Bucks, Nuggets win Game 5's to stay alive
ATLANTA — Relying on young and old, the Milwaukee Bucks find themselves one win from an upset that looked improbable just a week ago.
No one is more stunned than the Atlanta Hawks, who figured they would have things all wrapped up by now.
Brandon Jennings scored 25 points, Kurt Thomas drew a crucial charging foul against Joe Johnson and the Bucks stunned the home team with a 14-0 run late in the game, beating the favored Hawks, 91-87, last night for a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Milwaukee, appearing in the playoffs for the first time since 2006, responded like the seasoned postseason team after getting blown out in the first two games. The third-seeded Hawks, planning for a long run in their third straight playoff appearance, better figure out a way to win on the road or this season will be over much sooner than they expected.
Game 6 is tomorrow night in Milwaukee.
"The pressure's not on us," Jennings said.
Milwaukee center Andrew Bogut is watching the playoffs with a cast on his right hand after taking a gruesome fall late in the regular season, but the 20-year-old Jennings keeps stepping up big with darting moves to the hoop and timely jumpers. The rookie scored 12 straight points early and clinched the victory with two free throws.
Joining him in a duo for the ages is the 37-year-old Thomas, one of the league's oldest players. Bogut's replacement doesn't show up much on the stat sheet — he took only one shot and failed to score — but he came up with perhaps the biggest play of the game when he stepped out to take a charge from Johnson with 2:15 remaining, the Atlanta star's sixth foul.
"I thought when Joe Johnson came out of the game," Jennings said, "we had a chance to win it."
The Hawks appeared to be in control leading 82-73 after Josh Smith's long jumper with 4:10 remaining. Milwaukee scored the next 14 points while Atlanta was missing seven straight shots. Even though Al Horford finally broke the drought with 19 seconds remaining, then banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to finish with 25 points and 11 rebounds, it wasn't enough to make up for a total collapse.
NUGGETS 116, JAZZ 102
DENVER — Carmelo Anthony got the help he was begging for, J.R. Smith found his long-range touch and Denver avoided elimination with a victory over Utah last night.
The Nuggets, trying to become the first team in four years to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs, sent the series back to Salt Lake City for Game 6 tomorrow night despite losing center Nene to a sprained left knee in the first half.
"We know it's going to be a tough game up there, tough arena, Utah fans are pretty tough," Nuggets acting coach Adrian Dantley said. "But we're glad we did what we did tonight."
Anthony had 26 points and 11 rebounds, Smith made four big 3-pointers among his 17 points, and Chauncey Billups had 21 points for the Nuggets.
Denver won a game in which it was facing elimination for the first time since the 1994 Western Conference semifinals against Utah. The Nuggets had lost eight straight elimination games, six since Anthony joined the team in 2003.
"Now, we have a chance to really, I think, put the pressure back on them," Billups said. "We've just got to go in and play the same way, give it everything we got knowing that if we don't win the season's over."
Carlos Boozer had 25 points and 16 boards for Utah. But backup big man Kyrylo Fesenko, who had played so well in the absence of Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and Mehmet Okur (Achilles' tendon) for the last three games, all Utah wins, didn't do so well last night. He finished with three points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.
The Nuggets led 86-81 after three quarters before pouring it on like they did in Game 1, a 126-113 win.
"They were a lot more alive, they went after the ball a little harder than we did," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "The players off the bench gave them a big lift. Their bench people killed us."