First Cup: Wednesday
April, 23, 2014
By Nick Borges
- Scott Agness of Pacers.com: The Pacers are a much better team when George Hill is aggressive. He knows it, his teammates say it and coach Frank Vogel is doing what he can to reinforce it. In the team’s 101-85 Game 2 win on Tuesday, Vogel used a backcourt of Hill and C.J. Watson for much of the game, which worked defensively and freed Hill up to be himself. The Indy native doesn’t like being dubbed as a point guard but simply as a “guard.” “That’s what I’ve been my whole life, a scorer at the wing spot,” Hill said after scoring 15 points all in the second half, including 10 in the third quarter on 5-of-6 shooting. “With C.J., I don’t have to worry about play calls or trying to set guys up and figuring out who’s getting touches. It gave me an opportunity to be aggressive and play my game.” Vogel’s move was in part made to allow Hill to play his natural position. But he also did it for defensive purposes. “You got to have speed to contain the basketball down there and to scramble to shooters,” Vogel said. “That’s what we were trying to achieve.”
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: For whatever reason, the Teague onslaught finally abated. The Hawks’ point guard had scored 25 points in the regular-season victory here April 6 and 28 in Game 1. He had 12 points and four assists in the first half of Game 2, and he made his first shot of the third quarter — a driving hoop inside the first two minutes. He wouldn’t score again. The Pacers believed that Hill’s surges served to tire Teague. Said George: “Make or miss, we want (Hill) to shoot and to drive. That tires Teague out.” Asked if he had in fact gotten weary, Teague’s answer was the essence of brevity. “No,” he said.
- Mike Wise of The Washington Post: Desire is not just a Chicago commodity, purveyed by this city’s ultra-resilient pro basketball team. It also lives in the chests of Wall and Beal, pounding his heart after another jump shot of silk behind the arc. It lives in the torso of Nene, his 6-foot-11, beefy frame going to the floor for loose balls, his stroke as pure as they come in overtime. That desire lives in the combined and committed resolve of the Wizards, who Tuesday night overcame the brawn and desperation of the Bulls to secure the most impressive road victory of the John Wall era. Do you believe they found a way to win this, to take a 2-0 series lead on these physically imposing Brahmas, who so badly tried to turn this into a Greco-Roman match and failed? The series shifts to the District on Friday for Game 3, where they are distributing T-shirts with the words, “DC Rising.” After quieting the Madhouse on Madison, DC Risen is more like it. ... I’m not saying this series is over. I am saying the Wizards have just as much resilience as the heretofore most resilient team in the NBA. And they have more offensive weapons.
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Losing the first two home games of a best-of-seven series is tough enough. Blowing double-digit, second-half leads in both is even more demoralizing. "Demoralizing?" Joakim Noah said. Then, in the direct aftermath of Tuesday's shocking 101-99 overtime loss to the Wizards, he thought of a different word. "It sucks," Noah said. "I hate losing. Everyone on this team is giving everything that they have. I feel like they hit big shot after big shot. You have to give credit where credit is due. They're playing at a high level. Throughout the year, it hasn't been pretty at times. But we're a team that finds a way." If the Bulls find a way this time, they will become just the fourth team in NBA history to rally after losing the first two home games.
- Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun: He needed the moment alone, not caring what it looked like, not concerned at all that he was violating a team rule. DeMar DeRozan sat alone on the bench, just after picking up his fifth foul, looking disconsolate, pulled from a one-point game with just under seven minutes to play. He knew what he needed most: He needed to calm down. "My competitive spirit," said the Raptors' all-star guard. "I was calming myself down. I was a little frustrated I couldn't be out there with my team, especially at that critical moment. "Just me. I had to keep myself together." The Raptors were up by a point and he was on the bench with five fouls. Not knowing what was about to happen. Not knowing when he would get back. Seven minutes to go. And internally and externally pleading to stay in the game. Then he did what he's watched Michael Jordan do on television growing up, what he used to watch Kobe Bryant do in the fourth quarter and final minutes of playoff games: He took over. With three minutes and 48 seconds to play, with the Raptors up a moment, he made it all about him, the way the great players always do.
- Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: It's not just the Toronto media, the Raptors and its fans who are crying conspiracy. Disgraced former referee Tim Donaghy claims the league is pushing its officials to call a victory for the Nets. "(The Raptors) are not only going against the Brooklyn Nets but going against the league office," Donaghy said in a radio interview in Canada. "They have a very talented team and have to be that much better than the Brooklyn Nets. "In this situation, Brooklyn would be put at an advantage. A Brooklyn-Miami matchup (in round 2) would bring great ratings and that's what this is all about for the NBA and the league offices — bringing in as many dollars as they can. … Some of the things that the league does and continues to do puts these teams at a disadvantage — like the Toronto Raptors — because moving forward they won't bring in the big dollars for the league. It's terrible for the fans (of) Toronto. They go and support that team but really they're going to have trouble moving on based on talent and what takes place on the floor when they're really going against the refs and the league, along with the Nets." Donaghy, of course, lacks credibility in the morality department, having been sentenced to 15 months in prison for fixing NBA games. But Donaghy's contention became relevant because the Raptors were complaining about the officiating, among other things, after Saturday's 94-87 loss. An NBA spokesman issued this statement: “Tim Donaghy is a convicted felon looking for any opportunity for people to listen to his baseless allegations. For Mr. Donaghy to continually try to challenge his former colleagues’ ethics is distasteful and says more about his own integrity than it could ever say about our referees, who are the best and most scrutinized game officials in the world.”
- Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: Phil Jackson's formidable task of rebuilding the Knicks and establishing a professional, winning culture at Madison Square Garden has already hit a familiar roadblock: James Dolan. Just one month into his role as Knicks president, Jackson has already clashed with Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, over personnel decisions, the Daily News has learned. According to a team source, Jackson is looking to remove several staff members, which is commonplace when a new administration takes over, but Dolan opposes removing certain employees. According to the source, Dolan’s reaction to Jackson’s request was to tell the 11-time NBA championship coach to simply focus his attention on building a winning team. To say that “minor friction,” as one Garden source called it, can be classified as Jackson’s honeymoon with Dolan being over may be stretching it a bit. But at the very least it proves that Dolan — surprise, surprise wasn’t being entirely truthful last month when he claimed he was “willingly and gratefully” giving up control of the basketball decisions to Jackson, the Hall of Fame coach.