TORONTO – Slowed by foul trouble and struggling with his shot, Paul Pierce still found a way to come up big for the Brooklyn Nets.
And he did it right when they needed him most.
Pierce blocked Kyle Lowry’s shot from the lane on the final play of the game, and the Nets held off the Toronto Raptors 104-103 in Game 7 on Sunday to advance to the second round of the 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 the conference semifinals at Miami on Tuesday night, facing the two-time defending NBA champion Heat.
Pierce had more fouls (three) than points (none) in the second half, but his only block of the game punctuated a hard-fought series win 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 got a hand on the ball and then knocked it off Pierce and out of bounds for a turnover.
I rushed it a little bit, Livingston said. I’m thinking Paul is going to hold him off. He kind of slipped there. Once he slipped, it was a jump ball and Terrence Ross is probably the last guy you want to throw a jump ball to.
Toronto used a timeout and gave the ball to Lowry, whose driving shot was blocked by Pierce as time expired. Lowry lay prone in the key as the Nets surged onto the court in celebration.
I really didn’t have a great offensive game, Pierce said. I was in foul trouble for most of the night. Sometimes you’ve got to find ways to help your ballclub win.
Joe Johnson scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Nets. Marcus Thornton scored 17, Garnett had 12 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the series, and Deron Williams added 13 points.