First Cup: Monday

  • Ron Borges of the Boston Herald: "Before last night’s pivotal Game 5 of the NBA Finals, Doc Rivers was asked about the weight of the Celtics’ long tradition. He said his team embraced it. Last night the players backed up their coach. Desperately in need of leaving Boston with a 3-2 edge on the hated Lakers (is there any other kind?) as the two teams return to Los Angeles to decide who is the NBA champion, tradition needed to be upheld, both short term and long term. The long term was obvious. Celtics teams of yore simply did not lose a game of this import on the Garden parquet. Short term, it was that the Big Three needed to finally come through as one. They did, although Paul Pierce was the biggest of the three. Pierce was 12-of-21 from the floor for a team-high 27 points in a 92-86 win that sends the series back to the edge of Hollywood with another Los Angeles horror film one victory from being produced by the Celtics."

  • Peter May for ESPNBoston.com: "Paul Pierce is not going to out-Kobe Kobe. He can't. But unlike Kobe, Pierce has had productive sidekicks these last two games to go along with his own, ever-improving play. As LA coach Phil Jackson noted, 'When he [Pierce] is comfortable out there, he can be very difficult to guard. There's a lot of things he has as weapons out there.' And, as he showed Sunday night, he can also make a dramatic statement or two without scoring or even shooting."

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "Even as he scored 23 consecutive points for theLakers -- including a 19-point barrage over the first six minutes of the third quarter -- Kobe Bryant watched as incredulously as Dwyane Wade as Boston turned a one-point deficit in the second quarter into a double-digit lead in the third quarter. The Celtics quietly weathered the Bryant storm, leaning on a balanced attack that the Lakers desperately lacked en route to a 92-86 triumph. Boston now leads the series, 3-2, and heads to Los Angeles needing one more victory for a second title in three years. For a team fueled by its defense, the Celtics sure didn't seem flustered by what Bryant was doing on the court Sunday. Every time he made a leaning jumper or a ridiculous 28-foot 3-pointer, Boston simply answered with a bucket of their own, often driving right at the rim. Over a six-minute span in which he connected on seven straight baskets to open the third quarter, Bryant never generated consecutive buckets without Boston scoring in between. ... Two months ago Boston would have crumbled in that same situation. Sunday night, it pushed them to the brink of another NBA title."

  • Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette: "Nate Robinson didn’t play much in the first three rounds of the playoffs before scoring 13 points in the clincher against Orlando. 'It’s like being at school,' Robinson said. 'You’ve just got to wait. You study, do your homework, and when you go in a game, that’s a test. You play good, and you pass the test. You’re always got to stay prepared.' Now he’s helping the Celtics with his scoring and energy. 'We’re having a blast,' Robinson. 'To be able to express yourself when you’re out there playing shows the way you love the game.' This is not only Robinson’s first trip to the NBA Finals, it’s his first postseason. Prior to joining the Celtics in a trade on Feb. 18, Robinson had never made the playoffs in four seasons with the Knicks."

  • Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com: "While reporters surrounded his locker, Ron Artest sat in silence and perused the post-game stat sheet. He dragged his finger across Kobe Bryant's 38-point line and looked at the other numbers on the page before putting it down and looking up. 'No matter what it says on this stat sheet we did it together,' Artest said. 'We did all this together.' That's true, but unfortunately for the Lakers, Artest and his frontcourt teammates didn't add much to the collective total, and their absence is a big reason the Lakers are now one loss away from losing to the Celtics in the Finals again. Beside Artest's seven points, Lamar Odom came off the bench and added 8 points, while Pau Gasol had 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting (one of his worst games as a Laker). ... 'It's not over,' Odom said as he left the locker room. 'It's their third win, so it's not like the trophy is theirs. They have to take it on our home court. We're ready to go home and do what we have to do on our home court.' No, it's not over. But to keep the series alove, what Odom, Artest and Gasol 'have to do' is a whole lot more than they did in Boston Sunday."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "This is no longer a series, it is a stereotype, the resilient Celtics boxing around the retreating Lakers, 92-86, Sunday at TD Garden to take a three-games-to-two lead. The Finals return to the comfort of Staples Center for Game 6 on Tuesday, with a possible Game 7 there on Thursday, but don't be fooled. If home is where the heart is, the Lakers need to conduct an all-out search once they arrive. At this point, the better team is not the better team. The biggest is not the strongest. Style is getting whacked by substance. Talent is getting whacked by tough. Said Bynum: 'We've got to get into it.' Said the Celtics' Tony Allen: 'We're way into it.' That pretty much said it all on a night when a biology class turned into a history lesson. Less than two weeks after the Lakers began the series showing their 2010 guts, they have reverted to their 2008 softness."

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: "Pau Gasol, for all his sweet skills and how pivotal he has been to the Lakers’ greatness these past three years, has been passive, indecisive and -- yes -- soft when the pressure is on, the footing is unfamiliar and the faces are even more so. Gasol faltered yet again Sunday night on the road and in the clutch, pushing the Lakers to a 3-2 NBA Finals deficit. It was the same old spiel from Gasol afterward, reminding himself to 'be the aggressor' the next game. He said his plan for Game 6 is to be 'very, very aggressive, very confident, and understand the situation we’re at now.' And there is a great possibility Gasol does redouble his efforts and push himself into those tight spaces and dark places he doesn’t just go by nature. He’s that smart and self-aware that he can do that, so maybe in the long-term future he can fix what has been wrong in his past, too."

  • Mark Whicker of The Orange County Register: "Welcome back to the years of the short spring, when it was Kobe Bryant v. The World. The World usually wins that one. As if transported to 2006 and 2007, the BP (Before Pau) period in recent Lakers history, Bryant was forced to be Hal Holbrook or James Whitmore, the one-man show in Kobe Bryant Tonight. The fact that he could do such a thing, could go 7 for 9 with three 3-pointers in the third quarter of Game 4 against the one team best-equipped to impede him, might be the one shred of value the Lakers can take home from Boston. If any other Laker had decided to crawl onto the stage with Kobe, maybe the club could have swiped this game, as undeserving as they were. That did not happen, the Celtics won, 92-86, and the Lakers trail 3-2 with Games 6-7 at home."

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "I just love Our Ball Hog when he puts on a one-man show like this, after all, this is only Sunday night entertainment unless you somehow think your life changes whether the Lakers win or not. He scored 23 straight points between the second and third quarters, many of them dancing off one leg and falling backward, the other guys on his team just running around and letting the Celtics score so he might shoot again. This was superstar basketball, almost a made-for-TV movie, one against five in a dramatic shootout. He scored the first 19 points in the third quarter for the Lakers, the Lakers down by 11 when he started ignoring the rest of his teammates and down by 11 when he had finished. Over the years it doesn't always mean the Lakers are going to win when Our Ball Hog loses sight of everyone else, but you've got to admit it's the best in basketball entertainment."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "It's difficult to watch these NBA Finals and not think about the changing face of the league, and along with it the evolving definition of success and greatness on the basketball court. These teams, led by 'old school' players, are attempting to achieve true greatness, the kind that can only come from winning -- and winning some more. Then there is the greatness that is becoming the new standard in the league -- the kind that rewards stats and dunks and highlights on nearly the same levels as winning championships. How else do you explain the fan indifference shown to Lakers star Kobe Bryant, owner of four championship rings, one of the truly great players to play in the NBA? How else do you explain the overwhelming interest in where some of the league's best players are headed in free agency -- most of whom have never won anything in the league -- which rivals, or maybe exceeds, interest in which team will reach the pinnacle of its profession in the next few days? Increasingly, success is measured in dollar signs and branding. ... One big reason I'm loving this series between the Lakers and Celtics is its ties to winners of the past, the effort those players put out every single possession and the singular focus with which they carry out the task of winning. It's an old-school value set against a backdrop of new-school ideals."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Clearly Atlanta believes LD (Larry Drew) offers something distinct from Woody (Mike Woodson). The Hawks hired him after rejecting not just Woody but his entire program. Promoting his lead assistant means they don’t think LD got much of a chance to put his stamp on that program. And the Hawks are telling you that not only do they expect LD’s way to be better than Woody’s way, but that he’s the guy to guide them to the next level even though he’s never been in the head coach’s seat before. Anybody making snap judgments about the legitimacy of those views is just guessing. Rick Sund and ASG made their choice. LD gets his shot to win over skeptics. At some point it will become clear if he’s the right choice. I talked to some players this weekend, and all of them said they expect LD’s approach to be different than Woody’s. Drew often ran the second-team offense in practice and was said to deploy creative sets, with one player describing them as a “fun” departures from the isolations. Another player said when things went badly for the Hawks, LD tended to be more of an 'encourager' than a 'screamer' and focused his energy on laying out a detailed plan for how the Hawks can get better. ... As one player said, now it’s up to him and his teammates to support Drew by getting on board with his program, respecting his decisions even if they don’t like them and sacrificing for the team. Otherwise, no matter if LD draws up better plays, holds all guys accountable and develops the next Rook’, he might end up just like Woody did in the end."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "NBA executives are not trained in this area but have found ways to examine players' potential, character and psychological profile without tests. Williamson, a former college recruiter and long-time NBA scout, is the Grizzlies' czar when it comes to this part of the process. He's asking questions to hear not only what a player says but also how he says it. As the Griz evaluate draft prospects they'll consider taking June 24 with their picks at 12, 25 and 28, the goal is simple. 'You want to separate the sincerity from the BS,' Williamson said. 'When they start to BS you then you kind of attack them with some other straight-forward questions. The process is a little intimidating. You're sitting in a room with a bunch of people you don't know. What we impart before we begin is there is no right or wrong answer. We're trying to see what kind of personality the player has, what kind of intellect he may or may not possess and, obviously, we'll get into your background.' Most athletes who go through the interview process are unsure about what topics will be discussed. Some come off as extremely nervous. Others are confident. Williamson remains at ease."