The San Antonio Spurs want to move on. The Milwaukee Bucks are trying to hang on.
Game 7s are great for fans, though for an older team such as the Spurs, they should be avoided — especially because in this series it would require them to win a third time in Los Angeles.
But for a young, up-and-coming team like the Bucks, a Game 7 is exactly where they want to be. And if they get there, they would be playing to make NBA history — though this team might be too young to realize it.
“We have another game to play,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “So we have to focus on the game plan. And then we can focus on what we do, what we accomplished or what we didn’t accomplish.”
First things first. Two Game 6s are on the schedule tonight, with San Antonio seeking to finish off the Clippers at home and the Bucks looking to even things up with the Chicago Bulls in Milwaukee.
The Spurs took a 3-2 lead with a tense, exhausting 111-107 victory in Los Angeles on Tuesday. Long before their beautiful brand of basketball kicked into high gear and helped them roll through later series, the Spurs were forced to seven games in the first round last year by Dallas.
They want to avoid that now, knowing the Clippers could’ve easily won Games 2 and 5 at home and already ended the Spurs’ title reign.
“We’re not confident until we win,” forward Kawhi Leonard said. “We still have to beat a great team on our home floor. We lost a game on our home floor, so it’s just a challenge for us to come out mentally ready.”
The Clippers won Game 4 in San Antonio, and another victory there Thursday would set up a winner-take-all game Saturday in Los Angeles. A Spurs victory keeps them close to home for Game 1 of the next round in Houston.
Considered the best and move evenly matched series in the first round — and proving it with every game — seven games seemed likely in this Western Conference showdown. But few would have expected seven in the other No. 3 vs. No. 6 series, particularly after Chicago won the first three.
But the Bucks beat the buzzer to stay alive in Game 4, then staved off elimination again in Chicago on Monday. No NBA has won a series after trailing 3-0, and only three have even forced a Game 7.
“We know what we have to do,” Chicago’s Jimmy Butler said. “We obviously don’t want to make history in the wrong way. But I think we’ll be fine. We’ll take one game at a time and not look forward to the next series and not look forward to Game 7.”
A look at tonight’s games, all times EDT:
Bulls at Bucks, Chicago leads 3-2, 7 p.m., TNT
The Bulls’ offense that looked so smooth through three games hasn’t shown up the last two. Chicago couldn’t crack 90 points in either, getting held to 88 when it blew a chance to wrap things up at home on Monday.
Part of that is because the Bucks are loaded with lengthy, versatile defenders at just about every position. The other part is Derrick Rose’s struggles.
He has averaged just 13.5 points in the last two games after going for 34 in Chicago’s double-overtime victory in Game 3. Rose shot 5 for 20, missing all seven 3-point attempts, in Game 5. He committed eight turnovers in Game 4.
Michael Carter-Williams, who outplayed him with 22 points, nine assists and eight rebounds Monday, went through practice on Wednesday and Kidd said his ankle is fine.
A Bulls win sends them to Cleveland for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. If not, they host Game 7 on Saturday.
Clippers at Spurs, San Antonio leads 3-2, 9:30 p.m., TNT
DeAndre Jordan’s basket interference with 4.3 seconds left was the pivotal play in Game 5, but in reality the Clippers lost the game far from the rim.
Los Angeles was 1 for 14 on 3-point attempts, and sharpshooter J.J. Redick didn’t even attempt one. With Jordan and Blake Griffin dominating inside, the Clippers would be in good shape if they get a few of those to fall Thursday.
“It’s a gettable game,” Griffin said. “It’s not going to be easy by any means. This is what they do and they’re a great team, well-coached team and they’ve been in this situation before, but we’ve also been in some tough situations.”
Tony Parker, battling nagging injuries, said his Achilles was “on fire” after scoring 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting. But if the Spurs get the bench contributions they did from Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili and Boris Diaw again, they might get by even without Parker at his best.
“Crazy game,” Parker said after Game 5. “Obviously huge win for us, but it doesn’t mean anything if we can’t finish at home.”
AP freelance writers Jeff Arnold in Chicago and Andrew Wagner in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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