Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals is a pivotal one for the Spurs, who face elimination for the first time this season. A loss would prove to be an epic meltdown, given all their success up to this point. Check out what some of the players had to say heading into the game, along with news around the league on Wednesday.
- Gary Neal has been dealing with flu-like symptoms and missed the morning shootaround, but is expected to play in Game 6, according to Tim Griffin: “He’ll get in this afternoon, fly in,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “If it changes, we’ll know later, but he says he feels better.”
- The Spurs have lost three consecutive games for the first time this season and they are on the brink heading into Game 6 against the Thunder on Wednesday night. Stephen Jackson, though, is keeping it positive: “I think for the last game, we had a chance to put ourselves in a great position, but shots didn’t fall,” Jackson said. “I think for us tonight, we can’t worry about the last couple of games. This is a new night, a chance to keep our season going. That should be everybody’s focus and nothing else.”
- For the Thunder, a win tonight means their first trip to the NBA Finals. Their approach to Game 6? Just like any other, as written by John Rohde: Three-time scoring champ Kevin Durant was asked if this was the biggest game of his life. “You put a lot of pressure on me, man,” Durant said with a smile, drawing laughter. “You could say that. I’m still just trying to approach it like a regular game, but know the significance of it. It’s going to be fun. As a kid you dream about playing in big, big games like this. So hopefully we’ll come out there and do a good job.”
- Did you know that the Thunder fans absolutely despise Joey Crawford? According to Darnell Mayberry, that is the truth, but he has no idea why: Over the past several weeks, I’ve gotten inquires on the morning of games about who the referees would be that night. When the answer doesn’t involve Crawford the response generally is some form of “Whew!” Whenever Crawford’s name is listed among the trio, the response is some mix of expletives and violence. “I want to punch Joey in the face,” one of my Twitter followers wrote this morning in reply to my tweet announcing tonight’s crew.
- LeBron James and the Heat are on the brink after suffering a devastating home loss to the Celtics in Game 5, and Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Erik Spoelstra is making a plea for his team: “Our focus is to fight any kind of noise from the outside, or any human condition,” Spoelstra said late on Tuesday night. The human condition is this: He’s begging his Heat stars to do something they didn’t do a year ago, when they lost a series lead, lost the momentum, lost the edge and lost their way going into a Game 6. Please, please, don’t collapse under the weight of our frailties again.
- By now, you’ve heard the news that Phil Jackson is looking for work. According to Sam Amick, a deal with Orlando which appeared to be dead is still in play: Five days after the Orlando Sentinel reported that the former Lakers and Bulls coach with 11 championship rings had “bowed out” of a plan to be the lead personnel man for the Magic, two sources close to the situation told SI.com that a revised version of the proposal that still included Jackson’s involvement was submitted to the team Tuesday morning.
- Teams are surely making their final decisions on who to draft with their lottery picks, and the Cavaliers seem intent on picking up Harrison Barnes: The Cavaliers are likely to select Harrison Barnes with the fourth overall selection if he remains available, according to sources. “He’s a pretty big deal to them,” one such executive said.
- The Golden State Warriors are actively seeking to make a move with the four draft picks they have, and may go after the following players: Iguodala remains on the Warriors’ wish list, and they’ve expressed similar interest in Portland’s Nicolas Batum, Chicago’s Luol Deng, Memphis’ Rudy Gay, Indiana’s Danny Granger and Atlanta’s Josh Smith.
- When did the Steve Urkel look become such a popular trend in the NBA? Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have certainly done their part to popularize the geeky look, and Dwyane Wade joined the party on Tuesday.
- Remember when SNL comedian Jay Pharoah did a spot-on impression of Stephen A. Smith in a skit? That was fun and all, but now he is actually giving analysis of the NBA. He joined Smith on ESPN to insult Paul Pierce, calling The Truth an actress and diva.
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James Park is a regular contributor and blogger for SheridanHoops.com. You can follow him on twitter @nbatupark.