SAN ANTONIO — For the past 24 hours, when you’ve asked coach Erik Spoelstra or the Heat players what adjustments they need to make to bounce back from a 3-1 deficit against the Spurs, you get some variant of “we just need to do what we do better.” It’s not new lineups or new match ups — Game 5 Sunday night will be the 14th meeting between these teams since the start of last year’s Finals, these teams know each other.
It’s about execution and that’s what Erik Spoelstra said he has emphasized in the last 48 hours.
“We met yesterday and talked about our approach for the next 24 hours,” Spoelstra said before Game 5. “We had a good day of work the day before that. We had a good day off to clear our minds, and this is about bringing our best game of the series….
“We’re looking to start better, but regardless of what happens, we have to find a way in this game. And we need consistent minutes where we’re imposing our identity on this game, which we’ve yet to do for an entire game.”
Maybe that is because they are coming out of a soft Eastern Conference, where they didn’t have to play at their peak for 48 minutes to advance. Maybe it’s because this is Game 14 between these teams since the start of last year’s Finals and San Antonio has gotten used to the pressure and style of the Heat.
Whatever the reason, this is not the first adversity the Heat have faced and this gives Spoelstra confidence.
“I love being in the trenches with this group when you’re in situations like this,” Spoelstra said. “You reveal your character. You real what you’re made out of when you’re facing adversity. Everybody can bid in the situation that the Spurs are in right now. It’s much more revealing when you’re in a situation like this how you respond, individually or collectively. How do we respond in a game like this? I love bing in the locker room with these guys in these situations.”
We will see what the Heat locker room is like after this game. That also could be telling.
Suns keep winning, T.J. Warren keeps scoring, Nuggets outlast Jazz in 2OT
The Suns are unbeatable. T.J Warren is unstoppable. And the NBA is unapologetically fun.
Just another day in the NBA bubble.
Phoenix – already the NBA’s only undefeated team at Disney World – moved to 5-0 in seeding games with a 119-112 win over the Heat.
The Suns are still a half game outside play-in position with a tougher closing stretch than the ninth-place Trail Blazers.* But Phoenix sure is making the race interesting, and Portland isn’t closing the door.
*Both teams still play the 76ers and Mavericks. The Suns also play the Thunder. The Trail Blazers’ last seeding game is against the Nets.
Whether or not they make the playoffs, the Suns should absolutely be encouraged by this stretch. Unlike an early-season surge, when Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio carried big loads, Phoenix’s young players are leading the charge now. Devin Booker scored 35 points tonight. Jevon Carter added 20 points on 6-of-8 3-point shooting off the bench. Deandre Ayton (18 points and 12 rebounds) continues to impress. Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson have steadily contributed at forward.
Expectations are rising for next season.
First, the Suns aren’t ready for this season to end soon.
All the best bubble stories were in Phoenix last season.
But then the game got going, and both teams’ competitive juices took over.
Donovan Mitchell drove for a layup to force overtime. Nikola Jokic converted inside to force double overtime. Finally, Jamal Murray – who scored 23 points in his first game of the resumption – put Denver up for good with a jumper then 3-pointer in a 134-132 victory.
keep switching teams … running from the grind . You boys is chumps
@damianlillard respect that too in my stint with my first team I had more success… Dame time running out g
George did lead the Pacers to Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference finals, losing to the eventual-champion Heat. Indiana also pushed Miami to Game 6 in the 2014 Eastern Conference finals. George doesn’t get enough credit for those achievements.
Though Lillard’s Trail Blazers peaked in the 2019 Western Conference finals, they got swept by the team that lost in the NBA Finals.
Maybe it got too personal for George, who has overcome major injury and returned even better. He surely doesn’t want to be called a chump at this point in his career.
But I disagree with George’s championships-only argument. There is plenty of room for major achievements that fall short of a title – like the Pacers’ deep playoff runs George cited. And Lillard’s series-winning shot last year. George was the casualty on that play. There’s no way around it, and it’s likely still a sore spot. That was a high-profile moment that supersedes missed free throws in a seeding game.
Lillard and George can go back-and-forth about their accomplishments. Both have done plenty in this league. Their individual routes to success show their contrasting values. Neither are wrong. They’re just different.
That’s perfectly fine and – when it leads to spats like this – fun.
Damian Lillard misses clutch FTs, Trail Blazers blow key game against Clippers backups
But that group ended the game on a 12-2 run to hand Portland a devastating 122-117 loss.
The Trail Blazers are now just half a game up for ninth in the Western Conference. This further opens the door for the Spurs, Pelicans, Suns and even Kings to make a play-in (and gives the Grizzlies more breathing room for advancing to that stage).
After McGruder hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, Damian Lillard drew a pair of free throws with Portland down one. Lillard is arguably the NBA’s most clutch player, and he had made 89% of his free throws this season. But he missed both – to the particular delight of injured Clippers guard Patrick Beverley:
Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who – I sent him before at the end of a game. Paul George just got sent home by me last year in the playoffs. So, they know. The reason they’re reacting like that is because of what they expect from me, which is a sign of respect, and it just shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not. So, I’m not offended by it. If anything, it should just tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.
I love Lillard’s ability to remain calm and in control. Kudos for him for finding a way to boast after missing a pair of free throws that effectively cost his team a big game. Really. Lillard’s emotional maturity is an asset.
Expect the Trail Blazers to follow his lead and not further unravel. They can and probably should still be favored to reach the play-in.
But their margin for error definitely just shrunk.
While the Sixers haven't ruled Simmons out for the season, sources say it would take a deep run into the playoffs to keep the door open on the possibility of a return — and that's still an iffy proposition. For now, the Sixers need to prepare for a postseason without Simmons.
Obviously, the surgery itself is a setback. If Simmons becomes healthy enough to return before Philadelphia gets eliminated, he could be required to quarantine in his hotel room – which would limit rehab and training.
And of course it will be difficult for Philadelphia to advance deep into the playoffs without Simmons.
There are even graver concerns beyond this season. Will Simmons now be more susceptible to future injuries? This could derail a budding championship contender with Joel Embiid and Simmons.
Embiid already has long-term health concerns. It was always uncertain how long Philadelphia’s window would remain open despite Embiid and Simmons being so young.
Already, expectations shrink this season without Simmons. Philadelphia appears increasingly likely to land the No. 6 seed and a tough first-round series against the Celtics (rather than a spot in the 4-5 series against the Heat or Pacers).
Will these difficult circumstances give 76ers coach Brett Brown more leeway to keep his job? Or do they just make it more likely the 76ers lose early in the playoffs and fire him?
He has plenty of options for proceeding without Simmons. Simmons was a multi-positional star who spent most of the season at point guard but had been playing power forward in the bubble.
Without Simmons, Al Horford moved back into the starting lineup, and Mike Scott – who had been out with a knee injury – joined the rotation. Glenn Robinson III could also get an expanded role once he’s healthy.
Many sans-Simmons lineups could give Philadelphia more spacing around Embiid, which makes the star center even more dangerous.
But this loss of talent can’t be offset and significantly lowers the 76ers’ ceiling this season and maybe reduces their odds of reaching their ceiling in future seasons.