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NBA: Spurs, Raptors seek semis slots

LeBron James and the champs are ready for their next challenger. James Harden and the Rockets are getting revved up in Texas.

With their opponents waiting, Toronto and San Antonio will try to set up a pair of second-round showdowns in the two Game 6s on the schedule Thursday night.

The Raptors can finish off the Milwaukee Bucks and move on to a rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers, while the Spurs can knock out the Memphis Grizzlies and secure a Lone Star State tussle with the Rockets.

Gregg Popovich and the Spurs value rest as much as any organization, and there won’t be much if they lose Thursday and are forced to play a Game 7 back home on Saturday night. They would then host the Rockets in Game 1 on Monday night, a short turnaround before having to chase Houston’s shooters all over the perimeter.

So the Spurs will be driven to get their elusive first victory in Memphis this season.

“They’re coming to kill us. They’re trying to put us out of our misery,” Grizzlies coach David Fizdale said. “If you don’t know anything about them, they’re killers. So we understand that, but we also have to come out with a mentality to impose our will on the game.”

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in Cleveland also is Monday, and the Cavaliers will get plenty of rest after sweeping Indiana in the first round. The Raptors were already on fumes by the time they faced the Cavaliers in last year’s East finals after having to go seven games in the first two rounds, so would love to make things a little easier on themselves now.

“It’s something that is in our minds, going on the road and understanding how they may feel and we’ve got go out there and really treat it like a Game 7,” All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan said. “I hate to keep saying that over and over again, but that is the only way we can treat it because that’s how they are going to treat it.”

The Raptors are 0-3 in Game 6 with a chance to win a series over the last three years, with all the losses on the road. If Milwaukee wins Thursday, Game 7 in Toronto would be Saturday. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)