Heat, Lakers get another chance to move to conference finals; Knicks, Warriors on brink
MIAMI (AP) — New York guards Jalen Brunson and Quentin Grimes played an entire elimination game with no rest, just to extend their season.
And Miami’s Jimmy Butler — even after being on the losing end of that effort — tipped his cap out of respect.
At this time of year, whatever it takes. It’s why Brunson and Grimes are playing 48 minutes, why Butler is playing through ankle soreness, why Golden State’s Stephen Curry is taking more shots per game — by a significant margin — than he ever has in a playoff run, and why the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis will likely play through whatever is ailing him after he had to leave early Wednesday night.
For two teams, Game 6 on Friday night is win-or-go-home; for two others, it could be win-and-move-on to the conference finals. The Heat play host to New York, the Lakers play host to Golden State, both home clubs have 3-2 series leads and both visiting clubs staved off elimination with wins on Wednesday in their respective Game 5s.
“Every moment is its own challenge and its own game and its own opportunity to see what you’re made of,” Lakers forward LeBron James said. “Friday is another opportunity for us to see who we are and see what we’re made of and to go out there with, I guess, the grit and the fight that we’ve had since we came together after the All-Star break.”
The Warriors have won a road game in 28 consecutive playoff series, an NBA record. They have to get to 29 with a win Friday, or their reign as champions will end. Curry is taking 23.6 shots per game in the playoffs, about three more per game than he ever has in a postseason run, and who knows how many he’ll need to try to give Golden State its best chance on Friday.
“The guys will always have belief,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “That’s just who they are.”
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has raved about the level of competition in the Heat-Knicks series, and expects more of the same in Game 6. The Heat wasted a close-out chance in Game 5 at New York, but have a chance at home Friday to finish the series and get to the East finals for the third time in four years.
“I’m never surprised with anything come playoff basketball time,” Butler said. “Your best is needed. All 48 minutes, if more if you’re going into overtime. If ‘Spo’ tells me to play 48 minutes, I will be suited and booted and ready to do that and we’ll win.”
KNICKS AT HEAT
Heat lead 3-2. Game 6, 7:30 p.m. EDT, Friday, ESPN.
— NEED TO KNOW: The Heat missed 30 3-pointers, got outrebounded 50-34, were outscored 59-30 over an 18-minute stretch of Game 5 — and still only lost to the Knicks by nine. That all means there are many ways for Miami to improve in Game 6, though the Heat know that New York will be incredibly desperate again in an effort to stave off elimination.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: New York’s depth. In Game 5, Brunson and Grimes were the first teammates to play 48 minutes in a non-overtime playoff game since 2005, when Washington had Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes do it — also against Miami. Butler played 43 minutes for Miami in Game 5.
— INJURY WATCH: None of the main characters are 100% and most probably aren’t anywhere near 100%. Brunson (38 points in 48 minutes) was incredible in Game 5; Butler (19 points, seven rebounds, nine assists, four steals and two blocks) has been gutting it out through his bad ankle, and they’ll both be the go-to options Friday night.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Miami. The Knicks did their job; they extended the series and know they have the luxury of Game 7 in Madison Square Garden. New York hasn’t had a Game 7 at home since 1995 and Miami doesn’t want to see that streak end here.
WARRIORS AT LAKERS
Lakers lead 3-2. Game 6, 10 p.m. EDT, Friday, ESPN.
— NEED TO KNOW: The Lakers have won eight straight games in their downtown arena, including six since the end of the regular season. They’ve only lost one home game in nearly two months. On the other hand, the Warriors have never played a postseason series in Stephen Curry’s career without winning at least one road game, and this is their final chance to keep the streak alive.
— KEEP AN EYE ON: Anthony Davis missed the second half of the fourth quarter after a blow to the head from Kevon Looney, who also elbowed Sacramento’s Domantas Sabonis in the face during the first round. Any absence or even a limitation for the Lakers’ star big man would fundamentally change this series, which Davis has heavily influenced with his defense.
— INJURY WATCH: If Davis can’t play or is limited, the Lakers will be forced to go small more often, as they did late in Game 5. A three-guard Lakers lineup with LeBron James as the de facto center would likely be an advantage to Golden State, which has more experience in small ball. The Warriors also have Curry, the best guard in the series.
— PRESSURE IS ON: Los Angeles. Nobody wants to play the defending champs in a Game 7 on their home floor, so James and his teammates must dig down deep and attempt to close out the series at home. Davis’ absence might make that nearly impossible, but the Lakers have built up enough teamwork and cohesion since the trade deadline to give them a chance.
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York and AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press