First Cup: Tuesday
April, 22, 2014
By Nick Borges
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: This just in. The Memphis Grizzlies play some defense. Tony Allen has taken up residence inside Kevin Durant’s No. 35 jersey. Mike Conley stays in front of his man. Marc Gasol was the reigning NBA defensive player of the year until Monday. The Grizzlies guard you. Which means the Thunder better do it, too. Memphis reversed momentum in this Western Conference playoff series with a 111-105 overtime victory over the Thunder on Monday night, and the Grizzlies did it as much with offense as their beloved defense. ... These Grizzlies are made for the playoffs. They slow it down, they play tough, they defend like crazy. Memphis makes it hard to score. If you don’t do the same, you go home.
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: A pair of teams that put together a playoff classic three years ago might just be working on another. That could have easily been a prevailing notion Monday night following the Grizzlies’ 111-105 Game 2 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime at Chesapeake Energy Arena. After a breath-taking display on defense by a certain No. 9, five periods and a miraculous yet clutch four-point play, the Griz head back to Memphis with their best-of-seven first-round series knotted at 1-1. ... The Griz had to work long and hard to rebound from a demoralizing Game 1 defeat. But that’s what many onlookers predicted how this Western Conference playoff matchup would be: long and hard. This marked the sixth playoff overtime game the Griz have played against the Thunder. Memphis won four of the previous five. The Grizzlies’ only loss so far when these teams grace the fans with extra playoff basketball came in that three-overtime classic in FedExForum during the 2011 Western Conference semifinals.
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Lost in the hysteria of Kevin Durant drilling the most miraculous shot in Oklahoma City history was another gem of a play by the game’s biggest pest, a player with a penchant for throwing a wrench in the Thunder’s plans. Just before Durant hit a corner 3-pointer while falling out of bounds and on his bottom, Tony Allen once again blew up a Thunder possession. He tipped a pass from Russell Westbrook to Durant, forcing OKC into scramble mode and Durant into delivering on a desperation fling. Though the impact of Allen’s defense wasn’t felt when Durant’s shot splashed through the net, a bucket that led to a four-point play and gave the Thunder new life with 13.8 seconds remaining in regulation, it was apparent before and after that basket. And it’s among the biggest reasons why the Thunder is headed to Memphis on Thursday needing a win to regain home-court advantage after a 111-105 overtime loss to the Grizzlies in Game 2 on Monday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. ... Allen is that face of Memphis’ style. And now it appears the Thunder has a problem.
- Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: The Clippers needed an answer, and quick. They gave one, and wow. Their response Monday night to a playoff-opening debacle against the Golden State Warriors was powerful enough to temporarily subdue thoughts of the historic Clippers jinx while empowering dreams of a landmark Clippers spring. The answer was visible across the Staples Center sky in a flying Blake Griffin, and across the Staples Center floor in a skidding Chris Paul. The answer was audible on the Staples Center sideline with a screaming and confrontational Doc Rivers, and in the stands with thousands of red shirts whose owners' roars lasted deep into the sweaty night. More than anything, the answer could be felt in the slumped shoulders and blank stares of a Warriors team that was warned these might not be same old postseason Clippers, and this is not going to be your usual first-round dance. "They are who I thought they are," said Rivers afterward of his team, his voice filled with relief.
- Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: Can the Warriors get Curry free? Can Thompson stay out of foul trouble while defending Paul? Will Lee, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes or anybody else step in and give the Warriors what Danny Granger (15 points) and Matt Barnes (13 points) gave the Clippers in Game 2? That's up to coach Mark Jackson and it's up to the Warriors players. They don't have a lot of time to figure this out, and they certainly know that the Clippers have more talent and made the right adjustments on Monday. The series got real for the Clippers in Game 2, and it suddenly got into serious danger territory for the Warriors.
- Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle: The San Francisco Bay wins. That's what Joe Lacob and the Warriors learned. Their plans for a waterfront arena foundered, despite endless bluster, almost from the start of planning and now apparently have been abandoned. The Chronicle reported online Monday that the Warriors have purchased property from Salesforce.com farther south, on Third Street in Mission Bay. They will own the property, rather than lease from the Port of San Francisco. So the arena battle lines no longer will be drawn between pro-development types and environmentalists. Now the line is placed squarely between San Francisco and Oakland, which badly wants to hold onto the only NBA team in the Bay Area. The Warriors might argue that red tape and intransigent politics foiled their plans for a showcase, showboat building plopped far out on two dilapidated piers in the bay. But, really, it was the bay itself that thwarted the Warriors.
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: I was on the record as believing the Atlanta Hawks had a very good chance — as good a chance as a No. 8 seed ever has — before the series began. With it beginning the way it did, I like their chances even more. I think the Indiana Pacers are more apt to collapse than to cohere, but I have, as we know, been wrong. ... Game 2 is essentially the season for the Pacers, who can’t afford another home loss. On desperation alone, you’d have to think they’ll prevail. But the Hawks clearly know how to hurt the Pacers, and it wouldn’t be a major shock if the hurting continued. Which is another way of saying: I really, really like the Hawks’ chances in this series.
- Mark Montieth of Pacers.com: A zone defense? Paul George guarding Jeff Teague? A different starting lineup? A revised playing rotation? The Pacers' loss to Atlanta on Saturday would seem to demand some changes in coaching strategy heading into Game 2 on Tuesday. Losing the first two games on your home court, after all, isn't a highly regarded way to kick off a playoff series. Coach Frank Vogel was coy when pressed on the issue following Monday's practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, not wishing to become the first coach in NBA history to reveal strategy to the opponent a day before a playoff game. But, winds of change were wafting through the building. Practice ran longer than was originally advertised to the media, and all doors were closed. Afterward, Lance Stephenson created a breeze when asked if strategic changes were forthcoming. “Of course we're going to make changes,” he said. “We're not allowed to talk about the changes we made, (the Hawks) will figure it out when we play.” Earlier, Vogel had only hinted at the possibility. “I prefer not to make major changes,” he said. Are you willing? “Of course.” Do you think you will? “We'll see.”
- Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: The way Paul Pierce took over in the final minutes of Saturday’s 94-87 Nets win in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series with the Raptors understandably garnered all of the headlines. But, as he often does, Joe Johnson flew under the radar, though his 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting — almost all of which came in the paint — were what kept the Nets in position for Pierce to slam the door shut. ... The Nets are expecting the Raptors to change things up in Game 2 after the success Johnson had Saturday. But whether he’s able to have the same kind of scoring output again or if he is turned into more of a facilitator because Toronto keys on him, you can be sure he will be a big part of the Nets’ plans as they try to come home up 2-0 in the series.
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: There is so much more to these NBA playoffs for the Raptors than just the post-season. There are messages to be delivered and notices to be served. If general manager Masai Ujiri might have been a bit intemperate with his “Eff Brooklyn” statement before Game 1 of the series with the Nets, he was simply standing up for an organization that needs to command respect from a league that hasn’t shown much of it in the past half decade. There is more public fight to this group, more feistiness, more standing up for itself than it’s shown, more “We’re fed up and we’re not going to take it any more.” From front office personnel to players, coaches and support staff, it’s as if they’ve finally had enough of being slighted. The first post-season appearance since 2008 is a perfect avenue to get that out.
- J. Michael of CSN Washington: In Game 1, Joakim Noah didn't look like the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, an award he was given Wednesday at United Center. That's where Nene, the Wizards' versatile big man, had his way with his Chicago Bulls counterpart. Nene played 35 minutes -- his most since Feb. 11 -- after a game-high 24 points on 11 of 17 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists. It was his first start for the Wizards since Feb. 23, when he went down with a left knee ligament strain. "I’m tired. I’m sore today," said Nene, as he strapped on his knee brace. "But tomorrow’s another day. We’ll see." In other words, that minutes restriction he's on will be relative to how well he's playing.
- Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t in the business of pointing fingers. In his world, it’s a "five-man offense, five-man defense, and everyone is connected." He reiterated that again Monday, one day after the Bulls lost Game 1 of their first-round playoff series to the Washington Wizards. "To put it on one guy, that’s not how we do it here," Thibodeau said. But that didn’t prevent the Wizards from finding that perceived weak link in the chain and attacking it, especially in their fourth-quarter comeback. Unfortunately for guard D.J. Augustin, he was the guy the Wizards went after in crunch time. ... According to one source, though, Thibodeau was concerned about Augustin’s defensive shortcomings being exposed, especially in the playoffs, when opposing coaches smell blood and attack. Sure enough, the Wizards’ guards seemed to go right after him down the stretch, whether it was John Wall, Bradley Beal or even 38-year-old Andre Miller, who scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.