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First Cup: Thursday

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant famously thanked his teammates Tuesday upon winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. Durant’s teammates thanked him back Wednesday night in the best way possible. Durant was his usual phenomenal self, and Russell Westbrook was fantastic, too. But the Thunder popped the Clippers 112-101 with ease because the Thunder cornerstones had help. And lots of it. Thabo Sefolosha, banished to the ranks of DID NOT PLAY, COACH’S DECISION, only two games ago, scored nine points in a seven-possession span in which the Thunder blew open the game. Kendrick Perkins was a beast, outscoring and outrebounding Clipper center DeAndre Jordan. Serge Ibaka outplayed Blake Griffin. The Clippers can live with Durant and Westbrook flirting with triple doubles. The Clippers can’t live with the Thunder foot soldiers making stellar contributions.

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: Adam Silver, the new NBA commissioner, was a hero when he kicked out Donald Sterling in front of national television cameras. But in a Chesapeake Energy Arena hallway Tuesday night, when asked about Shelly Sterling, he refused to comment. Shelly Sterling is that toxic. She is that dangerous. She is more than just preening blond and leather. She is, by all appearances, cold and calculating. One minute she is claiming her estranged husband is not a racist. The next minute she is condemning his "small-mindedness" and "racist comments." One minute she tells The Times, "The focus remains on our team winning an NBA championship." Yet for the previous 10 days she has distracted the team from that focus by showing up at games even though the league has asked her to stay away. She is Cruella de Sterling, and her presence strikes the Clippers' players at the center of their collective conscience. Just when they've proudly stood firm against ever playing again for Donald Sterling, now they have to worry about playing for someone whose actions have been allegedly just as despicable?

  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com: The real reason Roy Hibbert played better Wednesday, with a shock-the-world performance that saved the Pacers from likely elimination in their Second Round playoff series, is that he dug down, overcame the self-imposed burden of expectation, and brought it out of himself. Well, that and the fact he established better post position near the basket. Boring stuff like that. Two nights after failing to contribute a point or rebound to his team's cause and amid a swirl of social media criticism, Hibbert scored 28 points, grabbed nine rebounds and didn't commit a single turnover during his 33 ½ minutes in the Pacers' 86-82 victory over Washington on Wednesday. Rather than reeling from a nearly hopeless 0-2 deficit after two homecourt losses, they are now in what's essentially a best-of-five series. Hibbert didn't celebrate his redemption. Nor did he fire back at his growing army of critics. Actually, for a guy who's had his share of controversial postgame quotes, he was as bland as could be. “I just haven’t been aggressive as I should’ve been in the past and you have to look within yourself to make things happen,” he said to explain the outburst that had occurred on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: The Wizards’ unflappable composure in the final minutes of close games on the road had been one of the startling developments of this postseason, especially in Chicago, where they swept all three games. Their focus and determination had given them an edge when the game got tight. But that hunger for the home run came back to bite them in the final three minutes Wednesday. With the Wizards trailing 82-79, Wall took two ill-advised three-pointers early in the shot clock, squandering some offensive rebounds and playing hurried instead of running a set. Later, Wall attempted to drive to the basket and dropped the ball right in the chest of Pacers point guard George Hill. Lance Stephenson then knocked down a long jumper and played to an adoring audience. “They beat us,” Coach Randy Wittman said. “But still, our guys gave ourselves a chance to win. I think they know we can play better than we did. But in those situations, when you don’t play the way you’re capable of playing. ... That’s how you evolve in the playoffs. I was proud of them for that.”

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Keeping Parker from taking up permanent residence in the paint will be vital for Portland in Game 2. Damian Lillard, Parker's All-Star counterpart, had little such luck in Game 1. Shooting guard Wesley Matthews, who defended Parker in spots in the second half, fared marginally better. The answer to Portland's Parker problem could be the Blazer who knows him best. Small forward Nicolas Batum is Parker's longtime teammate on the French national team and Portland's best perimeter defender. He has guarded Parker in the past. Now 25 years old, Batum was 19 when he met Parker in advance of the 2008 NBA draft. He was 20 when he joined Parker on Les Bleus. By then, Parker had already won three NBA championships and a Finals MVP trophy, and was considered the Michael Jordan of French basketball. “He is the man in France,” the 6-foot-8 Batum said. “He got (to the NBA) when he was 19. He was my example, because I got here at 19, too. He's like my big brother.” Batum said he wasn't surprised by Parker's Game 1 explosion. “It wasn't the first time he's done that,” Batum said.

  • Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com: Damian Lillard refused to call the defeat an embarrassment but certainly what we saw from Portland was a long way from its best effort. This is when doubt can creep in -- particularly if good things don't happen right off the bat Thursday night. This is a mighty big stage and when you don't perform at your best it can do funny things to your confidence, individually and as a team. Do the Trail Blazers belong in the second round of the playoffs? Sure, they beat a good team to get here. But they're playing an even better now. And how the Trail Blazers react to the situation Thursday is critical. Portland doesn't even need to win Game 2. There's no "must" attached to a road game this early in the series. But, for their own self-confidence, they better play better.

  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: It's been two months since guard Dwyane Wade played 40 minutes in a game. And he's in no hurry to test if he's still able to do it. For now, Wade is content with his amount of playing time. He's averaged 33.3 points in the postseason. "I don't know," Wade said of when his minutes could increase. "We'll see when the time comes." Wade last logged 40 minutes against the Chicago Bulls March 9. He's since been limited as part of the "maintenance" program but has experienced no health issues in the postseason.

  • Harvery Araton of The New York Times: Beyond this series and season, Brook Lopez’s health and Deron Williams’s fall from premier point guard grace cast an uncertain shadow across the franchise. Garnett could retire. Pierce could be a perfect short-term running mate next season for Kobe Bryant with the Lakers in Los Angeles, his hometown. After all has been said and spent, the Nets’ future is still indelibly invested in Lopez’s feet and in Williams’s delicate ankles and fragile psyche. Given the resources and commitment to winning of the Nets’ owner, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, King remains confident he can continue to add talent, despite the sacrifice of first-round draft picks in the trade with Boston for Pierce and Garnett. He believes the playing time forced on Plumlee this season will make him the ideal complement to Lopez, not his replacement. But in addition to having surgery on his right foot in January, Lopez had his damaged left ankle repaired in March. Lopez, who did not sit out a game in his first three N.B.A. seasons, has missed the majority of two of the past three seasons. “I’m confident that this won’t happen again,” King said of Lopez’s future. “I know I’ve said that before, but talking to the doctors, I think they got it right this time.” He meant next time, as in next season, with this one still very much in play — just without Lopez’s sorely missed skills in the paint. It’s official and duly noted.