Lakers, Jazz win; Hawks stay alive
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Los Angeles Lakers are moving on — battered and bruised, but not beaten.
Pau Gasol tipped in a missed jumper by Kobe Bryant with a half-second left and the defending champion Lakers survived a late comeback effort by Oklahoma City and eliminated the Thunder, 95-94, in Game 6 of the first-round playoff series last night.
"This is the playoffs. This is what it's about," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. "When you have teams that have won 50 games in the course of a season like this Thunder team did, they have a sense of pride about them. They can play a game that's obviously not far off of what our mark is or was this season.
"We said it was going to be tough, and it was a tough series."
The Lakers were nearly pushed to the limit by eighth-seeded Oklahoma City, which won only 23 games last season before a 27-win improvement that was the best in the NBA. The Thunder climbed out of a seven-point hole with a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter but were held without a point over the final 2 1/2 minutes.
Gasol crashed to the rim at the right block and tipped in Bryant's shot, then pumped both fists in celebration.
Russell Westbrook missed a desperation 3-pointer at the final buzzer for Oklahoma City.
The top-seeded Lakers face a quick turnaround before facing fifth-seeded Utah in Game 1 of the second round tomorrow in Los Angeles.
"It's just sweet to win a ball game no matter what and to be able to close these guys out that were playing really, really well against us," Gasol said.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 26 points on 5 for 23 shooting. Westbrook had 21 points and nine assists. The two combined to score every point in the rally that put Oklahoma City up 94-91 but then couldn't close out the game.
"I'm a competitor. I want to win every game I play," Durant said. "I want to be a champion, and stuff like this hurts. I work so hard, we work so hard as a group, that I think that every time we step on the floor we should win."
JAZZ 112, NUGGETS 104
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz avoided a dreaded return to Denver and clinched a trip to Los Angeles instead.
The Jazz outlasted the Nuggets in a Game 6 full of fouls between the division rivals, clinching the first-round series last night in Game 6.
Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 20 rebounds, and rookie Wesley Matthews scored 13 of his 23 points from the foul line, where Utah shot 51 free throws — 39 on personal fouls and four more on technicals by the frustrated Nuggets.
"We had a difficult time trying to stop some of their people and we still found a way to win the ball game," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "There isn't a better feeling in the world from a coaching standpoint than watching these guys give all they had to win the game."
Deron Williams added 14 points and 10 assists for the Jazz, who went on an 11-0 run after Carmelo Anthony had tied the game at 95-all midway through the final period.
Matthews went 13 for 15 from the free throw line as Utah persevered in the foul-filled game, making 34 of 51 free throws.
"Everybody played great. That's the mark of our team this year. Guys step up when we need them to," said Boozer, who made 10 of 14 shots. "We played tough. We made stops and we made Melo work for his shots."
Chauncey Billups led Denver with 30 points and Anthony finished with 20 points on 6 for 22 shooting.
HAWKS 83, BUCKS 69
MILWAUKEE — Jamal Crawford saw the end to his series-long shooting slump coming, making a promise after the pregame shootaround: It'll be back tonight.
Crawford then went out and finally played like the NBA's sixth man of the year in the playoffs, scoring 24 points to help Atlanta beat Milwaukee last night to force a seventh game in the first-round series. Game 7 is tomorrow in Atlanta.
"I felt like I was letting everybody down the first few games, especially the last game," Crawford said. "I haven't slept much the last couple of days. Usually in that situation the next game can't come fast enough."
Crawford was coming off a 4 for 18 shooting in Game 5, and wasn't much better in the first four games.
Hawks coach Mike Woodson told Crawford to just keep shooting.
"There's going to be nights where he just doesn't put it in the hole," Woodson said. "But tonight, he was there when we needed him."