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Down to the wire in the West, what’s at stake for the Lakers & NBA comes down hard on fans

The NBA playoffs rollercoaster is in full swing and this is the place to find your weekly update.

Only one Western Conference series remains undecided

As a whole, the basketball community is still reeling from the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers double-overtime thriller.

All-star Damian Lillard was other-worldly. He posted the first 55-point, 10-assist game in playoff history.

The Nuggets showed great character by withstanding Dame’s heroics to hold on for the victory taking a 3-2 series lead.

The soon-to-be MVP Nikola Jokic has been on his A-game as well. He’s averaging over 32 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for the series on 51/42/89 shooting splits.

Following suit, the Phoenix Suns now lead the Los Angeles Lakers 3-2 after a lopsided game five without forward Anthony Davis.

Will the defending champs really fall in round one? More on this series later.

Since our last update, the Los Angeles Clippers flipped the script by winning both games in Dallas.

All the momentum had swung to the Clippers side, before Mavericks star Luka Doncic put the team on his back to win game five and take a 3-2 lead.

Of the 37 field goals Dallas made last night, Doncic accounted for 31 by way of scoring or assisting.

This performance was highly improbable after a neck strain left him visibly hindered throughout game four.

The Clippers, again, are in dire need of a victory. A loss to the Mavericks in game six spells a long offseason for LA.

Lastly, the Utah Jazz put away the frisky Memphis Grizzlies with a 126-110 victory at home.

The returning Donovan Mitchell was the difference maker in this series. After being held out of game one, Mitchell led the Jazz to four straight wins.

His best performance came last night with 30 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. He also got to the free throw line at will and converted on 28 of 31 attempts for the series.

In a few short years, Mitchell has built a reputation as a playoff performer. With the Jazz looking the best they have in over a decade, it’ll be interesting to see how far they go.

Atlanta looking to join the Eastern Conference elites

In the East, things are more clearly taking shape.

The Brooklyn Nets put away the Boston Celtics in five games, hardly breaking a sweat.

James Harden, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant have played together beautifully after only appearing in eight games together during the regular season.

In the fourth quarter, defending this team is a nightmare. Milwaukee will have its work cut out for them in round two.

The Philadelphia 76ers eliminated the Washington Wizards in game five, thanks to a 30-point outing from sharpshooter Seth Curry.

More concerning, however, their anchor, Joel Embiid, has been diagnosed with a meniscus tear and his status is day-to-day moving forward.

While they managed to get by the Wizards, they will need their big man in order to reach their ceiling.

If Embiid can’t resemble his MVP form from the regular season, the Sixers could very well struggle in the second-round with a streaky Atlanta Hawks team.

Those Hawks defeated the New York Knicks 103-89 last night in Madison Square Garden, completing the gentleman's sweep.

Atlanta looks the best they have all season with a near-fully healthy roster intact. They are led by guard Trae Young averaging 29.2 points and almost 10 assists.

The Hawks have a two-way interior presence with big man Clint Capela. They have a bevy of shooters such as Danillo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, and Bogdan Bogdanovic along with rapidly improving young guys John Collins and De’Andre Hunter.

Whereas we thought the Mavericks could be the Cinderella team last week, perhaps it’ll be the Atlanta Hawks.

Make-or-break time for the Lakers and LeBron

The Lakers are on the verge of being eliminated from the playoffs by the Phoenix Suns Thursday night.

It has been an up and down season for the Lakers and it all comes down to game 6 at Staples.

Forward LeBron James has said his shoulders can carry the load, leading many to expect nothing short of greatness from No. 23.

Having said that, the game five blowout loss was that much more of a disappointment for Lakers Nation. It was an embarrassing loss for a team with championship-or-bust aspirations.

Which begs the question, are we in the midst of the ultimate LeBron chess move?

The 18-year veteran seems aware of just how much gas he has in the tank, and he taps into that reservoir selectively.

Game five wasn’t necessarily a must-win, but game six and seven undoubtedly are.

Perhaps LeBron was studying all of game five -- studying both his opponent and his teammates -- dissecting what lineups will be needed when their backs are truly against the wall.

As the series extends, there’s more time for their second star to recuperate as well.

But one thing should be clarified before the game is played: LeBron’s legacy is not on the line in game six win or lose.

He’s already delivered the Lakers a title. He’s already had the most impressive playoff comeback ever.

He’s first all-time in playoff scoring, games played, minutes logged, steals, free throws, and top 5 in plenty more.

As far as his legacy, it’s already cemented.

What is at stake, however, is a Last Dance-esque opportunity to defy the odds yet again and further his case as one of the greatest ever.

But this kind of pressure is what comes with playing for the purple and gold, and that applies to the entire roster.

It’s time to put up or shut up.

One way or another, this will be a historic moment in James’ career with Laker Nation’s hopes and dreams attached to it.

What’s going on with the fans?

Fans returning to arenas for the first time in over a year was sure to have an immediate impact on the game.

A select few, however, have stolen headlines for all the wrong reasons.

In the first round alone: we saw fans dump food on players, chuck half-filled water bottles, streakers, and even bodily fluids projected onto players.

Not to mention some of the brutal chants that came out of MSG towards the Hawks’ players, but even that’s a bit more reasonable.

But the hateful gestures, words, and actions of some fans so far have been treated by the respective stadiums as inexcusable and punishable by law.

This is a good demonstration by the league in support of protecting it’s players.

They take the floor to entertain fans in attendance and around the world, but are by no means subjected to demeaning behavior.

Thankfully, the proper action has taken place which should deter further outbursts, before things get any worse.

Blame it on being kept inside for much of the last year if you want, but hopefully these unruly fans get a grip.

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