The San Antonio Spurs and the Brooklyn Nets have advanced to the second round of the NBA playoffs with tense game-seven victories yesterday.
The top-seeded Spurs were pushed to the brink by Western Conference rivals the Dallas Mavericks, but, with their season on the line, responded with an emphatic 119-96 win to take out the series 4-3.
They next face the Portland Trail Blazers in the semifinals starting tomorrow after they beat Houston in six games.
Spurs star Tony Parker led the way with 32 points, while Manu Ginobili scored 20 and Australia's Patty Mills added seven in his 17 minutes on court.
The Spurs led by as many as 31 at one point on their way to the rout.
"We have a lot of respect for Dallas, they're a great team," Parker said.
"They made it very hard on us. The whole series it was a hard fight."
The game was the last of a record five game sevens in the opening round of the playoffs. The total already matches the NBA record for the most seventh games in all rounds in any playoff year.
In Toronto, with Brooklyn ahead 104-103, Toronto used a timeout and gave the ball to guard Kyle Lowry, whose driving shot was blocked by Paul Pierce as time expired. Lowry lay prone on the floor as the Nets surged on to the court in celebration.
"Lowry, we knew he was going to get to the hole," Pierce said. "There was a scramble for the ball. I saw him go up, I went up for the block.
"Clean block at the end, it was a great playoff series," he added of the drama-filled seven-game set. "They're a grind-it-out team. They have so many fourth-quarter comebacks.
"I just think we have to do a better job defending. This was a great, great series. I'm glad to be a part of it."
The Nets forced the deciding game seven with a 97-83 victory in Brooklyn on Saturday.
Yesterday they finished the job, advancing in the post-season for the first time since they beat the Raptors in 2007.
The Nets had led by 10 points with less than six seconds remaining, but the Raptors, cheered on by a manic home crowd, continued to press.
Joe Johnson scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Nets.
Marcus Thornton scored 17, Kevin Garnett had 12 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the series and Deron Williams scored 13 points.
Amir Johnson fouled out with 20 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto, who trailed by 10 points with just over six minutes remaining before storming back and having a chance to win it at the buzzer.
Lowry finished with 28 points and DeMar DeRozan 18 for the Raptors, who fell to 0-2 in franchise history when playing in a game seven. Toronto lost game seven of the conference semifinals to Philadelphia in 2001.
The Nets will next face two-time defending champions Miami in round two of the playoffs, with the Heat to host game one tomorrow.