CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Down 15 points and on the brink of elimination, the Milwaukee Bucks never panicked. Instead, they turned to their ''Big Three,'' and forced a seventh game.
Sam Cassell scored 33 points, Glenn Robinson had 29 -- both career-playoff highs -- and Ray Allen added 23 to rally the Bucks to a 104-97 victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night to send the Eastern Conference semifinal series back to Milwaukee.
Game 7 is Sunday.
''There was never any pressure on us,'' Allen said. ''We know that when we play together we play our best and that brings a calm to us. We know that all we have to do is get together and everything will be fine.''
After struggling through three straight losses, the Bucks' shooters finally broke out when it mattered the most by lifting Milwaukee back into the game.
Cassell, bothered by sore ribs the entire series, was 10-for-16 from the floor and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Robinson had 13 in the third quarter to help the Bucks climb back into the game, and Allen drained a 3-pointer with 27 seconds to play to break a 97-97 tie and give Milwaukee the lead for good.
''We controlled at least one of those guys in each of the three games we won, but when all three are scoring like that they are awfully tough to beat,'' Charlotte coach Paul Silas said. ''We just couldn't find a way to stop any of the those three guys and that gave them the victory.''
David Wesley led the Hornets with 27 points. Jamal Mashburn scored 24 -- but had only six points in the second half, all on free throws.
''What the Hornets did to me the last four games is what we did to Mashburn,'' Allen said. ''Eventually that kind of defense is going to wear you down and I think he was tired. He didn't have the confidence late in the game like he's had in the previous ones.''
But Mashburn refused to take the blame for the loss.
''It's a team game,'' he said. ''I've preached that from day one, especially this time. It has to be five guys playing real well to beat a club like Milwaukee.''
The Hornets were playing well early, when they built a 15-point lead.
That's when frustration began to show from Milwaukee and Cassell came close to getting ejected for arguing a call.
After Tim Thomas was called for a foul, Cassell stormed after referee Derrick Stafford, who hit Cassell with a technical. Cassell screamed at him until Ervin Johnson raced over and pulled him away.
As the Hornets hit three free throws to make it 45-31, Milwaukee coach George Karl implored his team to settle down.
They did, pulling back into the game in the second half behind the ''Big Three.''
''We've been nicknamed that and we finally played the part,'' Cassell said.
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