First Cup: Wednesday

May, 16, 2012
5/16/12
4:33
AM ET
  • Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post: LeBron James can't keep doing this. It's too much to ask of even of him. Much too much. James has an incredible engine, but it's going to give out running at the rpm it's generating. James won't admit to fatigue - so, never mind admitting to exhaustion - and he'll give all he has to give to the Heat ... but he'll risk overheating in the process. And that will cook Miami. Indiana tied the second-round playoff series at a win apiece with a 78-75 victory Tuesday night in AmericanAirlines Arena, and in no manner was the Heat loss James' fault. He led Miami in points (28), rebounds (nine) and assists (five). He was a monster. But he played almost 43 minutes after having played a bit more than 43 minutes in a Game 1 victory - when he also led the Heat in points, rebounds and assists - and that won't work in the long term. The cumulative burden will get to be too much. And don't forget the mental strain and pressure under which James operates as a superstar without an NBA title nine years into his professional career. Know what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told James late in the series' opening game, a 95-86 win? Here's what: "You can't get tired!" That's too harsh a demand.
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Dwyane Wade had to be kidding. No, really, tell me Wade was joking when he made a comment about the Pacers’ supposed celebration at the end of Game 2? “I heard they wanted to be like the Dallas Mavericks,” Wade said. “I saw their little celebration at the end of the game.” Celebration? I didn’t see a celebration. What I saw was a group of players congratulating each other on the court, then David West telling them to get off the court and head to the locker room because he knows they’ve still got some unfinished business. “We can’t get too excited because we won one game,” West said. “That is not our goal in this series. We can’t overreact because we were able to get one game down here.” Wade has no room to talk about anybody celebrating. Wade and LeBron are no doubt two of the best players in the world, but the Heat are at the top of the list of celebrating. They had a ceremony with smoke and everything else during a ceremony before the Big Three even played a game together in 2010. LeBron predicted the Heat would win numerous championships.
  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: Kawhi Leonard went for 16 points and six rebounds in 28 productive minutes in the Spurs’ 108-92 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers, flashing his all-around skills that have been present throughout the season. “Yeah, I’m just having fun,” Leonard said. “It’s competitive basketball and I love the game and play hard every possession. I’m having fun with it.” For Leonard, Tuesday’s game was just an extension of the regular season. He hit shots from the perimeter, was a disruptive force on defense with three steals and even drew several turns defending Chris Paul as Gregg Popovich looked to confuse the Clippers’ best offensive player. “He seems to have a pretty good knack for the ball,” Popovich said. “He makes a steal here and there. He’ll get an offensive rebound here and there. He’ll get a block now and then.” Those are the kind of talents that could make for a long NBA career. Bruce Bowen flashed those skills well enough to have his jersey hoisted into the rafters of the AT&T Center. Leonard isn’t there yet, but Tuesday’s big game is why he’s made a good start in his first season. "Obviously, he’s a rookie and he’s still figuring out what his game is,” Popovich said. “But he does things that help win basketball games.”
  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: Here we are in the NBA playoffs, the second round ever played by Blake Griffin, and how often do the Clippers ever advance to the second round? Our kid Griffin deserves some credit for that. But the columnist in San Antonio, whose first name is Buck and of course it is, ripped into Griffin before Game 1 as if Griffin had spat on the Alamo. "Griffin, healthy or not," concluded Bucko, "isn't ready for this yet." Griffin just turned 23. When Bucko was 23, and I checked with him, he was a ski bum lost somewhere in Europe. Bucko is now one of the best negative columnists in the country, but it took him only 40 years or so to nail it. Is there no patience when it comes to a young guy playing in only his 156th game? "Nobody is giving me time to develop," Griffin said without complaint while both knees were wrapped in ice after the Clippers' 108-92 Game 1 loss to the Spurs. "I have years to improve, but for some reason everyone talks now about what I can't do." Look across the living room and imagine your own uncoordinated blob of a kid getting pounded for not developing fast enough or read this about him as he travels to a far-off city. ... And here's where the negative and positive columnists separate themselves. How much fun have we already had in Lob City with the kid learning on the job, knowing some day he will be the one schooling everyone else? Or as he put it, Bucko: "Don't underestimate the power of someone who works hard."
  • Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Everybody always focuses on the last play of the game, but that's not really what games come down to. It's everything else that happens before, too," Doug Collins said. Coaches are sensitive to that point, because the final moments of games are where second-guesses live. It's easy to pick apart a decision about when to foul or when to try a three-pointer. What's hard is figuring out a 48-minute scheme that gets your team to those final seconds with a chance to win. Collins and Boston's Doc Rivers are more than capable of that task, and they have teams that can be either manipulated (Sixers) and massaged (Celtics) toward the finish line. After that, it's up to the bounce of the basketball or the capricious sound of the whistle. That's how narrow this series appears to be. Whether the Celtics are descending to meet the Sixers or whether the Sixers are ascending to reach the level of the Celtics hardly matters. It is probably some combination of those, as Boston ages before our eyes like Dorian Gray's portrait, and the Sixers seem to be leaving behind their awkward teenage years. The only factor that could really change the close nature of the series would be if Boston regains its normal shooting touch. The Sixers are playing pretty much the way they usually play at both ends of the court, but the Celtics are way off on their shooting percentages, particularly from behind the three-point line.
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: It is taken as an article of faith that the Celtics are a team of wise veterans. They are regularly celebrated for their “basketball IQ,” and if maybe they can’t run all night with the youngsters like they used to, well, history tells us the tortoise is above .500 against the hare. Or so the story line goes. But then there are times like Game 5 in Atlanta and Monday night’s Game 2 loss to Philadelphia when you’d swear the Celts need to be watered twice a day. Times when they are not smarter than a fifth-grader. ... The Sixers are deriving great benefit from the fact that there are times the Celtics take the court and leave their brains back in the huddle. In what has been a recurring theme for this crew over the last few years, they go away from their strengths. They stop running their stuff. Whether through ignorance or arrogance, they feel it unnecessary to do what they know works. Or maybe you have another explanation for why Kevin Garnett was largely ignored for three quarters Monday? And the effect is more than just a loss. It is what said loss requires the Celtics to do: play more basketball. A team with age and injury issues should know better, just like it should have when it gave away Game 5 to the Hawks in Atlanta in the previous series and gave away some therapeutic off time.
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Thunder center Kendrick Perkins, who aggravated a right hip muscle strain early in the third quarter of Game 1 on Monday night, once again will be a game-time decision as to whether he will start against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Perkins initially was injured in Game 4 in a series-clinching victory at Dallas on May 5. Perkins rested for eight days awaiting this second-round series and reinjured the hip at the 10:18 mark of the third quarter in Monday's 119-90 romp over the Lakers at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Perkins did not participate in Tuesday's practice because of soreness. Perkins received treatment in the afternoon and will again on Wednesday. He will be re-evaluated before the game. A final decision must come at least one hour before tipoff.
  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: The Lakers said all the right things Tuesday after getting picked-and-rolled to pieces during their 29-point loss Monday to the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series. Game 2 is tonight, and the Lakers said they must play with a greater understanding of the oldest play in the game if they hope to steal a victory and send the series to Staples Center with momentum on their side. Games 3 and 4 are Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles. The Lakers haven't rebounded from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-7 series since storming back to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 4-2 in the 2004 conference semifinals. The last time they were down 2-0, the Dallas Mavericks swept them last May. "We're all pretty edgy, but still pretty loose at the same time," Kobe Bryant said after Tuesday's film session and workout. "We're just looking forward to our next opportunity. We're a team that doesn't get down when we get blown out. We've been blown out a bunch of times." In fact, the Denver Nuggets smoked them by 17 points in Game 6 of the conference quarterfinals last week only to see them regroup to win Game 7 and advance to the next round. The Thunder should not be confused with the Nuggets, however.
  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: Just got off the phone with Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who earlier today agreed to terms on a new four-year contract. Mavericks president of basketball operations used the words "proud and relieved" to get the deal done, so what were Carlisle's emotions? "I'm very grateful," Carlisle said. "My biggest emotion is gratitude. To have the opportunity to do another contract, in this city with this franchise, this owner and GM, is a big deal to me. I don't take the responsibility lightly." Much was made this season about the fact that Carlisle, coming off an NBA championship with the Mavericks in 2010-2011, was in effect a free-agent-coach-to-be. It's customary, and deserved, to lock in coaches to new contracts immediately after championships. But 2011-2012 was no ordinary season. I believe throughout the year that the reason Carlisle and Cuban had not come to terms on a new deal was that about three-fourths of the players on the roster were either in the final year of their contracts or on one-year deals. What kind of message would it have sent to, for instance, Jason Terry, if the head coach was given longterm security when the player who scored 27 points in Game 6 of the 2011 Finals was not extended. Carlisle today seemed to confirm my suspicion.

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