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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant was having the game of his life. The wrong way. Couldn’t make a shot. Couldn’t find a flow. Couldn’t even help his squad all that much. In fact, the Thunder fell apart for the last time when Durant re-entered the game with 8:36 left. Then as some faithless fans hit the Chesapeake Arena aisles and Samsungs all over America were clicked off, Durant’s light came on. It usually does. Durant indeed had the game of his life. The good way. Ten points in 186 seconds. Two massive 3-pointers that supplied CPR to the Thunder season. A fast-break layup that somehow, some way cut the Clipper lead to two with 17 seconds left. And you know how it ended. Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles. The Thunder beat the Clippers 105-104 in a game OKC had no business winning. Not when trailing by 13 points with four minutes left. Not when trailing by seven points with 46 seconds left. Not when the Durantula was an ant for most of the biggest game of the Thunder season.

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: Don't only blame the referees: The Clippers never should have been put in a position to lose that big lead on one call. How come they were throwing up all those crazy shots, including two missed three-point attempts by Jamal Crawford that were nearly 60 feet from the basket combined and a wildly missed layup by Crawford? "It was terrible," Rivers of their late-game slowdown. "I thought we waited too long., the way we were moving the ball, we were scoring almost at will, we were just trying to milk the clock, and that's on us." Don't only blame Paul. He led a defense that held the Thunder's Kevin Durant to three-of-17 shooting before Durant finally made three big baskets in the final 3:23. He led a team that, after the first minute of the first quarter, led the rest of game until the final six seconds. "We had it," Paul said, still shaking his head. "The game was about us, it was not about them." Blame everybody, blame everything, but, more than anything, blame the Clipper Curse. It is back, it is angry and it is still undefeated.

  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com: It's about assumption. It's about human nature, too, especially the Pacers' version of it. Coming off two inspiring road wins in Washington and bringing a 3-1 advantage into a potential close-out game of their conference semifinal series, the Pacers did everything but set up chaise lounge chairs on the court, kick back and relax on Tuesday. They paid for that familiar tendency with a 102-79 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that drew boos from their fans by the third quarter and reignited their doubters. It was the second-largest homecourt playoff loss in franchise history, and it was worse than it looks in the box score. The Wizards led by 30 in the fourth quarter before the Pacers' reserves chipped away in garbage time. The rebounding difference, meanwhile, was historic. The Pacers' 23 rebounds were a franchise low for the postseason. Washington's 62 rebounds were an opponent's record for the franchise, regular season included. Washington hit half of its shots but still grabbed 18 offensive rebounds. The Pacers hit just 39 percent of their shots but recovered only four of them. That sort of mass letdown defies analysis, and the Pacers didn't attempt any beyond the obvious. ... The popular postgame notion was to scratch a head and declare the Pacers a puzzling team, but they're actually quite predictable. They get soft when things are going well and they get tougher when they're faced with adversity. That's true for most teams, but none more than them.

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: Two words from John Wall said it all as he buried his third three-pointer and held his pose in the third quarter of Game 5 vs. the Indiana Pacers: "I'm back." After facing down questions about passing up an open shot that could've saved the Wizards in Game 4, Wall had answers by producing his best postseason performance with 27 points on 11-for-20 shooting, five rebounds and five assists in their second win in three tries at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday. Marcin Gortat, who had been invisible and only scored six points combined in the previous two games, was unstoppable with 31 points on 13-for-15 shooting and a game-high 16 rebounds. He manhandled his counterpart Roy Hibbert who was a non-factor with four points on 2-for-7 shooting and just two rebounds. Gortat, who had been invisible in the previous two games with just six points total, had a double-double at halftime with 17 points and 11 rebounds. ... Each time the Wizards have reached 100 points, they've won in this series. But they're 1-3 at Verizon Center in the postseason.

  • Ira Winderman, of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: According to the NBA's SportVU tracking software, James had 105 touches Monday, compared to 59, 66 and 70 in the series' first three games. It was a night when teammates recognized it was foolish to do anything but defer. "In basketball," guard Dwyane Wade said, "it's one of the best feelings you can have besides yourself getting in that mode, watching him do it." The goal now for the Nets is to get the ball back out of James' hands, the traps, blitzes, double- and triple-teams expected to come with greater ferocity Wednesday night. "At the end of the day," Pierce said, "he's tough to guard one-on-one. You gotta try to slow him down, you gotta try to send multiple guys at him, make him kick the ball." The question is whether James had added incentive, with Pierce insisting at the open of the series that the Nets feared neither James nor the Heat. "We don't need bulletin-board things," Wade said. "We know Paul. For us, he said something, didn't say nothing, our goal and our focus is still the same and that's to come out here and win." Amid all the talk of friction, there also is respect.

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: For the record, $180 million he spent on his Nets this season in salaries and taxes, Mikhail Prokhorov is looking at all of four playoff wins over the Toronto Raptors and one postseason victory over the Miami Heat. Even for a billionaire, that’s not a lot of bang for your rubles. So Prokhorov will be the big loser here if the Nets’ season ends with a loss in Game 5 on Wednesday night. If it does end at American Airlines Arena, you know what he ended up buying, for $36 million per playoff win? A team that will head into the offseason saying how it made the Heat sweat out a couple of wins and how Miami needed one monster game from LeBron James to take the series. The Nets will probably look at this series as a small triumph, playing the defending champs close in a couple of games, after Jason Kidd made a rookie mistake by spotting Miami a win in the series opener when he benched all of his big-salaried players in the fourth quarter of a winnable game. You know what will be conveniently forgotten? That they were taken to a Game 7 by a younger, inexperienced Raptors team and barely escaped to get to the second round for what they hoped would be a long series against the defending champs. That’s the kind of flawed thinking that will lead to the notion that the Nets can bring this same roster back to make another run at the Heat in 2015.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Manu Ginobili made 46.9 percent of his shots during the regular season and 35 percent from long range. He believes his 26 percent shooting against the Blazers is an aberration and is confident the law of averages — regression to the mean — will soon kick in. “I think the worm will turn and it's going to go back to where it usually is,” he said. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has called Ginobili one of the most competitive players in all of basketball and has learned to live with his slumps. “He hasn't shot it well, but it's just the way it is,” Popovich said after Game 4. “Sometimes somebody just doesn't shoot it well.” Ginobili's main concern is his long-range inaccuracy. He has as many air balls from 3-point range against Portland — two — as he has made from beyond the arc, where he is 2 for 12.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: As soon as Todd Bateman saw the bus turn right off Morrison, near the Nines Hotel, he instantly recognized the passengers aboard. "I thought, 'Oh, there's the Spurs,' " he said. Bateman, a bus driver for TriMet, was working the second half of his shift on Monday afternoon when the San Antonio Spurs pulled up next to him downtown. It was roughly two hours before Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals and Bateman was about to play a unique part in the Trail Blazers' 103-92 victory over the Spurs. A few minutes later, the Spurs' bus would collide with Bateman's bus, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich would needle Bateman like he was an NBA referee and Bateman would become a central figure in what he describes as a "really crazy and really funny happening." ... According to Bateman, the other driver turned to the right and pulled in front of him near the downtown transit mall, an illegal maneuver in that area. Bateman opened his window to let the driver know it was a no-no, but he ignored the warning and pressed ahead, trying to squeeze around Bateman. "Then he crunched the side of my bus," Bateman said. You've probably heard this much. The fender bender was minor and no one was injured, but it caused the Spurs to arrive to the Moda Center about 15 or 20 minutes late. But there's more. After the accident, the Spurs' driver hopped out and offered a bargain. "He said, 'If you move five feet, I can just get out of here,'" Bateman said. "But I was like, 'You just hit me, that's not really how it works.'"