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First Cup: Friday

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "You can clock Derrick Rose in the head, as Jeff Foster did midway through the third quarter. You can throw long-armed defenders at him like Paul George or try fresh looks like Dahntay Jones. You can even harass him into 4-for-18 shooting, as the Pacers did Thursday night at Conseco Fieldhouse with a withering, brutally physical defense. But you can't stop Rose's spirit. That's why Rose wrote another chapter in his growing legend, driving past Jones and scoring with his left hand over Roy Hibbert and Danny Granger with 17.8 seconds left, the game-winning shot in the Bulls' gritty 88-84 victory over the Pacers. The Bulls now lead the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinals 3-0 with a chance to close out the sweep here Saturday. Expect more undeniability."

  • Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune: "Is Carlos Boozer so weak that he can’t come up with a good game after a bad start? In the first half of Game 3 of the Bulls’ playoff series against the Pacers, Boozer managed only two points, same as the number of fouls he committed. And then he got worse, missing six shots in the third quarter, one of them a dunk. A dunk, do you hear me? After contributing 17 points a game before, Boozer was lost early in Game 3. And he stayed lost. No rhythm, no touch, no nothing. He ended up with four points and four fouls. Yeah, the Bulls won, but $80 million must go a lot farther if the Bulls are going a lot farther."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "Let's be honest about this: Moral victories are just going to have to suffice for now for the Indiana Pacers. Going toe-to-toe with the Chicago Bulls, forcing them to execute perfectly in the final moments night after excruciating night, will just have to be enough for a group goingthrough the most agonizing growing pains imaginable. This is who the Pacers are right now: a half-formed lump of clay, a young, incomplete team that desperately needs a low-post presence who can take over late-game situations. We saw it in Game 1. And Game 2. And Game 3. As Mike Dunleavy said after Thursday night's 88-84 Game 3 loss, 'It's been Groundhog Day.' Sorry, but Reggie Miller, one of the league's greatest closers ever, isn't walking through those Conseco Fieldhouse doors any time soon. Time is the best remedy for what ails this franchise. ... This may turn into the most competitive sweep -- or five-game series -- in NBA playoffs history. Get this: In the first three games, the Bulls have never led by more than seven points. 'We're so close,' Paul George said quietly. For now, close is just going to have to be good enough.'

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "It sounds rather simplistic to say that Dwyane Wade needs to score for the Heat to win games. But it’s not always true. The Heat can and has won with Wade having poor shooting games this season, and Miami won two games to start this series without Wade at his best. What is true, though, is that if the Heat is going to get through the playoffs with a handful of road wins -- and what team can march through the playoffs without a few of those? -- Dwyane Wade needs to be at or near his best in just about every one of those games. For most of this season, LeBron James has been the savior on the road. But that tune changes in the playoffs. The Heat can’t afford to wait for James to get hot from the perimeter, which is what most of his huge scoring road games have been built on. ... The Heat doesn’t need Wade to be at his best to beat the Sixers in this series. Philadelphia is a team with a massive superstar void, which means the Heat, and its surplus of stars, can coast to a series win in five or six games without the Finals MVP-version of Wade. But in future series, it’ll take this Wade for Miami to advance. Nights like this one -- 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists -- might have to become commonplace if the Heat is going to roll into other buildings and exit with a win. Thursday night’s performance was a healthy reminder that he’s still more than capable -- no matter what the opposition’s game plan is."

  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: "I'm just not sure how much more you can ask of the 76ers than what they gave last night at the Wells Fargo Center. Coming home with a 2-0 deficit in their Eastern Conference playoff series, they responded exactly the way a young and seemingly overmatched team would against an opponent as formidable as the Miami Heat. You wanted passion. The Sixers displayed it. You wanted heart. The Sixers bled theirs out. You wanted determination, courage, fight, composure, toughness. The Sixers had all of that and more. It was a monumental effort by the Sixers that forced the Heat and its star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to utilize every ounce of determination they could muster. Still, the end result - the only thing that matters this time of the year - was that the Heat pulled out a 100-94 victory. Sometimes the other team is just better, and no matter how much effort you give, it's not enough."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "First he saved a franchise. Now, Brandon Roy just might have saved a series. Buoyed by an effective and energized performance by the embattled face of the franchise, the Trail Blazers on Thursday stayed alive in this best of seven series with a 97-92 win over Dallas in Game 3 at the Rose Garden. Dallas leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is Saturday at the Rose Garden. Roy had 16 points and four assists in 23 minutes, one game after he expressed frustration and hurt following a scoreless Game 2 in which he played eight minutes. 'This is the guy we know is capable of producing,' coach Nate McMillan said. 'I said this to you guys before, and I will say it again, there's nobody in this state, not even Brandon Roy, who wants to see him on the floor as much as I do. He has meant a lot to this organization. I certainly have not forgotten about him.' "

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "The Mavericks knew this wasn’t going to be easy, and Game 3 left no doubt about just how tough this first-round playoff series is going to be. They lost a rugged 97-92 decision to the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night at the Rose Garden that reduced their lead in the best-of-7 first-round series to 2-1. At this point, it remains anybody’s series as both teams have been unbeatable at home. That’s the bad news, with Game 4 in Portland on Saturday afternoon. The Mavericks were more focused on the uplifting notion that they didn’t play anything approaching their best basketball and still had a legitimate chance to win. Sloppy play, poor free-throw shooting, foul problems and the inability of anybody to step up in support of Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry doomed them. This was nothing close to a silver-bullet effort. 'Not at all,’ said Shawn Marion. 'We’ll play better. We’re still cocked and loaded.’ It was more of a jammed trigger Thursday. The Mavericks weren’t sharp enough and even though they survived a strong Blazers’ start to the game, the Mavericks never really felt like they had control of things."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban said he was hit in the face with an object that was thrown from the stands during the fourth quarter of Thursday night's loss to Portland. The incident happened with 6:56 to go in the game. During a timeout, Cuban drew the ire of Blazers' fans and it was clear that there was some dialogue going on. It's not uncommon for Cuban to interact with fans, but this was different. 'Somebody hit me in the face,' Cuban said after the game. 'Somebody threw something and it hit me.' Cuban was not hurt and said security was doing a good job of making sure the Mavericks were not in harm's way. Cuban declined to say anything further about getting hit by a thrown object."

  • Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian: "The Trail Blazers are among the many professional and college sports teams that have gone to variable pricing in recent years, and that has led to high prices during the playoffs. Blazers ticket prices vary during the regular season based on opponent. For example, the same seat in the 100 lower level end zone ran $72 for a game against Cleveland, $90 for a game against San Antonio and $180 for the Los Angeles Lakers. The first round of the playoffs has been set at the Lakers pricing levels with center court seats in the 100 level running $265 each and 300-level center court seats as high as $75. If that seems high, it is. According to FanSnap.com, a site devoted to ticket news for fans, the Blazers have the third-highest average ticket price for the first-round of the NBA playoffs at $194 per ticket. Others in the top five are: New York Knicks, $360; Los Angeles Lakers, $278; Boston Celtics, $179; and Miami Heat, $166."

  • William C. Rhoden of The New York Times: "The pillorying of Knicks Coach Mike D’Antoni has reached the point of unfairness. The team narrowly loses its first two playoff games on the road to the Boston Celtics, a team with three future Hall of Fame candidates, and fans want to throw stones at the coach. The Knicks lose their Rock of Gibraltar guard, Chauncey Billups, at a crucial juncture in Game 1, then lose Amar’e Stoudemire in Game 2. Carmelo Anthony scores 42 points in Game 2, and fans want to nitpick endgame decisions. Misery and fatalism are annual staples for Knicks fans. The sky is always falling. This should be a time of celebration in New York. Spring is here. Madison Square Garden will be rocking Friday night when the Knicks host their first playoff game since 2004, maybe the first that has mattered in a decade. On top of everything else, this series is one the Knicks, depending on the severity of the injuries to Billups and Stoudemire, can win. ... There have been a number of good shepherds who led the Knicks close to basketball’s promised land. Now with Stoudemire and Anthony -- maybe Billups, hopefully Chris Paul, the star guard who may be available in the next year or so -- fans can see the outline of a championship trophy. Let the Knicks percolate; let them brew. D’Antoni is the right coach for the Knicks at the right time. If we’re having this conversation about him next season at this time, then, sure, by all means, jettison him. But for now, Knicks fans need to back off and celebrate the light. Not for D’Antoni’s sake, for their own."

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday "Carmelo Anthony is ready for his close-up. With the Knicks trying to avoid an 0-3 deficit in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series with the Boston Celtics , and the possibility of playing with a limited Amar'e Stoudemire (back) and without Chauncey Billups (knee), Anthony will step onto the Madison Square Garden court for Friday night's Game 3 with the desperation of a franchise on his shoulders and the focus directly on him. ... Anthony couldn't have done much more -- other than perhaps taking the last shot rather than passing to Jared Jeffries on that infamous final possession -- to help the Knicks win Game 2 in Boston on Tuesday. His 42 points, 17 rebounds and six assists was an all-time performance, but it still resulted in a loss. And though some criticized his decision to pass rather than shoot -- after he was criticized for shooting rather than passing on the final possession of Game 1 -- others chastised Anthony for how he seemed satisfied in defeat. He even used the word 'fun' to describe the game. Gasp! Kobe Bryant never would have talked like that. 'I'm not Kobe , though,' Anthony replied with his ubiquitous Cheshire cat grin in place. 'I ain't Kobe , man.' "

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "Charles Barkley issued an apology to Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh at halftime of TNT 's 76ers-Heat broadcast Thursday nightfor comments he made about D'Antoni's job security before Game 2 of the Knicks -Celtics series Tuesday. 'I have a rule; I try to always be honest and fair on TV,' he said. 'I screwed up the other night when I said something about Mike D'Antoni that wasn't cool. I want to apologize to Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh . When you're on television, you should never talk about someone getting hired or fired. That's inappropriate. I made that mistake. I want to apologize personally to Mike D'Antoni and Donnie Walsh. I've got a great respect for Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni. I want to apologize. That's all I can do.' "

  • Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe: "The Knicks’ fan base will get its chance tonight. And the Celtics will get a chance to see how the New York crowd reacts to the end of the long playoff drought. Asked if he was pleased to see Madison Square Garden back in the playoff rotation, Doc Rivers said, 'Not really. I would prefer it to be nice and docile. I liked it better that way.’ But that’s not really how it seems. It seems as if the Celtics will be glad to be walking into Madison Square Garden tonight, glad to face off against a set of fans with ready vocal cords, aware of the arena and all the attention that brings. 'They’ll be ready with energy, and they’ll actually think they have an impact,’ said Rivers. 'But I like that. I think our guys love that atmosphere. I think it’s fun when you go on the road.’ "

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "The guy known as The Milkman during his Jazz playing days in the 1990s was picked to be Sloan's permanent successor. He was THE man. General manager Kevin O'Connor even jokingly (or maybe not so jokingly) said he hoped the franchise wouldn't bid farewell to Corbin until 2034, with the idea that he'd also last 23 years in Utah a la Sloan. Those fond feelings, by the way, haven't changed. Skeptics might blast the Jazz for giving the inexperienced Corbin a multi-year contract, especially in light of how the team missed the playoffs and only went 8-20 under his guidance to end the 2010-11 season. But Corbin inherited a team in turmoil, replaced a living legend, lost his best player in a trade and finished with almost half of his squad in the training room with a fill-in-the-blank injury. If anything, how Corbin handled himself, his team and his sticky situation -- one that got even stickier as the weeks progressed -- earned him more respect from upper management and the players he coached. Corbin has the Jazz's full confidence and support -- despite heading into an offseason without first participating in the postseason."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "For Pistons fans who think restricted free agent Rodney Stuckey should not return as the team's point guard, there could be a viable replacement option in the NBA draft. Kentucky freshman point guard Brandon Knight is testing the waters, and if he decides to remain in the draft, he could be available when the Pistons pick. Detroit will have a top-10 pick, with the number determined during the May 17 draft lottery. Knight isn't hiring an agent and has until May 8 to withdraw from the draft, but given his likely lottery-pick status, Knight is probably done at the collegiate level. ... Drafting Knight would not necessarily mean that the Pistons would let Stuckey go. They most likely would re-sign Stuckey and move him to combo guard."

  • Dan Steinberg of the The Washington Post: "It’s been more than seven months since Ernie Grunfeld let slip the news that the Wizards would be returning to red-white-and-blue uniforms for the 2011-2012 season. Now, finally, we have a date. The Wizards announced on Thursday that they will unveil 'the team’s updated brand featuring a red, white and blue color scheme during an exclusive event at Verizon Center on May 10 at 11:00 a.m.' The new look, according to the press release, includes 'new uniforms and marks.' ... The event will be open to private guests and media members, but will also be streamed live on the team's Web site. Ernie Grunfeld, Flip Saunders and current and former Wiz/Bullets players are scheduled to attend, which I guess tells you something about Saunders’s future with the organization. For the superstitious types, recall that the Caps unveiled their red-white-and-blue look in June of 2007, and made the playoffs the following Spring. The models were Chris Clark, Brian Pothier, Ben Clymer and last-man-standing Jeff Schultz."