First Cup: Wednesday
May, 21, 2014
By Nick Borges
- Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: The Heat now has not lost consecutive playoff games since the 2012 conference finals, a span of 40 postseason games. They kept that streak alive because they did everything a little better than they had in Game 1 on Sunday. They made 8 of 20 three-pointers after having made only 6 of 23. They took more free throws (18 to 15) after a 37-15 disadvantage. They were nearly even in rebounding (41-38) after a big second half on the boards thanks largely to Chris “Birdman“ Andersen. They also got 11 points off the bench from Norris Cole, along with some great late defense on Lance Stephenson. They defended much, much better, limiting the Pacers to 40 percent shooting including 4 for 16 by Paul George — exhausted from chasing LeBron all night. It’s amazing, isn’t it, what a little desperation and a lot of defense can do for the complexion of an NBA playoff series. A lot of LeBron and Wade — at just the right time — doesn’t hurt, either.
- Mark Montieth of Pacers.com: Had former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green been there to see it, he would have known exactly how to summarize it. “They are who we thought they were! And we let 'em off the hook!” The Pacers seemed to have their game – and their series – with Miami under control Tuesday, on the verge of taking a 2-0 lead and forcing the two-time defending champions to win four of the next five games to keep their three-peat hopes alive. Up three points with 5 ˝ minutes to go, and having the ball with a chance to increase that lead, they gave up a 10-0 run that turned the game. The Heat made the kind of plays that champions make, scoring on their next eight possessions. The Pacers blinked, missing four straight shots and committing two turnovers during that dry heave. In other words, the Heat were who the Pacers thought they were. And, yes, they let them off the hook.
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: By game's end, Parker had 14 points, a playoff-high 12 assists and another milestone. His sixth assist lifted him past Isiah Thomas, Detroit's Hall of Fame point guard, into 10th place on the NBA's list of career playoff leaders. With six more in this postseason, Parker can become just the 10th player in league history with 1,000 playoff assists. Ordinarily blasé about statistical accomplishments, even Gregg Popovich raised his eyebrows on learning of Parker's new standing. The Spurs coach recalled him as a shoot-first, -second and -third point guard when he came to San Antonio. “When we first got him, I didn't think he could throw the ball to you,” Popovich responded when a reporter informed him of Parker's feat. ... The magnitude of being on a top 10 list with so many Hall of Famers, including No. 1 Magic Johnson (2,346 playoff assists) and No. 2 Stockton (1,839), boggles Parker's mind. “It's almost unrealistic,” he said. “I look at the list, and it's weird. It's just weird.” ... Popovich has ceded control of the Spurs' offense to Parker for long stretches of games, including the playoffs, because he trusts his ability to take what defenses give the Spurs. “I couldn't be more proud of the way he's adjusted his game over the years and become a scoring point,” Popovich said.
- Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: Listen, I’m not suggesting that Perry Jones is a superhero hiding in plain sight, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to give him a shot. Brooks hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Jones could play more as this series continues. “He’s definitely activated,” the coach said, “and he has an opportunity to step in there.” Two years ago when Oklahoma City and San Antonio met in the Western Conference Finals, another defensive switch flipped the series. Brooks decided to take Russell Westbrook off Tony Parker and put Thabo Sefolosha on the Spurs’ speedy point guard. Sefolosha changed the series. So could Jones. He isn’t a savior. But he might just be a series changer. And right now, that’s what the Thunder needs most.
- Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Cavs general manager David Griffin, who represented the team on stage, was beside himself. The Cavs made a quantum leap from the ninth spot heading into the lottery. In the words of the great Nick Gilbert, ‘What’s not to like?’ ” Griffin joked. He brought the teenager’s bow tie, as well as his late grandmother’s lapel pin, for good luck. The Cavs earned the top pick for the third time in the last four years, and second in a row. “When I saw our card wasn’t at 9, my first reaction was, ‘Oh my God, I guess we’ve moved up,’” Griffin said in a teleconference. “This is unbelievable. “When I saw the third card revealed and it wasn’t us, I really almost had to catch myself. I was ecstatic.” Griffin hasn’t ruled out trading the pick, even though that rarely happens with the first overall selection. They might now have the ammunition to make a serious run at Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love, who has rebuffed any talk of an extension with Minnesota.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Bucks general manager John Hammond received some support from the team's new ownership group after the lottery drawing Tuesday night. Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry sat in the front row with family members during the lottery telecast, while Hammond and assistant general manager David Morway were a few rows away. Edens said Hammond would continue as the team's general manager for the near future but avoided making a firm commitment in the long term. Hammond has two years remaining on his contract, as does coach Larry Drew, who suffered through a 15-67 finish in his first year with Milwaukee. "This is like Day 3 since we've been the owners of it," Edens said. "We're very focused on the draft and working with these guys closely. We're very happy to have those guys working with us." Edens said Hammond would be making the decisions on draft night June 26 when the Bucks will pick second overall. Cleveland moved up from ninth to take the No. 1 spot in the draft.
- John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: Well that could have worked out better, but it also could have been worse - considerably worse. With the Cleveland Cavaliers beating the odds of a 1.7 percent chance to win last night's NBA draft lottery, the Sixers slipped down a spot to the No. 3 overall pick. But while that wasn't an ideal outcome, it still keeps them in play for one of the three players who are the consensus as the top three picks: Kansas freshmen Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins and Duke freshman Jabari Parker. When you consider the Sixers also get the 10th overall pick in the draft because the New Orleans Pelicans did not move into the top three, it was a good night for the next phase of the Sixers' rebuilding project.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: What a letdown for the Magic. Even after a horrid season filled with loss after loss after loss, Orlando probably won’t be in a position to select one of the draft’s three most coveted players: Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins, Duke swingman Jabari Parker or Kansas center Joel Embiid. “Never a dull moment, that’s for sure,” Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said after the ceremony ended. ... Most likely, the Magic will have to choose from Australian point guard Dante Exum, Arizona power forward Aaron Gordon, Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, Indiana big man Noah Vonleh and Croatian forward Dario Saric. In addition to the fourth pick, the Magic also received the 12th overall pick, a byproduct of the Aug. 2012 trade that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Magic may attempt to package their two first-round picks and perhaps a player or two already on their roster for the chance to move into the top three in the upcoming draft.
- Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: Sometimes, it clenches a fist, punches you in the throat and laughs at your pain. Well. The Jazz got punched on Tuesday night during the NBA Draft lottery, an exercise based on percentages that often defies those numerical allotments, nodding instead to some inexplicable result. How’s this for inexplicable? For the second year in a row, and the third time in four years, the Cavs got the top pick. They had a 1.7 percent chance for that this time. They butchered it last time, taking Anthony Bennett. The Fates lent them a do-over, and, if they use it to draw in a gifted prospect, they also lent the world a whole lot of speculation about whether LeBron James would ever return to Cleveland. Asked about that first remarkable, improbable twist, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said: "Go figure … good for them." Bad for the Jazz. ... Lindsey said after the emotion of the moment dissipated into the night on Tuesday, his mind turned away from fortune, good and bad, and toward the reality, the challenge, the business now at hand for him and his team, saying: "It quickly became, ‘This is what we’ve got.’… We’ll have to select the best option."
- Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: An educated guess: The Hornets will aggressively explore some way to turn the Nos. 9, 24 and 45 picks in the June 26 draft into something else. I’m not saying all three picks become a veteran, necessarily. I’m saying they now have commodities, plus at least $17 million in room under the salary cap in July. They’ll explore how to add another game-changer to center Al Jefferson. So I take it for granted they’ll check what it might take to acquire power forward Kevin Love, who seemingly wants out of Minneapolis. Likewise, I’d expect them to inquire about restricted free agents Greg Monroe with Detroit and Gordon Hayward with Utah via sign-and-trades. A caution about Love. Of course he’s available in trade, but remember why: He’s headed toward unrestricted free-agency and reportedly told the Timberwolves he won’t sign an extension. No sensible front office would trade for him without a long-term commitment. Would he tell the Hornets in the summer of 2014 he’s theirs for the long haul? That could be a reach.
- John Canzano of The Oregonian: Flagg called into my Portland radio show (Line 1) and re-told the story, indicating that their discussion was prior to the publication of Tim Donaghy's book. Flagg said Cuban asked, "What's in the book?" Flagg said that he spoke with Cuban about the 2006 Finals, and that he told him to sue the NBA. Flagg said he agreed with Cuban that he was not paid for his advice. A few minutes later...Cuban called in to my radio show (Line 2) and said he, too, wanted to clear up the context of any possible conversation he had with Flagg, "I don't recall calling the guy. But when the whole (Tim) Donaghy thing was going on I talked to a lot of people so I don't think it's inconceivable that I could have talked to him." The Mavericks owner said of the 2006 NBA Finals (Dallas-Miami) officiating, "There's a reason why I got fined. It was horrible. It was beyond horrible." Cuban said he wanted to make it clear that he did not call Flagg immediately after the 2006 Finals. He believes the context was that their conversation, if it happened, may have been as late as 2008. "He may have made a throwaway line about the 2006 Finals," Cuban said.