Indiana, Oklahoma City and Golden State were all victorious in their must-win games on Thursday, staying alive in the NBA playoffs and forcing their respective series to a decisive Game 7.
Indiana scored 16 of the final 20 points of the game to overrun Atlanta and win 95-88, giving them a chance to win the series that most thought the Pacers would take comfortably as the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
Oklahoma City also won on the road, with Kevin Durant getting back to near his best with 36 points to lead the Thunder to a 104-84 win at Memphis.
Golden State edged the Los Angeles Clippers 100-99, hanging on as the visitors missed good scoring opportunities in the final minute.
Indiana’s David West was the key player in the Pacers’ closing surge that overwhelmed Atlanta.
Trailing 3-2 after losing at home for the second time in the Eastern Conference series, Indiana was poised for an early summer when the Hawks pushed out to an 84-79 lead with just more than three minutes remaining, cheered on by a raucous crowd.
However, for the fourth time in this back-and-forth affair, the road team won.
West seemed to make every big play in the decisive closing moments, scoring four straight points and forcing a huge turnover to begin the turnaround.
West hit two more baskets in the final minute to wrap things up, finishing with 24 points.
Paul George also scored 24 points for the Pacers, making four straight free-throws to help finish off the Hawks, who are trying to become only the sixth No. 8 seed in history to knock off a No. 1 seed.
Jeff Teague scored 29 points for the Atlanta Hawks.
Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant added 10 rebounds to his big points haul, and made 14 of 15 free throws as the Thunder comfortably defeated Memphis 104-84.
Russell Westbrook added 25 points for the Thunder, who have not been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs since 2010. They took control early with Durant scoring 14 points in the first quarter, led by 15 at halftime and never let Memphis get closer in the second half.
The previous four games of the series had all gone to overtime, but this time Oklahoma City was soon in command.
Marc Gasol had 17 points and Zach Randolph 16 for Memphis. Guard Mike Conley strained his right hamstring, briefly returned and left for good with 8 minutes, 48 seconds left.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry scored 24 points and dished out nine assists to guide the Warriors to the nerve-wracking win over the Clippers.
Andre Iguodala added 15 points, while Draymond Green had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Warriors, handing Los Angeles one more obstacle to overcome in a week full of them after Clippers owner Donald Sterling earned a lifetime ban from the NBA for racist remarks.
The Warriors limited Clippers big men Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, even after center Jermaine O’Neal left with a sprained right knee in the second quarter.
Los Angeles ran out of time in the closing minute, missing three shots before Matt Barnes made a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds to play.