Trae Young delivered the game-winner for Atlanta in a 111-110 victory over the Miami Heat on Friday as the Hawks clawed their way back into their NBA playoff first-round series.
The Hawks cut the deficit in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference first-round series to 2-1.
The reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks grabbed a 2-1 series lead with a 111-81 rout of the Chicago Bulls, and the Phoenix Suns took a 2-1 series lead with a 114-111 victory over the Pelicans in New Orleans.
In Atlanta, PJ Tucker’s three-pointer with less than a minute to play had put the Heat up 110-109 as the clash in Atlanta came down to the frantic final minutes.
With 5.5 seconds remaining Young drove the lane and floated in the basket that proved the difference, with Miami star Jimmy Butler watching his contested three-point effort at the buzzer bounce off the rim.
“I just wanted to try to get to the basket,” said Young, who scored 24 points to lead six Hawks players in double figures. “I knew there was only 10 seconds left… I didn’t want to settle for a three. So I tried to get all the way to the rim and either get a foul or a layup.”
The top-seeded Heat had won the first two games of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series at home.
Their chances of taking a 3-0 stranglehold looked good when a 21-0 scoring run in the third quarter saw them take an 84-68 lead in a game that was delayed more than half an hour after a suspicious package was found outside the Hawks’ arena before the game.
But the Hawks, no doubt well aware that no NBA team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, closed the third on a 9-1 scoring run.
Young’s three-pointer knotted the score at 104-104 with 2:26 remaining and it was a dogfight from there.
Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 18 points off the bench for Atlanta. That included three three-pointers in the Hawks’ fourth-quarter fight-back.
“We’re not losing this game, that’s what was on my mind the whole game and that’s the way we played, especially last quarter,” Bogdanovic said. “We kept believing.”
Young scored 10 points in the final frame and Bogdanovic had nine as the Hawks rallied after being out-scored 31-16 in the third.
“The way we played, the way we didn’t quit until the end, this shows us the character of the team,” Bogdanovic said.
Tyler Herro led Miami with 24 points. Butler and Max Strus added 20 apiece, Butler shaking off a collision with John Collins that sent him crashing to the floor under the basket in the opening minutes.
Miami point guard Kyle Lowry scored just six points before he was ruled out with a hamstring injury in the third quarter.
The Hawks will try to level the series at two games apiece when they host game four on Sunday.
In Chicago, the Bucks shook off the injury absence of Khris Middleton to cruise to a big win over the Bulls.
After DeMar DeRozan scored 41 points in a 114-110 game-two triumph that leveled the series at one game each, the Bucks held DeRozan to just 11 points on four-of-nine shooting.
Grayson Allen scored 22 points off the bench for Milwaukee to help make up for Middleton’s absence.
Paul leads Suns
Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis — who started in Middleton’s spot — scored 18 points apiece.
Nikola Vucevic led the Bulls with 19 points, but the Bucks dominated, leading by as many as 37 points in the final quarter.
The Suns were also without a key player, with Devin Booker sidelined by a hamstring strain.
“We knew we were down our MVP in Book, and we all had to step up,” said veteran point guard Chris Paul, who scored 19 of is 28 points in the fourth quarter.
Paul scored 15 of the Suns’ first 23 points in the final period and handed out 14 assists — remarkably without a turnover.
“I’m just happy we got the win,” Paul said.
Deandre Ayton added 28 points and 17 rebounds for the top-seeded Suns, who withstood a 34-point performance from the Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram.