Washington — After hitting a 3-pointer to double the Washington Wizards' lead with 16.3 seconds left, Paul Pierce turned to the stands with arms aloft, nodded and yelled, "That's why I'm here!"
Yes, the Wizards wanted the 37-year-old Pierce for his leadership and his past postseason success. They also signed him as a free agent to make the clutch, closing shot in the playoffs.
John Wall drew choruses of "M-V-P!" from the crowd by producing 19 points and 15 assists, but it was Pierce who hit two key 3s late as part of an 18-point performance, and the Wizards closed in on a first-round playoff sweep by beating the Toronto Raptors 106-99 on Friday night.
"My adrenaline is through the roof right now. … I'm just enjoying the moment. I love playoff basketball. I love everything about it," Pierce said. "At this point in my career, I'm savoring these moments, because I don't know how many more of these moments I'm going to have."
He's already accrued quite a collection.
On a resume that includes winning the 2008 NBA title with the Boston Celtics, Friday's game was the 151st of Pierce's playoff career; he entered this series averaging 20.3 points.
"You're not playing against chopped liver," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "Paul Pierce won a championship. He knows how to play."
Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, who scored a team playoff-record 20 points in the first quarter and 32 overall, summed up Pierce's status this way: "He still is who he is."
The Wizards lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series 3-0 and can end it Sunday, when they host Game 4. No NBA team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a postseason series.
"We're still on life support. It's not over yet," Casey said. "There's no 'give-up' on this team."
Perhaps. But even though the Raptors won all three regular-season meetings between the teams, they have been inconsistent all series.
Plus, now Washington has reason to believe it can win at home. Over the past two postseasons, the Wizards are 7-1 on the road — Randy Wittman is the first NBA coach to begin his playoff career that way — but they entered Friday with a 1-4 mark in Washington during that span.
Six Wizards scored in double figures, including Marcin Gortat, who had 24 points and 13 rebounds. Bradley Beal added 16 points, 33-year-old Drew Gooden had 12, and Otto Porter had 11.
"That's us," Wittman said. "We're not a two-man team."
The game was tied at 88 with 4 1 / 2minutes left, when Washington pulled away thanks to 3-pointers, including two each from Porter and Pierce, who averaged the fewest minutes of his 17-year career this season
Toronto led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, thanks mainly to DeRozan. But he missed all four shots he took in the second quarter and the first five he took in the third. His backcourt mate, All-Star Kyle Lowry, struggled most of the game, ending up with 15 points and seven assists.
"We'll have a good quarter and a bad quarter," said Lowry, whose voice cracked as he spoke.
About 75 minutes before tipoff, Lowry sat in front of his locker and sipped from a paper cup containing hot tea. He's dealing with a cold, a bruised left shin and a lingering back problem, and after making two early 3-pointers, he missed his next 11 shots, including one when Wall swooped in from behind to block it.
Later, Wall made a fastbreak layup, pounded his chest with his fist, and shouted, "This is my … city!" — all while looking in the general direction of Canadian rapper Drake, the Raptors' "Global Brand Ambassador," who was seated courtside.
Houston 130, (at) Dallas 128: James Harden scored a playoff career-high 42 points, Dwight Howard had his postseason best with 26 rebounds and Houston beat Dallas for a 3-0 lead in their first-round series.
Harden played a dominating role after deferring to Howard and role players in the first two wins, putting the Rockets on the verge of their first playoff series victory since Howard joined Harden two years ago.
The high-scoring game was Dallas' first without effectively banished point guard Rajon Rondo, and Monta Ellis had a playoff career-high 34 points to match Dirk Nowitzki.
Ellis missed a potential tying jumper just before the buzzer, leaving Dallas to face a fourth straight year without winning a postseason series since taking the franchise's first championship.
Game 4 is Sunday at Dallas. No team has ever rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA postseason series.
(At) San Antonio 100, L.A. Clippers 73: Kawhi Leonard had a postseason career-high 32 points and San Antonio never trailed in dominating Los Angeles to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series.
The Clippers scored a franchise postseason low and their 11 points in the third were their fewest in any quarter this season.
Boris Diaw had 15 points and Danny Green added 11 for San Antonio, which led by as many as 37 points after two tense games in Los Angeles.
Blake Griffin had 14 points and 10 rebounds and DeAndre Jordan added 10 points for the Clippers.
Griffin averaged 27.5 points on 47 percent shooting in the first two games, but was held to 6-for-15 shooting against a collapsing Spurs' defense in Game 3.
Game 4 is Sunday in San Antonio.