Chucky Atkins won a game the Detroit Pistons could not afford to lose.
Atkins’ layup with less than a second left was goaltended by Derrick Coleman and gave Detroit a 78-77 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night and a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.
“Just please go in, that’s all I was saying,” said Atkins, who scored 17 points.
The home team has won every game in the series and Game 6 is Friday night in Philadelphia. Game 7, if necessary, is Sunday at the Palace.
The Pistons have lost 14 of their last 15 playoff road games.
Richard Hamilton said Detroit didn’t want to face elimination at Philadelphia.
“That was a big motivation for us,” said Hamilton, who scored 14 of his 20 points during Detroit’s dominant first quarter.
Detroit’s Jon Barry said it simply: “If you lose this game, you’re in big trouble.”
Allen Iverson missed a desperation heave as time expired to cap an awful shooting night. Iverson missed 20 of 25 shots and finished with 14 points, one more than his career playoff low.
Iverson blamed himself for losing Game 2 after missing two free throws with a two-point lead and 15 seconds left, but he didn’t choose to solely shoulder the blame for Game 5.
“This is definitely a team loss,” Iverson said. “Every time we lose, I’m not going to put it on me.”
He also didn’t give Hamilton credit for hounding him.
“The only person in this game that can stop me is me,” Iverson said. “I’ve been saying that since Day 1.”
Eric Snow made a three-point shot with 9.4 seconds left to give the 76ers their only lead of the game, 77-76.
Atkins, who started in place of injured Chauncey Billups, took an inbounds pass with 3.7 seconds left and drove the right side for the winning shot that was in the basket when Coleman knocked it out from below.