The Los Angeles Lakers need to win the final two games of their NBA Playoff First Round series against the Phoenix Suns, starting on Thursday night at the Staples Center, or their reign as NBA champions will be over.
With Anthony Davis facing a race against time to return from the groin injury he suffered in Game 4, the Lakers will be hoping that one of their key weapons can play a major part in a somewhat unlikely comeback.
Their story is just one of the many unfolding narratives the current play-offs have thrown up, with some ding-dong series still going on while a number of teams are already waiting to get started in the conference semi-finals.
So what is the current state of play in the various series, and what can we expect from Thursday night’s games? Here’s the full run-down…
Philadelphia 76ers (No. 1 seed) v Atlanta Hawks (No. 5)
Sixers' First Round: Beat Washington Wizards 4-1
Hawks' First Round: Beat New York Knicks 4-1
GAME ONE: Sunday 6 June
The number-one seed Sixers were always in command of the series against a Wizards side which had come through the new Play-In Tournament to qualify. But with Joel Embiid potentially missing the conference semi-finals there will have to be a raising of the level from the rest of the team against a far better equipped Atlanta Hawks side. Tobias Harris will be their go-to man, but the prospect of Embiid being either missing or half-fit will not be pleasant for Philadelphia. The Hawks have the magnificent Trae Young in their ranks, but it will take a full-on team effort for them to take the Sixers deep.
Brooklyn Nets (No. 2) v Milwaukee Bucks (No. 3)
Nets' First Round: Beat Boston Celtics 4-1
Bucks' First Round: Beat Miami Heat 4-0
GAME ONE: Saturday 5 June
The all-star Nets meet the Bucks after both teams made light work of their lower-seeded opponents in the first round. Giannis Antetokounmpo unsurprisingly played a key role as Milwaukee swept the Heat, while James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durrant et al make for a formidable Brooklyn side who are 4/9 favourites to progress with Betfred.
Utah Jazz (No. 1) v Memphis Grizzlies (No. 8) – JAZZ WON 4-1
JAZZ FACE CLIPPERS OR MAVERICKS IN SEMI-FINALS
The Grizzlies really put the cat amongst the pigeons in Game 1 with a stunning win in Salt Lake City, but the top-seed Jazz took it out on them over the next four games to eventually win the series with ease. Donovan Mitchell was the star man throughout for Utah, and their 47-point onslaught in the first quarter of Game 5 was just the latest example of their clear superiority. They are now a 6/4 bet for the Western Conference title and considered 4/1 second favourites for the NBA Championship.
Phoenix Suns (No. 2) v Los Angeles Lakers (No. 7) – SUNS LEAD 3-2
Game Six: Thursday night 03:00BST @ Los Angeles
Game Seven: Saturday 5 June @ Phoenix (if necessary)
The question mark hanging over Anthony Davis is the big storyline going into a Game 6 that the Lakers simply have to win. LeBron James couldn't do all the lifting himself in a heavy loss in Game 5 without Davis, and the Suns will fancy their chances whether Davis is missing or simply hindered by the groin problem. Devin Booker has starred for the Suns so far, with more than 26 points per game on average, and Phoenix will be hoping he can do enough on Thursday night to ensure there is no winner-takes-all game back at the Suns Arena this weekend.
Denver Nuggets (No. 3) v Portland Trail Blazers (No. 6) – NUGGETS LEAD 3-2
Game Six: Thursday night 01:00BST @ Portland
Game Seven: Saturday 5 June @ Denver (if necessary)
This series has been nip and tuck from the off, with the Nuggets' victory in a second period of overtime in Game 5 just the latest example of how well matched the two sides are. The Blazers are 100/1 outsiders to collect the NBA title but have given the higher-seeded Nuggets a real run for their money so far despite the five-win difference in their regular-season records.
Los Angeles Clippers (No. 4) v Dallas Mavericks (No. 5) – MAVERICKS LEAD 3-2
Game Six: Thursday night 02:00BST @ Dallas
Game Seven: Saturday 6 June @ Los Angeles (if necessary)
Luka Doncic has proven to be an absolute beast in the First Round so far, tallying 35 points, eight rebounds and 9.4 assists per game across the first five. His form has been the driving force behind the Mavericks going into a home game six with the chance to wrap up the series and book a meeting with the number-one seed Utah Jazz. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George et al will have to lay it all on the line if the Clippers are to rescue the series and head to Salt Lake City for another round.