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: Five players to watch heading into the NBA’s trade deadline

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It’s going to be a slow NBA trade deadline this year.

The reason it will be relatively quiet on Feb. 7 (the deadline day) this year is reflected in the five players to watch talked about in this PBT Extra. The bottom line: There are far more buyers than sellers.

Take Trevor Ariza in Washington, for example. A number of playoff teams are looking for wings on expiring contracts to help them out — the Rockets and Lakers are at the front of that line — but Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said the team the team will not tank, so is Ariza even available.

Or, what about Terrence Ross in Orlando? Another wing a lot of teams have interest in, but is Orlando selling?

And while the Dallas Mavericks have made public overtures about reconciliation with Dennis Smith Jr., sources tell me the plan on both sides is still to find a trade, it’s just right now the offers are lowball ones (because the Mavs have no leverage and there will be good young point guards such as Terry Rozier and D'Angelo Russell available in July as restricted free agents, and teams like them better).

Still, there will be trades. These are the guys to watch.

Report: Hornets rookie Miles Bridges to compete in dunk contest

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Want to see more dunks like this and this?

Watch the dunk contest during All-Star weekend.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Miles Bridges, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has quickly proven himself as belonging in the Hornets’ rotation. He’s active, capable of getting to the rim and picks up defensive concepts quickly.

But like most rookies picked in the middle of the first round, he hasn’t yet earned a national profile.

The dunk contest will be his opportunity to change that.

Bulls’ Wendell Carter reportedly out 8-12 weeks following thumb surgery

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Wendell Carter Jr. has had a strong rookie season in Chicago: 10.3 points a game, 7 rebounds, showing real strength and touch inside and getting 67 percent of his shot attempts in the paint. The advanced stats like him: He’s got an above average PER and Value over Replacement Player, something very rare for a rookie. He looks like a key part of the future in Chicago.

And he’s out for the next two-to-three months.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune first reported that Carter might have ligament damage in his left thumb requiring surgery, and that coach Jim Boylen said Carter was seeing a specialist. Shams Charania of The Athletic took it to the next step.

That’s a blow to his development but doesn’t really change the trajectory of a Bulls team that will pick high in next June’s draft.

This does not change the Bulls’ plans heading into the trade deadline — big man Robin Lopez is still available (but likely will end up a buyout candidate) reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Bobby Portis will get more run with Carter out.

The young Bulls have been hit hard by injuries this season.  Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Portis have all missed time, and Denzel Valentine has yet to play a game for Chicago this season.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis: ‘We will never, ever tank’

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Before the season, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis stated his goals: 50 wins and the conference finals.

Washington is 19-26 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Time to shift priorities?

NBC Sports Washington:

Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington:

The Wizards are too talented to tank right now. Led by Bradley Beal, they have a roster of capable veterans. They just traded for Trevor Ariza, making that even more true.

As bad as they’ve been, the Wizards are just 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position. They will likely miss the postseason, but there’s no alternative better than trying to get there. They’re too far down the road toward winning now to simply pivot into a rebuilding.

But what about if the Wizards get eliminated from playoff contention with games left in the season? They won’t tank down the stretch to improve their draft position? What’s the point of that?

And what about future seasons? Washington will have a tough time building a satisfactory winner after signing John Wall to a super-max extension that kicks in next season. That difficult-to-move contract almost mandates the Wizards prioritize the present. A healthy Wall is good enough to ensure Washington can’t bottom out – for now.

Wall be 32 in the final year of that deal. The Wizards could be in ruins by then. Taking the option to tank off the table would be a mistake.

To be fair, I’m not totally sure Leonsis is doing that. Owners almost never admit to tanking. Most deny it.

But this goes a level beyond. This is far more forceful than Leonsis had to be, which makes me believe it’s actually his plan.

That’s fine right now. Eventually, it could make a futile situation far worse.