First Cup: Friday

  • Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe: "Red Auerbach basically invented the concept of keeping good players (Frank Ramsey, John Havlicek, Kevin McHale) on the bench at the start of a game. Baby and Friends -- Nate Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, and Tony Allen -- paid homage to the Pine Brothers of parquet past, building an 11-point fourth-quarter lead after the Celtics trailed (by as many as 8) for most of the first three quarters. The burst from the bench saved the Celtics’ season: No NBA team has recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals. So now it comes down to a best-of-three. The Celtics will close down the Garden Sunday night, and the NBA championship will be won in Los Angeles Tuesday or Thursday. I don’t know about you, but I could watch these two teams play from now until August. The 2010 Finals are worthy of the 11 previous matchups between these rivals since 1959. Here in the Hardwood Hub, the theme going into Game 4 was the notion that the Celtics had yet to enjoy a game in which each member of the Big Three played well. We’re still waiting. This game was won by the Boston bench (36 points). Davis, Robinson, Wallace, and Tony Allen played the first nine minutes of the final quarter, when the game was won."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "When it is all working for Glen Davis, he is able to twist and turn his bulk in such a way that, somehow, it is its own unique brand of gracefulness. You think he can’t make those moves. Too big. Not too tall, but just, you know, too big. But then his wide eyes go one way and his wider backside goes the other, and then the whole package plows through the paint and to the basket, and, really, it can be enormously entertaining ... when it’s all working. In the Celtics’ 96-89 victory over the Lakers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals last night at the Garden, it was all working for the Celtics’ Big Baby. On a night when the Big Three was a big maybe, and on a night when Nate Robinson supplanted Rajon Rondo as the Celtics’ fourth-quarter wheeler-dealer, Davis showed everyone he was absolutely serious when he said winning this championship would mean sooooo much more than what the Green did to the Lakers way back in 2008."

  • Peter May for ESPNBoston.com: "Welcome back, Paul. The Celtics are glad you're back. Oh, and by theway, you are going back to Los Angeles. That's a good thing, right? Paul Pierce, the Celtics' captain, ruffled a few L.A. boas with his boast after Game 2 that the Celtics would not be coming back to the Staples Center, the clear inference being that Boston would sweep Games 3-5 at home and win the NBA championship in five games. Oh well. Entering the fourth quarter in Game 4, it did look as though the Celtics actually might not get back to Los Angeles, as they trailed 62-60 after having dropped Game 3. Staring a 3-1 deficit in the eyes, the Celtics' bench rescued the team. And when the starters did come in to finish the job in the final three minutes, they turned to a familiar fellow, No. 34. He delivered. ... The series is tied, 2-2, after Boston's 96-89 victory. And for the first time in three games, Pierce can lay claim to having played a major role in the outcome. (Unless, of course, he also played a major role in Game 3 by not playing due to foul trouble.) This was the same Paul Pierce who, his coach claimed, was taken out of Game 3 by the referees and not allowed to play. Not so in Game 4. Pierce finished with a team-high 19 points on a Prius-like economical and efficient shooting night (7-of-12, after being 13-of-36 in the first three games)."

  • Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com: "Looks like the Celtics have themselves a Kobe Stopper. Celtics guard Tony Allen racked up three DNP-CDs in three games to start the 2008 Finals and played just 19:02 total over the final three games of the series. Thursday night in the Celtics' crucial 96-89 win over the Lakers to tie up the 2010 Finals 2-2, Allen played 18:27 and may have changed who will win the championship. When the Celtics switched to Tony Allen sticking Kobe Bryant for the second half of Game 4 instead of Ray Allen who checked him in the first, it was a different ballgame. Bryant was 5-for-8 from the field in the first half and the Lakers led by three. He was just 5-for-14 in the second half with the guy the Celtics call 'T.A.' playing textbook defense on him, and the Lakers lost the game by seven. Allen's harassing presence contributed to Kobe coughing up seven turnovers."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "Just when you think the Celtics can't get any more annoying, here comes Nate Robinson. The little germ just beat the Lakers laughing and with his shorts falling down. Here comes Glen Davis, who truly was Game 4's X(L) factor. And here comes Tony Allen, who beat the Lakers even though he can't, technically speaking, shoot the ball a lick. The irritating Celtics are determined to make this a series, and now the Lakers are in a best-of-3 with plenty of eager moments still to come. Even worse, they allowed the infuriating Celtics to infuriate them. Boston’s players, led by the jabbering, jittering Robinson, jawed their way under the Lakers’ skin. Coach Phil Jackson called it the Celtics’ 'animation.' That’s a pretty good word since the 5-foot-9 Robinson resembles a cartoon character out there. And he did make the Lakers look a little like Wile E. Coyote. Now for the troubling part: The Lakers enter the deciding stretch of these NBA Finals unsure how much is left of Andrew Bynum. The team's young center was limited to 12 minutes because of his ailing and swelled right knee, giving the Lakers only two points and three rebounds. Bynum knew this was not going to be a good night for him early, in the first quarter, when he attempted to jump 'and it didn't happen.' The inability to jump in basketball is similar to lacking the ability to swim in swimming."

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "Bill Plaschke continues to make the case that the Lakers have to unload Andrew Bynum, insisting they replace him with free agent Chris Bosh. And by Sunday, I believe. 'I stand by it, stand by it, stand by it,' Plaschke said -- so used to no one listening to him on 'Around the Horn' that he must constantly repeat himself. Plaschke maintains that the Lakers will never be able to depend on Bynum's body, and while he's presently got that right, it doesn't speak to what we've learned about the young man. The kid has been determined, tough and tough-minded as he has pushed himself, obviously the kind of competitor a team needs to win a championship. And playing on one knee, he's been a force, the kind of player that separates one team from another. Most importantly, he's just a kid with the potential to dominate. Given the payoff, it's worth the gamble. Without Bynum in Game 4, the Lakers were just another scrambling NBA team unable to withstand home-court pressure and aggressive drives to the basket. ... Without Bynum in the middle, Boston's Glen 'Big Baby' Davis has suddenly become key player in the Finals. With Bynum on the court, Davis disappears."

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: "Lamar Odom has been considered a stand-up guy, a guy who never shies away from his shortcomings, a guy who takes on his failures and deals with them head on, and a guy who will stand before the media and take his medicine. The Lakers now need Lamar Odom to be a stand-up guy on the court, in the NBA Finals, against the Boston Celtics. More than ever, the Lakers can't have the Odom who is not a factor in these championship games against the Celtics, who is not aggressive, who is not playing to a level that can help the team. With Lakers center Andrew Bynum able to play only 12 minutes and 10 seconds in Game 4 because of continued swelling in his right knee, more pressure was placed on Odom to be productive. He didn't quite respond."

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: "Hire Tom Izzo and I'm back. If that was the message from LeBron James, via his handlers, to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, then we all know that James is going to stay in Cleveland and it's officially become a bad offseason for the Knicks. If, of course, Izzo accepts a job that has his name on it and comes with a reported $30 million pricetag. But tell me something: If James is not staying, if he really intends to pick up and move to the Knicks or Bulls or Nets or Clippers, then why would Gilbert give a very good college coach a contract totaling $30 million? If you knew your meal ticket was out the door, it'd make a lot more sense to hire a coach for a lot less. Without James, Izzo isn't going to sell out the arena because of what he did up at Michigan State. He will get to coach a mediocre team in front of 10,000 fans, on a good night."

  • Kevin Kleps of The News-Herald: "You can question Dan Gilbert for trying to lure a college coach to guide what he hopes will be an NBA championship contender led by two-time MVP LeBron James. You can wonder if he's getting back to his meddlesome ways after the firing of Mike Brown, a move with which Danny Ferry, who has since resigned, probably didn't agree. You can even consider the possibility that the Cavaliers' owner is desperately trying to bring in the biggest name he can (enter Tom Izzo) to appease the superstar most of us now believe to have been too coddled throughout his career. What you can't question is Gilbert's commitment and willingness to take a huge risk with the value of his franchise on the line. Many of you might have seen Ferry's resignation as general manager as the sign of a team in disarray. What if, instead, it was the result of a relentless owner who wasn't happy with the status quo, one who realized 66- and 61-win regular seasons can mean about as much as the latest LeBron James report coming out of New York?"

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: "Ted Leonsis mentioned many more newsy things at Verizon Center on Thursday on his first full day as owner of the Wizards. He said Gilbert Arenas should be hugged, not mugged. He paid homage to the late Abe Pollin, the only owner the Wizards franchise has known in Washington, while simultaneously saying real change is coming. He said the 'Wizards are a sleeping giant' in the 'basketball-mad' District. He used terms like 'connective tissue' and 'personal bandwidth' and words like 'proxy' and 'deliverables,' all these catchphrases that sounded as if he was charged with turning around a struggling Internet company rather than a reeling pro basketball team. But this is the one that grabbed me: 'When the team isn't good, people are in pain.' Leonsis enunciated that last word with so much emphasis he actually appeared pained saying it. Why do we get Ted like no other sports owner in town? Because he appears to get what Washington has been through with its pro teams lately and because he very possibly suffered along with their fans."

  • Brian T. Smith of The Columbian: "Everybody knows. Everyone seems to have an idea of what Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard should do. How and when Blazers owner Paul Allen should act. The exact time that Allen should pull the trigger. The exact moment that Pritchard should give in, give up and walk away. So, in honor of all the finger-on-the-pulse experts and perfect prognosticators, here’s an absolutely crazy, unbelievably off-the-wall idea: do not quit, Kevin. Do not give in. Do not give up. If the Blazers are going to fire you, make them. Do not resign. Do not sign anything. Do not walk away. If you truly are gone -- if the most damaging parts of the anonymous source-based, rumor-laced national reports predicting your imminent demise and destruction are true -- then make them smoke you out."