Toronto Raptors forward Jonas Valanciunas, left, battles for the loose ball against Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett (2) during first half NBA game seven playoff basketball action in Toronto Sunday. ASSOCIATED PRESS
TORONTO — Slowed by foul trouble and struggling with his shot, Paul Pierce still found a way to come up big for the Brooklyn Nets.
And, right when they needed him most.
Pierce blocked Kyle Lowry's shot from the lane on the final play of the game, and the Nets held off the Toronto Raptors 104-103 in Game 7 Sunday to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Pierce said. "I saw him split the defenders, I saw him go up, I went up with him. I got my hand on the ball — game over."
The Nets will begin the conference semifinals Tuesday at Miami, facing the two-time defending NBA champion Heat. Brookyln was 4-0 against Miami in the regular season.
Pierce had more fouls (three) than points (none) in the second half, but his only block of the game punctuated a hard-fought series win for the Nets.
Leading by one, Brooklyn used its final timeout after failing to inbound the ball. On the second opportunity, Shaun Livingston tried a lob pass to Pierce, but Terrence Ross got a hand on the ball and then knocked it off Pierce and out of bounds for a turnover.
"I rushed it a little bit," Livingston said. "I'm thinking Paul is going to hold him off. He kind of slipped there. Once he slipped, it was a jump ball and Terrence Ross is probably the last guy you want to throw a jump ball to."
Toronto used a timeout and gave the ball to Lowry, whose driving shot was blocked by Pierce as time expired. Lowry lay prone in the key as the Nets surged onto the court in celebration.
"I really didn't have a great offensive game," Pierce said. "I was in foul trouble for most of the night. Sometimes you've got to find ways to help your ballclub win."
Nets coach Jason Kidd said Brooklyn's defense "bent a little" but didn't break, thanks mostly to Pierce's clutch play.
"Paul said it best, that's why he's here, to make plays," Kidd said. "He didn't have a great game, but it only takes one play to help a team win and that's what he did tonight."
Joe Johnson scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Nets.
Amir Johnson fouled out with 20 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto, which trailed by 10 with just over six minutes remaining. Lowry finished with 28 points and DeMar DeRozan had 18 for the Raptors, who fell to 0-2 in franchise history when playing in a Game 7.
Toronto, which won the Atlantic Division and set a franchise record with 48 wins, has not won a playoff series since 2001, losing in all three appearances.
Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, left, and Andray Blatche celebrate after defeating Toronto in Game 7. ASSOCIATED PRESS