out three assists, came up with three steals and blocked three shots -- all while playing more than 31 minutes, far more than the Hawks intended.
"I didn't expect to play that many at all," Horford said. "We had an arrangement. It was going to be between 15 and 25."
With the season on the line, the Hawks couldn't worry about pregame arrangements. The Celtics lead the series 3-2 heading back to Boston for Game 6 on Thursday. If the Hawks can steal one on the road, the deciding game would be Saturday in Atlanta.
"We can be nothing but confident," Horford said. "We know it's going to be a big challenge up there. "
In Chicago, Luol Deng scored 24 points, Carlos Boozer added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Chicago beat the Philadelphia 76ers 77-69 on Tuesday night to avoid a first-round playoff exit.
The top-seeded Bulls finally won without point guard Derrick Rose, building a nine-point halftime lead and staying in control down the stretch to pull within 3-2. Game 6 is Thursday in Philadelphia, and the way Chicago sees it, maybe, just maybe, some of the pressure is now on the 76ers.
"Definitely," Deng said. "We're in a situation where we know if we lose we go home. After tonight's game, they're going to feel a little pressure and try to close it out."
It's been a brutal series for the Bulls.
Rose tore the ACL in his left knee late in the opening win, casting a huge cloud over a team that came in eyeing another big run after reaching the conference finals a year ago, and things only got worse from there.
In Game 2, there was a second-half collapse at home. In Game 3, there was center Joakim Noah spraining his left ankle, and in Game 4, the Bulls came up short again.
With Rose out for the rest of the season and Noah sitting out his second straight game, Chicago came in looking like a team that was ready to bow out.
Instead, the Bulls locked down the Sixers, holding them to season lows for points and shooting ( 32.1 percent). And with Boozer and Deng coming up big, Chicago kept its season going.
"You can't let one game all of a sudden get you spinning in the wrong direction," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "We didn't expect to beat the Bulls four straight. This is a damn good team."
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)