TORONTO – Slowed by foul trouble and struggling with his shot, Paul Pierce still found a way to come up big for the Brooklyn Nets when they needed him most.
Pierce blocked Kyle Lowry’s shot from the lane on the final play, and the Nets held off the Toronto Raptors 104-103 in Game 7 on Sunday to advance to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“I just happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Pierce said. “I saw him split the defenders, I saw him go up, I went up with him. I got my hand on the ball — game over.”
The Nets will begin a best-of-seven series in Miami on Tuesday, facing the two-time defending champion Heat.
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Former Boston Celtics standout Pierce had more fouls (three) than points (none) in the second half, but his lone block of the game punctuated a hard-fought victory for the Nets.
Leading by one, Brooklyn used its final timeout after failing to inbound the ball. On the second opportunity, Shaun Livingston tried a lob pass to Pierce, but Terrence Ross — who played his college ball at Washington — got a hand on the ball and knocked it off Pierce and out of bounds to give the Raptors possession.
Toronto used a timeout and gave the ball to Lowry, whose driving shot was rejected by Pierce as time expired.
The Nets went 4-0 against Miami in the regular season, but that doesn’t mean much to Brooklyn’s Kevin Garnett.
“That goes out the window,” he said. “This is the postseason. They’re playing very well.”
Joe Johnson scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Nets.
Lowry finished with 28 points. Amir Johnson fouled out with 20 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto, which trailed by 10 midway through the fourth quarter before its late charge.
“We were right there,” said a rueful Raptors coach Dwane Casey, a former Sonics assistant.
SAN ANTONIO – Faced with the possibility of having a second consecutive season end with a Game 7 loss, the San Antonio Spurs played with emotion and let Tony Parker have some fun.
Parker scored 32 points and San Antonio led by as many as 31 on its way to a 119-96 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, closing out a stressful first-round West series in seven games.
All-Star guard Parker was 11 for 19 from the field and 10 for 13 on free throws as Dallas was unable to keep him from attacking the lane, despite a series of hard fouls.
“They just dared me to score,” Parker said.
Dirk Nowitzki had 22 points and nine rebounds to lead the Mavericks.
Last season ended for the Spurs with a Game 7 loss to Miami in the NBA Finals. Facing the possibility of a much earlier end, top-seeded San Antonio overwhelmed Dallas.
The Spurs advance to face the fifth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers.