Cavaliers, Mavericks Trying To Close Out 1St-Round Nba Playoff Series In Game 6S

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives past Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) drives past Orlando Magic guard Jalen Suggs (4) during the first half of Game 5 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
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The Orlando Magic desperately want an opportunity to go back on the road. The Los Angeles Clippers are hoping to go home, though not for good.

There are two more elimination games in the NBA playoffs Friday night, with the Magic hosting the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Clippers visiting the Dallas Mavericks after falling behind 3-2 in the first-round matchups.

With Donovan Mitchell scoring 28 points and Evan Mobley blocking Franz Wagner's layup in the closing seconds of a one-point victory Tuesday night, Cleveland is on the brink of advancing to face Boston in the Eastern Conference semifinals after taking Games 1, 2 and 5 at home.

Pablo Banchero and the Magic won Games 3 and 4 at home by a combined 61 points, though, and are confident they can send the series back to Ohio for a decisive seventh game Sunday.

“You have to go take it,” said coach Jamahl Mosley, who spoke with his team Thursday about the challenge ahead.

“No game has been the same. ... Game 6 is going to be different than Games 3 and 4 at home. Just because you're home does not mean you can play the exact same way you did then,” Mosley added. "You have to change a little bit of the energy, the effort. All those little things are going to matter."

The Dallas-Los Angeles winner will face Oklahoma City in the West semifinals.

The Clippers are facing elimination after a 30-point loss to the Mavs in Game 5. Los Angeles played without the injured Kawhi Leonard for the third time, and Paul George and James Harden combined for just 22 points of 6-for-25 shooting.

“That wasn’t who we’ve been in this series, and that’s not who we are,” George said. “We’ve got to be better, especially in this situation.”

Mavs coach Jason Kidd expects Los Angeles to play better Friday night.

“We’ve got to find a way to protect home, understanding in this series both teams have been able to win on the road, so we can’t take anything for granted,” Kidd said.

The Cavs and Magic have spent five games exchanging elbows, trash talk and bad vibes.

Game 6 — or in this case Round 6 — should be no different.

“Just getting ready for a fist fight,” Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “That’s what it’s going to come down to. It’s going to be a physical game. We expect that, but it’s one of those things where mentally you got to be prepared from the start and there’s no smoothing your way into this one.”

The Cavaliers found a way to grind out and win the only close game in the series Wednesday without starting center Jarrett Allen, who is dealing with a painful rib injury and may not be ready.

Allen, who did not practice Thursday, has been Cleveland’s best player in these playoffs and in many ways is their most indispensable piece.

Allen’s absence forced Bickerstaff to alter his rotation and dip deeper into his bench, something he had been reluctant to do and was widely criticized for not doing.

Mobley was shifted from power forward to center. Bickerstaff started Isaac Okoro. He also benched the ineffective Georges Niang, giving most of those minutes to veteran Marcus Morris Sr., who came through in a big way with 12 points and provided toughness.

By necessity, the Cavs won by committee and with Allen’s status uncertain for Friday, they may have to do it again.


Cleveland leads series 3-2, Game 6, 7 p.m. EDT, ESPN

— NEED TO KNOW: Home has been sweet with both teams holding serve in their respective boisterous arenas. The Cavaliers have lost six straight postseason road games, dropping the last four by an average 22.5 points. Cleveland has never won at Orlando in the playoffs, losing all five visits (three in 2009, and the two last week).

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Mitchell. He scored 18 in the first half of Game 4 before going scoreless while attempting just four shots in the second half, when the Cavs were outscored 37-10 in the third quarter. Mitchell insists a bone bruise in his left knee isn’t bothering him, but he’s been playing in spurts, perhaps a sign he’s only pushing himself when he absolutely must.

— INJURY WATCH: Allen’s rib injury is making it tough for him to breathe or move as needed. Bickerstaff said the big man will “give it a go if he can” but expect the Cavs to be extra cautious with Allen given the possibility of a Game 7 or another series.

— PRESSURE IS ON: The Magic. To extend the series and save the season, one of the NBA’s youngest teams will have its readiness and resolve tested like never before. This is a huge spot for a team with minimal postseason experience but major potential.


Dallas leads 3-2. Game 6, 9:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN

— NEED TO KNOW: The Mavericks are right back where they were three years ago, leading the Clippers 3-2 with a chance to close out a first-round series at home after winning Game 5 in Los Angeles. Dallas lost that Game 6 and the series in 2021. Luka Doncic didn’t have Kyrie Irving then, so this might show what difference a player with an NBA championship on his resume can make. Leonard has missed three of the five games with right knee inflammation, and there’s no indication the Clippers plan for him to return. The burden is likely to fall to Paul George and James Harden again.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Doncic has an ailing right knee and apparently has been fighting a respiratory illness. The Slovenian star brushes off the latter, but has been blowing his nose during timeouts. Another two days might help the illness, but Doncic figures to have to keep managing the pain in his knee after tweaking it in Game 3. The NBA scoring champion struggled in a Game 4 loss, but had 35 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in Dallas’ 123-93 win in Game 5.

— INJURY WATCH: The right knees of Doncic and Leonard have been the story of the series. While Doncic (who isn't listed on the injury report for Game 6) appears healthy enough to play through his issue, the Clippers haven’t sounded optimistic since Leonard returned to the sideline for Game 4 after missing the opener and playing in the second and third games. The two-time NBA champion was clearly uncomfortable in Game 3. Team president Lawrence Frank has said Leonard won’t play until the knee feels the way it did going into Game 2, which was after Leonard had been sitting for three weeks. Dallas G Tim Hardaway Jr. will miss a fourth consecutive game with a sprained right ankle.

— PRESSURE IS ON: George and Harden are going to have to turn it on in Dallas again after falling flat at home. They led the Clippers to a 111-106 road win in Game 4, combining for 66 points — 33 apiece — and 11-of-15 shooting from 3-point range. With a chance to take control of the series, the Clippers got blown out instead. George scored 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting and Harden had just seven while going 2 of 12 from the field. Without Leonard, LA has precious little scoring punch beyond the two healthy stars.


AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland and Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.


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