Jamal Crawford saw the end to his series-long shooting slump coming, making a promise after the pregame shootaround: It’ll be back tonight.
Crawford then went out and finally played like the NBA’s sixth man of the year in the playoffs, scoring 24 points to help the Atlanta Hawks beat the Bucks, 83-69, last night in Milwaukee to force a seventh game in the first-round series.
“I felt like I was letting everybody down the first few games, especially the last game,’’ Crawford said. “I haven’t slept much the last couple of days. Usually in that situation the next game can’t come fast enough.’’
Crawford was coming off a miserable 4-for-18 shooting performance in Game 5, and wasn’t much better in the first four games.
Now he’s looking more like the instant-offense threat he was in the regular season, and the Hawks are back from the brink of an improbable first-round exit at the hands of a team that wasn’t expected to do much in the playoffs.
Game 7 is tomorrow in Atlanta.
Carlos Delfino scored 20 for the Bucks, who came into the game hoping to finish off their heavily favored opponent but instead went completely flat coming out of halftime and couldn’t pull off a late rally attempt.
It was an ugly night for two of the Bucks’ top offensive threats, John Salmons and Brandon Jennings.
Jennings scored 12 points on 4-for-15 shooting, missing his first six shots overall and going 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
Jazz 112, Nuggets 104 — Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 20 rebounds and rookie Wesley Matthews scored 23 and made a key block as Utah pulled away to beat visiting Denver and win their series in six games.
Deron Williams added 14 points and 10 assists for the Jazz, who went on an 11-0 run after Carmelo Anthony had tied the game at 95 midway through the final period.
Matthews went 13 for 15 from the free throw line as Utah persevered in the foul-filled game, making 34 of 51 free throws after drawing 39 fouls by the Nuggets.
Chauncey Billups led Denver with 30 points and Anthony finished with 20 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
The Jazz will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round, and Jazz fans were already chanting “Beat L-A!’’ in the final minute.
Joey Graham scored 18 of his 21 points in the second quarter to get the Nuggets back in the game after they fell behind by 15.
Paul Millsap had 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks for Utah.
Lakers 95, Thunder 94 — Pau Gasol tipped in a missed jumper by Kobe Bryant with a half-second left and visiting Los Angeles survived a late comeback effort and eliminated Oklahoma City in Game 6 of their first-round playoff series.
Gasol crashed to the rim at the right block and tipped in Bryant’s shot to put the defending NBA champions ahead after they squandered a 7-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 26 points on a dreadful 5-for-23 shooting night. Westbrook had 21 points and nine assists.
Bryant scored 32 points and Gasol had 9 points and 18 rebounds, scoring his only basket of the second half at the end.