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ATLANTA — Al Horford scored 19 points in his first start since January, and the Atlanta Hawks held on for an 87-86 victory over the Boston Celtics in a thrilling Game 5 of the Eastern Conference playoffs Tuesday night.
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.
Boston had a chance to clinch the series when Rajon Rondo stole Josh Smith's inbounds pass with 10 seconds remaining and raced down the court, looking for the winner. But he got hemmed in along the sideline and Smith knocked away a desperation pass, the ball rolling away as time ran out.
A relieved Smith collapsed on the scorer's table.
INDIANAPOLIS — Danny Granger scored 25 points to help the Indiana Pacers defeat the Orlando Magic 105-87 on Tuesday night and clinch their first-round Eastern Conference series 4-1.
Darren Collison scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and George Hill added 15 points for the Pacers, who trailed by two at the end of the third quarter but outscored the Magic 36-16 in the final 12 minutes.
It was Indiana's first series win since 2005 and its first clincher on its home court since the first round of the 2000 playoffs. The Pacers will play Miami or New York in the second round.
Jameer Nelson led Orlando with 27 points and made 5 of 8 three-pointers. Glen Davis, a thorn in Indiana's side throughout the series, scored 15 but made just 6 of 17 shots. The Magic made just 5 of 16 shots in the fourth quarter.
CHICAGO — Luol Deng scored 24 points, Carlos Boozer added 19 points and 13 rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls 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.
It's been a brutal series for the Bulls, with Rose tearing the ACL in his left knee late in the opener and centre Joakim Noah spraining his left ankle in Game 3. He sat out his second straight game, but Chicago refused to bow out quietly.
Instead, the Bulls locked down the Sixers, holding them to a season-low 32.1 per cent shooting.
LOS ANGELES — Andre Miller scored 24 points, including two free throws with 12.8 seconds left, and the Denver Nuggets survived Kobe Bryant's late scoring barrage in a 43-point performance, avoiding playoff elimination with a 102-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 5 on Tuesday night.
JaVale McGee had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Nuggets, who trimmed the Lakers' series lead to 3-2, but only after a hair-raising finish.
Denver had a 15-point lead midway through the fourth quarter against the lifeless Lakers, but Bryant engineered a stunning comeback before his final three shots missed. Bryant scored 12 points in the final 4:47, hitting four 3-pointers that trimmed the Nuggets' lead to 98-96 with 59 seconds left.
After Bryant missed two late tying attempts, Los Angeles had two more chances to tie near the buzzer, but Bryant and Ramon Sessions missed 3-pointers.
Game 6 is Thursday night in Denver.