After another great night in the first round of the NBA Playoffs last night, we gear up for another great night tonight. Three more games to watch tonight, and all three games are a win or go home type game. To find out all the tip time’s and TV information, plus a game preview, check it all out below. Previews courtesy of Sports Illustrated.
Toronto Raptors @ Brooklyn Nets
Tip Off @ 5:00 p.m. MST
Game 6 : Raptors lead series 3-2
It’s hard to do all that from the bench.
That’s where they were for the entire fourth quarter of a Game 5 loss to the Toronto Raptors that sent the Nets to the brink of an even quicker elimination than last year, which seemed unthinkable before the season with the All-Star roster they assembled.
And coach Jason Kidd isn’t thinking about it now.
“We’re just focused on tomorrow’s game,” he said Thursday.
Lose it, and the Nets can forget about a shot at the NBA champions. The Raptors would be the ones moving on to face Miami.
A Brooklyn victory would force a Game 7 back in Toronto on Sunday.
“We have no doubt. We’re very confident,” Raptors guard Greivis Vasquez said. “We’re not going to underestimate them, but we’re going to go there with the mentality that we’re going to fight and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get this win. We’re very humble, but at the same time we’re very hungry. We need to leave it all on the court. We’ve got to win Friday. It’s not going to be easy but that’s what we’re looking for.”
After losing to Chicago in a Game 7 on their home floor in the first round last year, the Nets traded for Pierce and Garnett, made a few more moves in free agency, and ended up with a roster that featured 36 All-Star appearances and would cost more than $180 million in salaries and taxes.
Having big names is great, but having them play well on the same night has been a season-long challenge for the Nets. It has to happen now, and Kidd believes it can.
“We always think the next game,” he said during a conference call. “We’ve got a game tomorrow, so that’s our thought process, that everybody can have their `A’ games tomorrow.”
Pierce had just 10 points in 24 minutes Wednesday, the Nets getting outscored by 31 points while he was on the floor. Garnett played only 12 minutes and is logging fewer than 18 per game, barely more than backup Mason Plumlee, the rookie whose selection on draft night was overshadowed and practically ignored because it came after news of the trade with Boston had broken.
Kidd explained that he wanted to stick with the guys who had made the Nets’ huge fourth-quarter rally, that the two veterans weren’t upset, and that he remained confident Garnett could still make an impact late in games.
But just in case his guys can’t get it done, Kidd called on some help from the officials, noting that Joe Johnson had only attempted one free throw in Game 5.
“If flopping is the way to go, then we have to maybe play that game,” Kidd said.
They still would have to stop Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who helped the Raptors build a 26-point lead that was just enough after Brooklyn scored 44 in the final period. Lowry scored 36 points and DeRozan had 23, and don’t mind that the final margin was only two points.
“We still won the game,” said Lowry, who made the go-ahead 3-pointer after the Nets had tied it a 106. “At the end of the day, the `W’ still counts. It’s a positive, we won the game. We learned from the things we did and we learn. We’re winning the series right now and we have to go out and win another game.”
The Raptors were the division champions and the higher seed, yet Kidd said the Nets felt their experience would give them an advantage in the fourth quarters to help them pull out victories.
On Wednesday, they had to settle for just making it close. That won’t be good enough Friday, so they know they need to have more urgency back on their home floor.
“We’ve got to start the game off that way,” Kidd said. “We’ve got to be in attack mode for 48 minutes.”
San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks
Tip Off @ 6:00 p.m. MST
Game 6 : Spurs lead series 3-2
Dirk Nowitzki is having flashbacks to the epic playoff series between Dallas and San Antonio in 2006.
Now would be the time for the Spurs to put any more similarities to rest.
Top-seeded San Antonio controls the first-round, best-of-seven series with the upstart Mavericks after taking a 3-2 lead with a 109-103 victory at home. The Spurs need to win Game 6 in Dallas on Friday night to avoid a winner-take-all scenario in South Texas.
Nowitzki remembers the only Game 7 between these Texas rivals well. His last-second, three-point play forced overtime in a second-round Dallas win that led to the franchise’s first trip to the NBA Finals.
“The way you’ve got to look at it is you’ve got to win one home game,” said Nowitzki, whose Mavericks were up 3-2 when they lost Game 6 in Dallas eight years ago. “We worry about everything else after that. Fun setup tomorrow, one game to win at home.”
San Antonio’s Big Three of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan don’t want to revisit 2006, and they took a big step toward not having to with some help from Tiago Splitter in Game 5 on Wednesday.
Parker followed a crucial miss on an open jumper by Nowitzki with a 3-pointer that put the Spurs up seven with less than 2 minutes remaining. Before that, Splitter was a big part of a pick-and-roll offense that Dallas simply couldn’t stop.
Duncan and Splitter both had double-doubles for the second straight game — a pair of San Antonio wins after the heavily favored Spurs fell behind 2-1 in the series. It was the third in a row for Splitter, who also had five assists.
Parker led the Spurs with 23 points and Ginobili, San Antonio’s leading scorer in the series, had another strong game with 19.
The Spurs swept Dallas during the regular season mostly because of 3-point shooting. The Mavericks have done everything they can to keep from getting beat at the arc in this series, so San Antonio is averaging 49 points in the paint the past two games.
“We’re taking what they give us,” Duncan said. “So we have a little more of an ability to get in the lane, especially with Tony, and once he gets in there he is drawing a lot of attention, which leaves Tiago and I an opportunity to try and hit the glass and try and finish things up.”
Asked about San Antonio’s loud crowd, Nowitzki immediately remembered a deafening sound from 2006 when a 3-pointer from Ginobili looked like it had given the Spurs a series victory before Nowitzki’s improbable layup and free throw after a Ginobili foul.
The similarity this time is DeJuan Blair, just a year removed from playing for San Antonio. He was banned from Game 5 for kicking Splitter in the head, and the Mavericks missed him while the Spurs were repeatedly getting layups.
“Everybody in the world knows how anxious I am to get back out there and compete and try to get us to a Game 7,” said Blair, who was having his best game of the series when he was ejected in Game 4. “I feel like I can bring that energy and toughness.”
Nowitzki is coming off his best game of the series with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Vince Carter, who won Game 3 with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, kept Dallas in the game with 28 points on 7-of-9 shooting from long range.
And the Mavericks still didn’t win.
“When guys have breakout games, we’ve got to turn them into Ws,” Dallas defensive ace Shawn Marion said. “That’s been the hardest thing to adjust to. The offense has been there. It’s been up and down. But for the most part, you get stops, you can win.”
And if the Mavericks win Friday night, the Spurs might be the ones having flashbacks.
Houston Rockets @ Portland Trail Blazers
Tip Off @ 8:30 p.m. MST
Game 6 : Blazers lead series 3-2
The Rockets reached back into their history to stave off elimination in their first-round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Houston earned the nickname “Clutch City” back in the mid-1990s when the team won back-to-back NBA championships. The Rockets brought the moniker back for Game 5 against the Blazers with a pep talk from a star of that team and T-shirts for their fans.
Now Houston will see if this team has that historic resilience as the series moves back to Portland for Game 6 on Friday night.
The Rockets are still down 3-2. So, lose and their summer starts Saturday.
“I don’t want to go on vacation,” Dwight Howard said. “I want to win. I want to give everything I’ve got. Every night, put my heart into it and sacrifice my body and do whatever I can to help this team win. It’s not going to be easy.”
After losing the opening two games in Houston, then claiming one of a pair in Portland, the Rockets rallied for a 108-98 victory on Wednesday night to narrow Portland’s advantage in the series. Howard had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Jeremy Lin redeemed himself from a poor performance in Game 4 with 21 points off the bench.
Aldridge said Houston wasn’t doing anything differently.
“No, that was just how the game went,” he said afterward. “The ball didn’t come to me as much tonight. Our guys were making shots and we were playing off them and that’s how the game went. It wasn’t about how Dwight (Howard) guarded me or anything like that.”
The Rockets were simply determined playing in front of a crowd wearing red Clutch City shirts. Former guard Mario Elie gave the team some impassioned words of encouragement during practice a day earlier.
Elie, affectionately nicknamed Junkyard Dog for his tenacity, was known for clutch 3-pointers, including one that helped advance the Rockets out of a second-round playoff series against Phoenix in 1995. Houston, down 3-1 in the series against the Suns, went on to win its second straight NBA title.
Wednesday night’s victory gave the Rockets confidence that it could happen again.
“We’re not hanging our heads at all. We believe in each other and in that entire locker room nobody thinks this series is over,” Rockets forward Chandler Parsons said. “We have a chance to do something special here and we’ve got to continue to do that and take it one game at a time.”
Only eight NBA teams — including the ’95 Rockets — have rebounded from a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven playoff series to advance. The last was the Suns, who came back to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in a first-round series in 2006.
Portland is making its first playoff appearance since 2011. Aldridge helped the Blazers steal the first two games in Houston, scoring 46 points in a 122-120 overtime Game 1 win, then 43 in a 112-105 victory.
The Rockets claimed the first of two in Portland, 121-116 in overtime, led by James Harden with 37 points. The series’ third OT game ended in a 123-120 Blazers win.
The Blazers have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for their last six trips. The team hasn’t advanced since 2000, when Portland made it to the Western Conference finals, losing in seven games to the Lakers.
Blazers center Robin Lopez doesn’t believe the Blazers have lost their edge with the Game 5 loss.
“I think we may have underestimated how desperate they were going to come out,” he said. “I’m excited for Game 6 and I know that they will come out with a greater level of intensity and confidence and we will have to try and match it, overcome it.”