NBA: Blazers, Hornets can cap comebacks, Raptors also can advance


By Brian Mahoney - AP Basketball Writer



Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) celebrates his team's victory over the Indiana Pacers with teammates Bismack Biyombo, left, and Kyle Lowry (7) after Game 5 of an NBA first-round playoff basketball series, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT


Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers leans on the scorer's table during the second half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 108-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, goes up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers guard Pablo Prigioni, of Argentina, defends during the second half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 108-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


Last time they came home, Portland and Charlotte were still just trying to win a game.

This time, they’re looking to win a series.

After engineering big turnarounds with three straight victories, the Trail Blazers and Hornets will be playing for spots in the second round when they host Game 6s on Friday night.

The tough part for them, as Clippers coach Doc Rivers says, is not getting too caught up thinking ahead with the opportunity they have.

“It’s hard to keep your focus in closeouts,” Rivers said. “That’s typically why Game 7s are played so well, because no one is thinking about it anymore.”

Portland can knock out Rivers’ Clippers, while Charlotte tries to eliminate Miami. The Clippers and Heat quickly got halfway to the conference semifinals, and now they’re just hoping to hold on.

The Toronto Raptors can also wrap up their series against the Pacers — and win a seven-game series for the first time in franchise history — but they’re on the road.

The Blazers and Hornets will be in their own buildings, trying to join the short list of teams who have come back from 2-0 deficits to win a seven-game series. Only 16 teams have done it, none since Memphis against the Clippers in 2013.

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Raptors at Pacers, Toronto leads 3-2. 7:30 p.m. EDT, NBA TV.

Toronto was in this spot just two years ago, taking a 3-2 lead to Brooklyn. The Nets won Game 6 and then Game 7 at Air Canada Centre, so the Raptors know the danger of relying on another game at home if they lose this one.

“You’ve got to treat this like Game 7. You’ve got to come out fighting,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We know their backs are against the wall. We can’t go and get ambushed. We’ve got to go in with our high beams on, laser-like focus from the start of the game to the end of the game.”

In other words, they should play like they did in the fourth quarter of Game 5.

Indiana controlled that for three quarters, then the Raptors rallied by outscoring the Pacers 25-9 in the fourth. Paul George, who scored 39 points, said Thursday he’s still not over the collapse and is ready to play all 48 minutes if necessary to prevent another.

“Whatever we’ve got to do to win,” George said. “Yeah, it’s possible. I have seen a lot of criticism when (coach Frank Vogel) has taken me out, but we’re supposed to maintain that lead whoever is in there.”

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Heat at Hornets, Charlotte leads 3-2. 8 p.m. EDT, ESPN.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said he’ll stick with the lineup he’s used the last three games, meaning Nicolas Batum will come off the bench again after returning from a foot injury in Game 5.

Miami averaged 119 points in the first two games, but hasn’t even reached 90 since. Charlotte shut the Heat out over the final 2:28 on Wednesday.

“We’ve got to keep believing, believing in each other and I feel like if we play the right way, we’ll see the results in due time,” guard Jeremy Lin said. “Game 1 and Game 2, we just didn’t play the way we knew we could.”

The Hornets haven’t won a series since 2002, but are in position to oust the No. 3 seed in the East.

“Everyone’s going to go with them,” Dwyane Wade said. “It’s the easy, safe pick. That’s not our focus. Our focus is, and my focus is as a leader, on what we need to do inside to try to win one ballgame and take it from there.”

The Heat did it on the way to the 2012 title, when they dropped a Game 5 at home but then saved their season with a Game 6 win at Boston.

“Nobody said this was going to be easy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Nobody’s giving out free tickets to the second round. You do have to earn it.”

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Clippers at Trail Blazers, Portland leads 3-2. 10:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN.

Playing without the injured Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers seemed to wear down in the fourth quarter of Game 5 after it was tied at 71 through three. Damian Lillard scored 16 of his 22 points in the final period as the Blazers pulled away for a 108-98 victory.

Rivers is reminding his players to have great resolve and embrace their difficult challenge. They did it last year in the same situation, winning Game 6 in San Antonio before taking Game 7 of a classic first-round series back home.

“Our guys have confidence in knowing that they’ve been in this situation before,” Rivers said. “The memory helps us know it can be done, but other than that we have to go play better basketball.”

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AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami, AP Sports Writers Beth Harris in Los Angeles and Mike Marot in Indianapolis, and freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.

Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) celebrates his team’s victory over the Indiana Pacers with teammates Bismack Biyombo, left, and Kyle Lowry (7) after Game 5 of an NBA first-round playoff basketball series, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/web1_110055180-aafc7a06e5aa4fe0a0fe0c5b60a428a3.jpgToronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) celebrates his team’s victory over the Indiana Pacers with teammates Bismack Biyombo, left, and Kyle Lowry (7) after Game 5 of an NBA first-round playoff basketball series, Tuesday, April 26, 2016 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers leans on the scorer’s table during the second half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 108-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/web1_110055180-f80f005ea5f941f591d0540c3ef7fb51.jpgLos Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers leans on the scorer’s table during the second half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 108-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, goes up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers guard Pablo Prigioni, of Argentina, defends during the second half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 108-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
http://wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/web1_110055180-60dbbcedfdd343879a4e659a866f78cf.jpgPortland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, goes up for a shot as Los Angeles Clippers guard Pablo Prigioni, of Argentina, defends during the second half in Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Trail Blazers won 108-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

By Brian Mahoney

AP Basketball Writer

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