Sports Minute: If games happen, Mavs, Nuggets will try to force Game 7s
By TIM REYNOLDSAP Basketball Writer
If the NBA playoffs resume, Denver and Dallas will face elimination games.
The Nuggets have staved off elimination once and when and if their series with the Utah Jazz resumes — it's scheduled for Thursday, though that now seems very questionable — they will have to do it again. So will the Dallas Mavericks, down 3-2 to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Players boycotted Wednesday's three scheduled games in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Wisconsin who was apparently shot in the back by police while his three children looked on. Players were meeting Wednesday night to determine next steps.
The Nuggets rallied from a 15-point second half deficit to beat Utah in Game 5 on Tuesday and extend that series, while the Clippers got the biggest win in their playoff history — a 43-point romp over Dallas to take a 3-2 lead in that matchup, two nights after Luka Doncic made a gamewinning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Game 4.
“Game 4 is the ultimate high and (Game 5) is the ultimate low,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “Right now, our job is to bounce back. We’ve got a resilient group. We’ve been very good at bouncing back after difficult losses all year and this is going to be a challenging one — but we’ve got no choice.”
In a most abnormal playoffs, Utah’s Jordan Clarkson is trying to think back to normal times.
If this were any other year, if the bubble didn’t exist and a pandemic wasn’t happening, Clarkson pointed out that the Jazz would be in a rather enjoyable position right now. They would be going home for Game 6, with a chance to close out a first-round series in Salt Lake City.
“That’s all that it’s about, getting the next one,” Clarkson said.
There is a Game 1 set on Thursday as well, with the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Boston Celtics and reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors scheduled to begin. The Celtics and Raptors were discussing boycotting their game before Wednesday's games were halted.
A look at the still-scheduled-for-Thursday first-round games:
NUGGETS VS. JAZZ
Utah leads 3-2. Game 6, 4 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
— NEED TO KNOW: The Jazz led 71-56 with 9:44 left in the third quarter of Game 5 and were outscored 61-36 the rest of the way. Jamal Murray had 33 of his 42 points in that span for Denver, nearly matching the entire Utah scoring output by himself. He has 92 points and zero turnovers in his last two games.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: The energy level of Murray and Nikola Jokic. Denver couldn’t afford to take them off the floor in the second half of Game 5, and it’s reasonable to think their rest breaks will be relatively short and few in Game 6.
— INJURY WATCH: Gary Harris and Will Barton have yet to play in the series for Denver, and there was no reason Wednesday to think that will change in Game 6.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Utah. Denver was on the cusp of elimination and rallied to force Game 6. If the Jazz let this get to Game 7, the Nuggets’ spirits will likely get lifted even higher.
CLIPPERS VS. MAVERICKS
Los Angeles leads 3-2. Game 6, 9 p.m. EDT, ESPN.
— NEED TO KNOW: Clippers forward Marcus Morris bristled at the notion that he tried to hurt Dallas star Luka Doncic, who has been playing on a bad left ankle. Morris stepped on Doncic’s ankle in Game 5 and denied that it was intentional. “I actually apologized right when it happened,” Morris said.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Doncic. He was clearly laboring at times in Game 5, and now will play in an elimination game for the first time in his NBA career. He has been spectacular in Dallas’ two wins in this series, and will likely need to be that way again if the Mavs are to force Game 7.
— INJURY WATCH: Patrick Beverley (left calf) hasn’t played since Game 1 of the series for the Clippers. Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis (right knee) is listed as questionable, but the Mavericks are not optimistic about his chances.
— PRESSURE IS ON: The referees. This series is getting heated, especially with the Mavericks wondering if Doncic has been targeted too aggressively by the Clippers. Officiating games is already difficult and revved-up emotions in Game 6 could make that task even tougher.
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