Celtics vs. Cavaliers
Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Call it a pothole on the road to a long career, but Rajon Rondo is off to a rough start in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Though Rondo returned with some solid play in the second half of the Celtics' 89-73 win over the Cavaliers in Game 2 last night, a frustrated Celtics coach Doc Rivers replaced Rondo with Sam Cassell late in the first quarter. The bench players, including Cassell, James Posey, P.J. Brown and Leon Powe, erased an early 21-9 Cleveland lead and set the tone for an eventual Celtics blowout."
Christopher L. Gasper of The Boston Globe: "Last night, at halftime of the Celtics' 89-73 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series, Ray Allen was 0 for 3 from the floor, 0 for 7 in the series, and had gone six consecutive quarters without a point. Then it happened. Just 22 seconds into the third quarter, Allen put the ball in the basket on a transition layup. His reaction reverberated throughout the Garden. 'I think everybody else was relieved, too,' said Allen. 'It was like my first time getting on the floor, and I just got traded here or something and everybody was [feeling] like that's his first bucket in this building. When you're in a situation like that, you just have to keep fighting. You never back down. You stay aggressive.'"
Patrick McManamon of The Akron Beacon-Journal: "As Paul Pierce said, 'When we control him, we pretty much control their team.' Control him? The tea in colonial days fared better than James these past two games. And that's the reason the Cavs trail 2-0 in this series, and the reason they are on a dangerous ledge. They need to find an offense for the team, and for James, or it'll be a long offseason talking about what needs to be done."
Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer: "The terrible shooting from the Cavs in the first two games at Boston masks an even more disturbing sign: They are getting beat up on the boards. They came into the playoffs as the best rebounding team in the NBA, and they entered this game as the highest-ranking rebounding team in the playoffs. In the Boston games, the Cavs have been outrebounded, 88-80. That's a bit deceiving, because the Cavs were getting beat, 37-25, on the boards after three quarters of Game 2, when both teams used their reserves. Furthermore, they are being outhustled for loose balls, outworked on defense and outplayed in every facet of the game that requires effort."
Hornets vs. Spurs
John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "There's reason to be wary, obviously, but no need yet for the Hornets to tremble. One critical fact remains unchanged: New Orleans has home-court advantage and doesn't have to win a game in San Antonio. It would be nice, of course. It would probably lead to a quick conclusion of the series, would give the team a chance to rest, depending on the outcome of the Lakers-Utah series, and further stamp the Hornets as something special. But winning at the AT&T Center is a luxury for the Hornets, a necessity for the Spurs."
Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "On the same day Manu Ginobili was named to the all-NBA third team, he joined the Spurs first team. What followed -- from an end of the half jumper to a four-point play -- gave Ginobili the promotion both he and the Spurs needed. He became what he's so often been in the past. This wasn't easy, nor was anything else for the Spurs. But they played as if they knew this and accepted it, and the opening minutes set the theme."
Magic vs. Pistons
Tim Povtak of the Orlando Sentinel: "The rise of Howard -- from an 18-year-old No. 1 draft pick directly from high school into a budding phenom who made the All-NBA first team Thursday -- has led directly to the Magic's rise in prominence both within the league and around Central Florida. 'A player like Dwight creates the opportunity to sell hope,' said Alex Martins, Magic chief operating officer. 'True business success doesn't happen in this league until you win, but Dwight has been our building block, both on and off the court.'"
Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "Talking to Rasheed Wallace before practice Thursday, just casually, not an interview situation, but he brought up an interesting point. After Game 2, he made an odd comment to us about how he would be interested to see how the league handled the elbow that Dwight Howard threw in Game 2. We didn't know what he was talking about. None of us had seen it, but apparently, Howard nailed Arron Afflalo in the mouth with a full-on shiver sometime during the game. Wallace said the referees ignored it, but he was hoping the TV networks would jump on it. Didn't happen. I still haven't seen a replay of it. But to Sheed, it only fueled his point about the league taking care of its Golden Boys."
A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "Following Wednesday's 24-point effort in Detroit's 111-86 Game 3 loss, Hamilton has 2,219 points in the playoffs as a Piston -- just 42 behind the franchise leader, Isiah Thomas. He also is inching up on Bill Laimbeer's franchise-record for playoff games (113). Hamilton has played in 108 for Detroit, which ties him for fourth all-time on the franchise's leader list, with Vinnie Johnson. 'That's crazy to me,' said Hamilton, who scored a playoff career-high 40 points in Detroit's Game 5 series-clinching win over Milwaukee in 2006. 'When you look at guys like Isiah, and Joe (Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations) and all the good players that played, it's a great accomplishment.'"
Jazz vs. Lakers
Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "As they return home trailing the Los Angeles Lakers 0-2 in the Western Conference semifinals, the Jazz can take some comfort in having been here before in last year's playoffs against Houston in the first round and San Antonio in the conference finals. 'We've just got to focus on the first one, getting the first one,' Deron Williams said before Thursday's practice. 'Sometimes that's all you need is to get that one win and it'll jumpstart you and energize you, and that's what we need.'"
Brad Rock of the Deseret News: "In the mid-90s, when John Lucas was coaching the Spurs, his team was in Salt Lake. A courtside fan, attending with his son, was ridiculing Lucas, a former drug and alcohol addict. After several minutes of abuse, Lucas walked toward the end of the bench and said in his raspy voice, 'Why don't you show your son how to be a man?' The fan fell silent the rest of the night. Things are bound to be louder tonight than they were in Los Angeles. ESA is a house built for noise and Jazz fans can provide it. That's fine, just so they understand the difference between loud and loutish. And nobody needs reminding what it means to be a man."
Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Kobe Bryant's rookie season ended in failure. He missed two key free throws near the end of Game 5 of the 1997 Western Conference semifinals and the upstart Lakers were eliminated by a veteran Utah Jazz team, four games to one. Bryant said that game marked a turning point in his career. What's more, he spoke of it as if it was only yesterday. 'A lot of people don't remember a lot of that stuff, but it's been a learning process for me in terms of how to prepare and get your legs ready and how to take those shots and knock those shots down,' Bryant said Thursday. 'Some players when they go through something like that, it breaks them and they can't come back. I just looked at it as a challenge and came back better the next year.'"
Larry Stewart of the Los Angeles Times: "Chick Hearn has been gone since Aug. 5, 2002, but he certainly isn't forgotten. He was honored by the Lakers on Wednesday night right before Kobe Bryant got his MVP trophy. And Marge Hearn, a spry 90, was there to present the game ball to the referees. 'I didn't just hand it to them, I threw it to them,' she said proudly the next day from her home in Fullerton. Marge attends just about every Lakers game with granddaughter Shannon Pearce and husband Tim, who live about six miles away in Yorba Linda. Asked what her late husband would have thought of this Lakers team, Marge said: 'He would really like it. He would say these kids -- he would call them kids -- love each other. You can see it. He'd say, 'They're doing it together and I think it's great.'"
Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "You wouldn't think the compassion extended so lovingly to Derek Fisher and his family that magical night a year ago could be conditionally tied to a jersey. You wouldn't think folks could choose basketball over a family's inspirational fight against its baby girl's cancer. But it came to that just six months later when thousands of Utah Jazz fans booed Fisher because he dared return as a Laker, because a search for the best medical care for his daughter led him from Salt Lake City back to Los Angeles. One can only wonder what the reaction will be Friday night in Salt Lake City when Fisher takes the court for the Lakers in Game 3 of their playoff series against the Jazz. 'I think it'll be as crazy and hostile an environment as I have ever played in ... ever in my career,' Fisher said."
Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "For anybody who thinks Rick Carlisle was a name out of the blue to become the Mavericks' new coach, a history lesson is needed. President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson has known Carlisle for about 20 years, and they have a connection that goes back further. Both attended Worcester Academy, a prep school in Massachusetts. They were not at the school together; Carlisle preceded Nelson by a couple years. But both played basketball there, then went on to diverse careers in the game. 'I heard all the Rick Carlisle stories,' Nelson said. 'Every time somebody scored, I'd hear how Carlisle would never make that defensive mistake.'"
Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Bernie Bickerstaff, departing the Bobcats after initially serving as coach and general manager, shunned shortcuts. He left the franchise stronger. The public didn't appreciate that.Those first three seasons, people kept asking me why this retread was coaching the team. They wanted somebody younger and fresher, I guess because in these Web-driven, instant-gratification times, if you're not new you're not happening. Sam Vincent was new as new gets. How'd that turn out? Bickerstaff did two jobs -- he was coach/general manager until last summer -- with wisdom and restraint."
Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: "Can Warkentien, Chapman and Bearup agree on what direction to take the Nuggets? To put it nicely, this is a management team of three strong-willed, opinionated basketball men who too often appear to be competing for the ear of Kroenke. ... If the Denver front office cannot give the boss better advice or results, why should Kroenke continue to listen? Before the Nuggets can build a championship identity, this is a basketball organization that needs to find its voice."
Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "For the Suns, the quintessential turning point was a 1969 coin flip. Phoenix lost out on the No. 1 draft pick and a chance to get Lew Alcindor. But that was your call, Suns fans. Jerry Colangelo followed your lead when 51 percent of you picked heads in a Republic poll, and don't even dis Neal Walk, the No. 2 pick who gave the Suns quality center play. The Suns are always at some turning point, like this mess with Mike D'Antoni. If this is the end to his era here, as the fingernails on the wall suggest, there were regrettable moments that led the Suns to this point."
Michael Grange of The Globe and Mail: "Jose Calderon has gone all T.J. Ford. He had a blog entry on his website where he says that he too wants to be a starter. He also no doubt made his agent cringe with this line: 'If I have to choose between a sports offer and an economic offer, I will choose the first.' He also wants to 'be a starter and be in a team that aspires to everything.' He continues: 'Of course I will not be in a team in which I cannot be an important contributor nor if there is not a solid structure or if there are not options to be in the Playoffs'. I'm guessing Calderon will get his wish to be a starter and hey, don't all teams aspire to everything?"
Tom Enlund of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "But now, with Avery Johnson being fired as the Dallas Mavericks coach and Mike D'Antoni's days apparently numbered in Phoenix, some are wondering if Hammond didn't jump the gun and act too quickly in hiring Skiles. Hammond says no. 'It wouldn't matter what candidate would be available because this is the NBA,' said Hammond. 'This is professional sports in general and you know within the season these kinds of things are going to occ
ur. It's not like we're sitting here going 'Oh my gosh, can you believe this guy became available or this guy became available?'"
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Downplaying Erik Spoelstra's lack of an NBA-playing resume, forwards Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright instead gushed about how Spoelstra's insight into the pro game makes him a capable fit. 'Spo's probably been one of the most intelligent guys that I've been around, knowing the game of basketball,' Haslem said. 'Whether he played the game at the highest level or not, I know he has the knowledge to be an NBA coach. I can vouch for that.' Wright endorsed the elevation of the longtime Heat assistant. 'I said when I first got here and I met Spo and I knew his knowledge of the game, I knew he was going to be a head coach sooner or later,' he said. 'I didn't know if it was going to be here. I just knew sooner or later he was going to be a coach, just because of his IQ of the game.'"