Pistons vs. Magic
Rob Parker of The Detroit News: "A lot of the credit for this team has to go to president Joe Dumars, who has put this well-oiled machine together. It's not often a team without a bona fide superstar and with three different coaches over seven years could enjoy this much success. 'So many times everyone talks about certain teams have the players that have a guy to carries them,' said coach Flip Saunders, who is going to the conference finals for the third time in three years in Detroit. 'Joe built this team on the idea of a team, and when one piece happens to go out, the other pieces you can stick in and it can continue to run as a unit, operate on all pistons, no pun intended.'"
Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press: "They did it the old-fashioned way. They stole it. They swiped it. They poked it, scooped it, slapped it, wrestled it away. Twelve times they stole the ball Tuesday night. Nine other times, Orlando threw it away under pressure. Twenty-one turnovers? Thirty-four points off turnovers? 'That's what we knew we were gonna win the game on,' Rip Hamilton said after the Game 5 clincher. 'Defense.'"
Bill Khan of Booth Newspapers: "What Rodney Stuckey lacks in experience, he more than makes up for in confidence. Boy, does he ever. 'I know I can play, man,' he said. 'Nothing's hard for me.' The thing about it is, Stuckey is not just another cocky young NBA player with an inflated sense of his own ability. The rookie point guard from Eastern Washington has backed up his words with his play, getting the Detroit Pistons through a tough situation and into the Eastern Conference finals..."
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "There was obviously dejection in the moments after the loss Tuesday at the sold-out Palace, but soon enough the regret will subside, and Magic Nation will start looking eagerly toward next year. 'It's disappointing it has to end like this, but overall I think we had a great season,' Magic center Dwight Howard said. 'The exciting part is that we're going to get better and better.' And this is why the season has to be considered a resounding success: Because for the first time in years, this team and town actually can look ahead hopefully at the Magic's future instead of looking back ruefully at their past. "
David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel: "That's not to say the loss belonged to Hedo Turkoglu. On the contrary, if not for him the Magic might never have scored in the fourth quarter. He just happened to be the guy taking the game's most pivotal shot. Again, don't stop if you've read this before. In Game 2 Turkoglu jacked up a 3-point Scud missile. In Game 4 he drove the lane, didn't get a foul call and lofted a short airball. On Tuesday he drove in for a dunk and was rejected by Tayshaun Prince. Stan Van Gundy said before the game that it's not fair to judge a book by its final page. If any of those shots had gone in, we'd be praising the Magic and not burying their playoff corpse. 'I don't have any doubt about our guys' toughness and resiliency,' he said. I don't either. But how can you not doubt that something vital is missing?"
John Denton of Florida Today: "Otis Smith said that head coach Stan Van Gundy's relentless drive has helped make the Magic a more mature and focused team. One that often lost to lesser teams last season improved to the point this season that it won 52 games and a Southeast Division crown, highs for the franchise in 12 seasons. 'I think Stan has done a good job of bringing consistency to this team and these guys,' Smith said. 'Like me, he's never going to be OK with being OK. That's kind of the mantra for both of us. I think it's made us a tougher group. We know that we're better than OK and we're not going to settle for that.'"
Spurs vs. Hornets
James Varney of The Times-Picayune: "One odd thing about the Hornets/Spurs series: the games haven't been close. Popovich said he can't explain why one team -- the home team -- seems to win big each game. 'I've seen a little bit of everything, and I don't have any rhyme or reason as to why games aren't close,' he said. 'Just in general, one would think with two good teams playing the games would have been closer than they have been.'"
John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Tyson Chandler bruised his left foot in the fourth quarter of Game 5 against the Spurs on Tuesday night after landing awkwardly, but he said he will be available to play Thursday night in Game 6 in San Antonio. 'I landed funny, and I kind of lost feeling in it,' Chandler said. 'But I'll be fine.'"
Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "Don't look for a virus to blame. And don't blame Joey Crawford. This time, the truth was as obvious as a stat sheet. This time, the Hornets played the Spurs' game, and David West played the way Tim Duncan was supposed to. This time, West was the one with an excuse, with a back that tightened up as early as the second quarter, and this time, West was the best power forward in the game. The Spurs can't afford this the next time."
Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Tuesday he would contact NBA vice-president of basketball operations Stu Jackson about what he believed was an incorrect interpretation of the rules by referee Joey Crawford near the end of the first quarter of Tuesday's game. Both teams were called for delaying the game by Crawford while the Hornets' Melvin Ely was at the free-throw line with 10.5 seconds left in the period. Hornets players Bonzi Wells and David West went back and forth across the lane trying to decide where to line up, and the Spurs adjusted each time. When Crawford called a delay of game on both teams, Popovich protested. His protest continued between the quarters, and he was given a technical foul by Crawford, who appeared to poke his finger in Popovich's chest during the argument."
Jazz vs. Lakers
Linda Hamilton of the Deseret News: "Ten games into the Utah Jazz's NBA playoffs run, several of forward Andrei Kirilenko's averages are down a touch from what he had in the regular season. But Kirilenko is still playi
ng well and has had big impact with bursts like he exhibited in the last two home games -- both wins for the Jazz over the Los Angeles Lakers to tie up the second-round series at two games each heading into Wednesday's battle at Staples Center -- and in Game 2 at Los Angeles. 'I think his head's there,' said Jazz special assistant coach Jeff Hornacek. 'He's feeling pretty good about playing. Usually it's a sign if he's struggling a little if he's not active, but he's been active in the playoffs. He's got a lot of blocks. That's what we want from him is just to be active.'"
Doug Robinson of the Deseret News: "We interrupt the NBA playoff series between the Utah Jazz and L.A. Lakers to bring you the Ronnie Price coming-out party. The young point guard's role is to hold down the fort while superstar Deron Williams rests, but against the Lakers he has done more than that, putting on a clinic in hustle and big plays."
Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "By winning Sunday's Game 4, even though it unnecessarily became an overtime struggle, the Jazz have improved over last season. To me, lasting this long with the top-seeded Lakers clearly trumps the achievement of beating eighth-seeded Golden State in the second round and then losing to San Antonio in five games of the West finals. But now that they're here, beginning what amounts to a best-of-three series with the Lakers, that's not good enough. They have a chance to do much more -- and they know it."
Ramona Shelburne of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Lakers coach Phil Jackson used the occasion of Ariza's first day back at practice to create a little competition for starting forward Vladimir Radmanovic. 'Vlade has not played well in the last two games, and we need somebody to step into that position and that's the position he (Ariza) plays,' Jackson said. 'I'm not holding it out as an opportunity for him (Ariza) to step right into it, but we like Luke (Walton) in the role that he's at, coming off the bench and giving us some input and finishing games for us, so we'll see if Vlade can't right his game here.'"
Jim Alexander of The Press-Enterprise: "If this condition lingers, expect the Lakers offices to field a lot of calls from chiropractors or acupuncturists offering their services, out of the goodness of their hearts (but a couple of floor seats would be nice compensation). 'It's not easy to play with, because it takes away your explosiveness, your athleticism, your speed,' said Pau Gasol, who was dealing with his own lower back problem at the time the Lakers acquired him from Memphis in February. 'You've just got to strengthen your core, make sure you stretch well, get some rest. You have to kind of let the muscles relax, because they probably spasm (when) they suffer.' Above all, though, you have to know your limitations. That may be Kobe's biggest challenge."
Celtics vs. Cavaliers
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "With the Celtics pushed essentially to the brink tonight by the fact they become highly perishable when removed from the Boston air, the best thing that could happen to their offense -- particularly in crunch time -- is for KG to hold his ground in the crease (OK, the paint) and score. The Celts cannot hope to survive much longer if Garnett is scoring just two points in the second half, as he did in Game 4. Some of this clearly falls on his teammates, who must set the picks to get him inside position -- and then get him the ball at the proper moment. But much of it is just the commitment to establish that aspect of the game."
Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "Why have the Celtics struggled on the road in the playoffs? 'If I knew that, man, I don't think we'd be having these conversations or these problems on the road,' Garnett said."
Michael Vega of The Boston Globe: "Could Pierce's mom take LeBron's mom? 'I don't know,' Pierce said with a laugh. 'My momma's a little older, but she's old school. She's got some tactics. She called me this morning. I talked to her.' Pierce said he knew it was James's mother. 'LeBron had her under control, though,' Pierce said."
Brian Dulik of The Medina County Gazette: "Just five days ago, the Cavaliers were teetering on the brink of disaster, having lost the first two games in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Boston Celtics. 'We felt we had a lot of adjustments to make to win games,' guard Daniel Gibson recalled Tuesday after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. 'Things didn't go very well for us and we had a lot of work to do to get back in this series. "Now, after winning twice at home, we feel like the ball is in their court to make adjustments. It doesn't scare us going back to Boston and we're not nervous about it.'"
Fred Kerber of the New York Post: "New York Knicks fans are praying, hoping Stephon Marbury is right. There is only so much agony and torture a soul can endure. 'This is the year. Everything is changed,' Marbury proposed at the formal introduction of Mike D'Antoni as the 24th coach in Knicks history yesterday. 'It's different. It's not the same.' Well, the fear is Marbury is wrong. So many see D'Antoni as a guy with a run-and-gun style that worked well in the West but will fit in with the Knicks and their current halfcourt plodders about as well as bowling shoes at a black tie formal. Many feel D'Antoni is being asked to produce an ice cream sundae while being handed a bag of turnips, some steel wool and a brick."
Ken Berger of Newsday: "Hiring D'Antoni might be the easiest decision Walsh will make as long as he has this job. The harder choices begin now, and they're the same ones Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas had to grapple with once all the warmth and fuzziness and Seventh Avenue photo ops were over for them. The true test will be whether Walsh and D'Antoni can avoid the same di$ea$e that eventually infected Layden and struck a fatal blow to Thomas. MSG-itis has long incapacitated previously intelligent basketball men and intoxicated them with the notion that unlimited resources lead to winning."
Gary Peterson of the Contra Costa Times: "It's been three days since Baron Davis' agent, Todd Ramasar, ran his client's discontent up a flag pole. We're still waiting for the first official salute. ... Ramasar broke bread with t
he team on Thursday and came away without a crumb. So he went to the next play in the agent's handbook: When you get stiffed by the team, appeal to the fans. 'Baron is adamant about remaining a Warrior,' Ramasar told this publication's esteemed beat writer Geoff Lepper, 'but based on my conversations with the team, we have to consider all of his options.' That shouldn't take long, since Davis has only one (unappealing) option; he can opt out of the final year of his contract and throw himself on the open market."
Jeff Rabjohns of The Indianapolis Star: "Greg Oden, who never carried himself with the arrogance of so many touted prep stars, said the NBA hasn't changed him. 'I'd just say I have a little more money these days, and it's a nice feeling knowing your mom is taken care of,' he said. He bought his mom, Zoe, a house in Indy and helped her set up her foundation, A Bump In The Road, for people hit by life's unexpected problems. ... With a spotless reputation, a world of potential and a personable charm, Oden often is mentioned as a player capable of being not only the face of one franchise but of an NBA working on a sagging image. 'My first thoughts are coming out there and having a good season. I don't really think about all that. I just think about establishing myself,' he said. 'I have to prove myself before I can become the face of anything, and that's what I think about a lot.'"
Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: "So whom should Miami take if it picks first? We asked more than a dozen basketball people -- NBA executives, college coaches and TV commentators -- and more than two-thirds said Rose. ... 'You take Rose because the game is becoming increasingly guard oriented,' one team's scouting director said. 'Guards who have that combination of speed and power have increasing impact in the league. And if Miami doesn't take Rose, they will continue to have a huge point guard problem. They can do without a great power forward more than a great point guard.' A second scouting director said, 'You have so many smaller point guards, and here's a chance to get a bigger [6-3], more physically mature one. His perimeter shooting consistency will get better.'"
Percy Allen of The Seattle Times: "What's that saying about one man's trash? In this case, the Sonics' garbage is on display almost nightly. From Beantown to the River Walk. From Florida to California. Ex-Sonics everywhere. They're all over these NBA playoffs. Vladimir Radmanovic with the Los Angeles Lakers. Rashard Lewis in Orlando. Ray Allen in Boston. Kurt Thomas in San Antonio. Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West in Cleveland. That's six former Sonics -- or eight if you include Spurs reserve Brent Barry and Lakers reserve Ira Newble -- playing basketball in May while their former team prepares for next week's draft lottery. It's OK to be bitter."
Jayda Evans of The Seattle Times: "OK, Oklahoma has gone far enough. I understand the Sonics move may be imminent and the Okies should be thrilled they can sort of call themselves a 'real' city by gaining the NBA. But the digital alteration of Kevin Durant with this story about the fans-in-waiting loving the idea of their new team being called the Barons laced in black and gold is sickening."
Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "The notion that cities are on some kind of honor system, that it should be hands-off another city's franchise, is silly. This is big-boy stuff. The NBA is big business. It's every city for itself. Shed no tears for Seattle."
Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "While Mayo isn't an innocent, he's absolutely the product of a subculture in which the ability to play basketball at an elite level is valued more than being a good father, more than formal education, more than almost anything that appears to be within his grasp. Mayo, like so many who've come before him, simply is doing the only thing he knows to negotiate the road before him. Why would he know any better than to call Floyd, full of presumption, and tell him, 'I'm coming,' when it has been reinforced since he was 12 years old that talent rules the day and when the coach is too spineless to tell him who's in charge?"
Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "I don't know if O.J. Mayo did take tens of thousands in gifts from the representative of an agent. I do know this: The accusations ESPN made about the former Southern Cal freshman are plausible. They'd be plausible for any high school player identified as a soon-to-be lottery pick. And that's why this NBA rule, pushing kids to play at least one season of college basketball, is well-intended but ultimately flawed."