Tim Duncan calls Game 5 a ‘must-win’ for the Spurs

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SAN ANTONIO — With the Finals deadlocked at two games apiece, and with the scene shifting to Miami for what will be the deciding games of the series, Tim Duncan wasn’t afraid to put Sunday’s critical Game 5 in its proper context.

“It is a must‑win,” Duncan said after practice on Saturday. “We don’t want to go back down there down a game with two games remaining at their house. It is a must‑win situation.

“Obviously if we lose this game, we’re not giving up or anything, but we want to go back up with a chance to finish there. Huge pressure if we have to go back there and try to win two.”

If the Spurs see a repeat of the Heat team they saw in Game 4, where Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh all came through with huge performances at the same time, it certainly won’t be easy. But Duncan knows that.

“It’s tough,” he said. “If they shoot the ball like they did last game, it’s incredibly tough. They got a lot of easy stuff in the open court, some layups, and that can really boost their confidence. Defensively we have to be really on it, really get back and get in front of them. Let them see as many bodies as possible and then continue to play the way we have and hope they don’t shoot the way they did.”

The keys for the Spurs will be limiting turnovers, which will cut down significantly on Miami’s transition opportunities. Tony Parker said it comes down to focus more than anything else.

“We have to understand that their identity is to play aggressive defense, and they gamble and they’re going to take a lot of chances with steals and blocks,” parker said. “We just have to be smarter with our decisions.”

Should the Spurs struggle to contain the Heat’s Big Three for a second straight game, they’ll be faced with the incredibly difficult task of heading to Miami needing to win two on the road in order to win the title — which is the reason that Parker had no trouble echoing what Duncan had to say.

“I agree it’s a must‑win,” Parker said. “That’s why you play basketball, to live those moments. It’s a great opportunity for us. It’s a big game. We have to win. Simple as that.”

PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.