First Cup: Friday

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "It is said in baseball that momentum is the next day's starting pitcher. The same can be true in hoops. And Paul Pierce was throwing heat last night. Rajon Rondo continued his run of brilliance, but two games of that stuff had netted the Celtics just a 1-all tie in their first-round series with Chicago. Pierce evidently sensed it was time to lead -- and make the Bulls bleed. His stats were nice enough, but it was the manner in which he got them -- took them, demanded them -- that established the beat that turned into a 107-86 Celtics rout before a town and team that was expecting greater things on the home floor. But with Pierce going for 24 points in 28 minutes, the Bulls were fit to be gored."

  • John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: "We should have known. During the regular season, whenever it seemed the Bulls had turned a corner and were on the verge of developing some consistency, they usually produced a stunningly bad performance. Why should we have expected anything different in the postseason? We shouldn't have, but the toughness and inspired play the Bulls displayed on the road during the first two games of the first-round series with the Boston Celtics fooled us all. It was easy to believe the Bulls had the upper hand with the series shifting to the United Center for Game 3 on Thursday night, but I thought there was a good chance the Bulls might lose. Still, I never suspected a 107-86 rout by the Celtics -- or that Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro would empty his bench with more than eight minutes left in the game with his team trailing."

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Doing a pretty impressive Mailman impersonation and hours after saying he and his team needed to 'play like there's no tomorrow,' Carlos Boozer delivered a huge outing for the Jazz. He picked a fine time to do it, too. Boozer's Karl Malone-esque 23-point, 22-rebound effort was a big-time boost for Utah in its thrilling 88-86 victory that trimmed the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round series lead to 2-1. 'He's back,' said Jazz point guard Deron Williams shortly after hitting the game-winning shot. Back in a big playing-like-a-two-time-All-Star-and-Olympian way, too. Heck, Boozer was so back to his old ways against the longer Lakers, and made such a big impact, played so well, worked so hard -- not through sleet, rain or hail, but mostly around Pau Gasol -- that he even heard more cheers than jeers from the crowd. And that's saying something considering how many boos -- and we're not talking the chummy 'Booz!' variety -- he's received in the past few months from frustrated fans."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "Two games into this postseason for the ages, we learned the Lakers could be dominating, devastating, even destined. After Thursday night's third game, we learned they can be something else entirely. Dreadful. Just as we marveled at how they can soar, we must now acknowledge how they can stink. And man, in an 88-86 loss to the Utah Jazz in Game 3 of their first-round series, did they ever stink. Blowing a 13-point, third-quarter lead against a team that had already started packing its designer suitcases for summers in the south of France? That stunk. Kobe Bryant making one basket in the first half, five baskets during the entire game, and missing a poorly chosen, completely covered three-point attempt from downtown Provo in the final second? He stunk. Andrew Bynum playing seven clumsy minutes marred by five silly fouls? Trevor Ariza making three baskets while missing consecutive three-point attempts in the fourth quarter? Pau Gasol's matador defense on Carlos Boozer down the stretch? Stink, stink, stink."

  • David Moore of The Dallas Morning News: "I've always wondered how it would feel to sit a few feet away from someone who is tasered. Now I know. The Mavericks intensity stunned San Antonio this evening. I'm sure the Mavericks have played better defense in a big game... Come to think of it, I'm not sure. Statistics say this was the strongest defensive performance in the franchise's post-season history. Just don't tell that to Rick Carlisle. 'I don't think that is a pertinent question,' the Mavericks coach said. 'How can you gauge it? They played their starters, their two Hall of Fame guys, like 20 minutes. What are you basing it on? 'I don't think it's relevant.' You want relevance? San Antonio's 67 points was nine below the Mavericks previous playoff standard. The Spurs shot 32.1 percent from the field, another opponent low for the Mavericks."

  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "The players have come to understand Gregg Popovich's rhythms, and this goes on throughout the season. Sometimes they sit in Denver in a kind of spirited forfeit, and sometimes they sit after just a few possessions of the second half. And when the worst comes, as it did Thursday, they also seem to understand the nuances. 'He pulls us and puts on the bench,' Tim Duncan said, 'and lets us sit there and simmer.' Popovich doesn't coach this way because he wants to. He has no other choice. He's working with aging knees and without Manu Ginobili, trying to find a way with an unathletic roster that needs the point guard to score at least 30 points to have a chance. For him, with this team, four and a half hours matter."

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "The Pistons must put in a better effort than previous outings at the Palace. 'This year we've been a pretty bad team at home as far as taking care of our home court,' Tayshaun Prince said Thursday after the team's practice. 'We're going to have to do a dramatic change in order to make a difference. We lost a lot of games we should have won. A lot of times we lost the lead in the fourth quarter and couldn't pull it out so we haven't done our job at home.' What better test than Game 3 against the best team in the league."

  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Delonte West has become the Energizer Bunny for the Cavs during this opening round of the playoffs. He leads the team in minutes played -- 87 of the 96 possible. That's an average of 43.5 a game. He's third on the team in scoring and assists, averaging 16 points and 4.5 assists, trailing only LeBron James and Mo Williams in those two categories. In Game 2, he came through with 20 points, four assists and three rebounds as the Pistons tried to take the ball out of James' hands and make other Cavs beat them. West and Williams, who set career post season highs with 21 points and seven assists, were only too happy to oblige. 'Delonte is a tough, tough individual, mentally and physically,' Brown said. 'I've relied on him a lot. I've played him a lot of minutes. He's playing a lot of minutes for us because he has been effective on both ends of the floor."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "Let's face it, Ron Artest has made things a lot more interesting around our dusty little town. For instance, on Thursday afternoon he was asked about some of the things that went wrong when the Rockets lost Tuesday night in Portland. 'I had a great first quarter and then I didn't play well the next three quarters,' he said. So far, so good. Plenty of other jocks would have stopped there. Honest assessment, boring quote. Plenty of other jocks aren't Ron Artest. Just when it would have been smart to stop, Artest kept going. 'Yao (Ming) didn't play well the entire game,' he added. Maybe you've heard the one about people in glass houses throwing stones. Artest was 8-for-20 from the field that night. Yes, maybe Yao could have done a better job freeing himself from the constant double-teams, but if Artest or Luis Scola had thrown in a couple of jumpers, things might have worked out differently."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "The way Travis Outlaw sees it, one of these days the Trail Blazers are bound to play well in Houston's Toyota Center, where Portland has lost 10 of the last 11 meetings with the Rockets. 'In all my (six) years here, I don't think we have ever got hot there,' Outlaw said. 'So I think we are bound to have a game where we have unbelievable shooting ... like they had in Game 1.' Outlaw knows he would be a good place for the Blazers to start that hot shooting. In the first two games of the series, the Blazers' top reserve has been noticeably quiet, averaging 8.5 points while shooting 7 of 19 from the field (36.8 percent). After making a career-high 89 three-pointers in the regular season, Outlaw is 0 for 3 in the series. 'I'm going to need to pick it up a little more,' Outlaw said. 'Be a little more aggressive. When I've got a shot, I've got to take it.'"

  • Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: "When asked about a future in coaching, Tony DiLeo regularly says he will sit down with Ed Stefanski after the season. The mission seems clear: Find a young point guard to either get on-the-job training from Miller, or to step in and play. Then find a way to improve the overall three-point shooting; it did not develop from within as well as Stefanski might have hoped. Then incorporate Elton Brand and Jason Smith back into the mix.I don't know what Stefanski will say in that meeting, but I believe DiLeo will say he wants the job.Irrespective of how this series with the Magic plays out, I believe he should get it."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "Obviously, the Magic weren't counting on Courtney Lee to do a whole lot more this season than what most rookies do: Pick up the doughnuts for the veterans. The Magic were coming off a breakthrough 52-win season and already had three other shooting guards in their crowded stable: Mickael Pietrus, Keith Bogans and J.J. Redick. And given Orlando's dismal track record in recent drafts, there wasn't much reason to think that Lee would turn into something special. Surprise, surprise. No telling where the Magic would be without him. He not only handed out the Krispy Kremes this season, but he trumped the team's expectations to make 42 starts, stabilizing an erratic two-guard position beset by injury and inconsistency. And now, if you're depending on the 22nd pick out of Western Kentucky to help you in the playoffs ... good thing it's Courtney Lee."