Wednesday, May 4, 2011
First Cup: Wednesday
- Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Comfort hasn’t always translated into positive results for this Heat team this season. It normally meant a letdown was imminent. It happened as recently as the first round against Philadelphia, a series that lasted a game longer and involved more tense moments than it ever should have because the Heat, at times, figured it would be a comfortable experience. Perhaps that’s why there was no sense of relief Tuesday before or during Game 2 against the Celtics. No luxury in holding a one-game cushion. There was anxiety. There was pressure. There was a feeling that the series hadn’t even begun, because these Celtics weren’t only capable of stealing the momentum and home-court advantage in Game 2, but they were practically expected to. The Heat didn’t win this insanely intense second-round series against Boston on Tuesday, but it certainly could’ve lost it. A Boston win could’ve been catastrophic to the psyche of the Heat. It would’ve put tremendous stress on a team that hasn’t handled stressful moments especially well, particularly not in Boston, for the better part of this season. The Heat avoided that scenario. LeBron James avoided three days of questions and concerns. Chris Bosh avoided being the ultimate target. And Dwyane Wade avoided wasting his spectacular Game 1 effort. A 2-0 series lead may have never felt so necessary. 'This thing is just getting started,' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said."
- Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "One by one, they made Boston's stars grow old before us. LeBron James made a quick cut and -- ouch! -- Boston's Paul Pierce left for a while with a foot injury. Dwyane Wade made a magic move and -- where'd he go? -- Boston's Kevin Garnett was a lost child in the mall, turned completely around, as Wade blew by for a layup. Wade then made another move, hitting the air brakes. Boston's Ray Allen couldn't stop. Allen fell to the ground, like a supplicant, watching Wade's three-point shot swish. In Tuesday's 102-91 Heat win, the Heat's Big Three played Boston's Big Three like youth plays age. It was that simple. And that convincing. And perhaps that conclusive if the four-day rest before Game 3 doesn't help Boston. Once upon a time, these Celtics played for these spotlit moments, tough and unshakable, the perfect blend of veteran nerves and talent. Through two games it's been the younger, more athletic Heat who have done it."
- Mike Berardino of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "You want to know why the Boston Celtics find themselves trailing 2-0 in a playoff series for the first time in seven years? In a word: Tempo. Every time the wily Celtics try to drag the Miami Heat over to the ropes, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade breaks free and moves back to the center of the ring. Dancing and grinning. Sticking and moving. Floating like a butterfly and, well, you know the rest. The Celtics, 102-91 losers on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, might as well have been trying to defend the Heat stars with butterfly nets for all the success they've had through these first two games. Sunday afternoon, Wade went for 38 and James for 22 in a 99-90 Heat win. Tuesday night, it was James going for 35 and Wade for 28 as the roles were reversed but the outcome was eerily similar. 'Just trying to wear them down throughout the game,' James said. A 14-0 Heat run that began with the score knotted at 80 was evidence that plan worked in Game 2. The question now, as the series moves to Boston, is can the Celtics get the tempo under control and at a pace they can survive? Or will it be more of the same from the Go-Go Heat and their suffocating defense?"
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "At this moment in playoff time, the Celtics aren’t who they purport to be. They aren’t even who the Heat thought they were. To watch the Celts absolutely unravel last night was to witness an aging boxer in an ill-advised comeback. Only they aren’t too old. They threw a couple of decent combinations, but in the late rounds they were Sonny Liston on the canvas while a young Muhammad Ali danced around them. Only they are not knocked out. There are at least two more opening bells to go for the Celtics -- Games 3 and 4 on Saturday and Monday. To earn an all-expenses-paid trip back to Miami, they will have to prove their critics wrong. And prove the Heat right. Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said after last night’s 102-91 shovel of dirt on the Celtics’ reputation that his team needed to take a one-day break from it all before relocating the edge it had in the two games here. 'We have to get back to that edge because of our respect for their experience and their championship DNA,' he said of the Celts. 'This is a very tough-minded team with a lot of pride.' The Celtics would like to think so, but when the going got tough last night, the visitors, after engaging in high-volume debates during timeouts, curled up into the fetal position."
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Even Shaquille O’Neal’s former teammates are starting to feel bad about his plight. Yesterday, LeBron James tried to imagine what it’s like at the moment to be Shaq. 'He’s a competitor and he would love to play,' O’Neal’s former Cleveland teammate said. 'Injuries have bothered him the last couple of years. You can’t take away from what he’s done in his career, so we’ll see what happens.' Though Shaq didn’t play last night, Celtics officials continue to express optimism about the improvement in his recovery from soreness in his right Achilles tendon and calf. O’Neal’s most recent big step came in Monday’s practice, which included a scrimmage that marked his first action since a five-minute appearance against Detroit on April 3. O’Neal was sore and hobbled following the workout. 'He looked great yesterday, said Rivers. 'He went through the whole practice and looked phenomenal, actually. He had one stretch that was phenomenal. Then by the end of the practice he was struggling to walk, so we’ll see. Game 3 is becoming likely.' "
- Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: "On a night when Oklahoma City's postseason hopes hung in the balance, Russell Westbrook came up big. Those anxious early minutes became a distant memory by the final minutes of this playoff game. Thunder 111, Grizzlies 102. Westbrook was superb. He scored 24 points, dished out six assists and played the type of controlled yet dynamic game that his team needed from him. What's more, the NBA's most overanalyzed point guard wasn't the only Thunder point guard to have a big night. Eric Maynor scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. If the Thunder can get this kind of play out of its point guards, it has a chance not only to win this Western Conference semifinal but also to still be playing in June. No joke. These guys were that good Tuesday night.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "In a 111-102 victory over Memphis on Tuesday night, the Thunder went from passive to aggressive, from the bullied to the bullies, from the brink of elimination to a brand new series. With a make-my-day attitude, the Thunder frustrated Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, who were post monsters in Memphis' Game 1 victory. Randolph and Gasol, who combined for 54 points on 21-of-33 shooting Sunday, had just 28 points on 5-of-22 shooting Tuesday night. Perkins made Gasol look like the little brother that he is -- Pau returned to No. 1 in the Gasol poll -- and Nick Collison played 25 minutes of splendid defense on Randolph, who was beginning to develop a reputation as unstoppable. Instead, Randolph was stopped cold. He made just two shots, and that Gran Torino attitude that Perkins brought from Boston filtered down to every Boomer. In truth, it's an attitude Collison always has had. 'He brings that toughness every time down the court,' Thunder coach Scotty Brooks said. 'He's a winner. He's all about making winning basketball plays.' "
- Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Everyone in Memphis knows the Grizzlies operate best when they play with an underdog’s edge. They can get back to doing that now. The Oklahoma City Thunder blasted the Grizzlies in Game 2 of their playoff series Tuesday night, 111-102. And while the cognoscenti will now have until Saturday to figure out exactly what happened, it really isn’t all that complicated. The Thunder played harder. The Thunder did all those things Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins talks about. They competed. They defended. They played with the fury you’d expect from a team in peril of going down 0-2 at home. The Grizzlies, well, you know how everyone expected them to come out fat, happy and maybe a little sluggish for Sunday’s game? That’s exactly how they came out Tuesday night. They played like they had finally decided they were as good as everybody was saying, like they no longer had to prove they belonged with every trip down the floor. ... The good news is that the Grizzlies got the split of games they needed in this city. The other good news is that there are no laurels to rest on any more. Said Shane Battier: 'If we don’t have an edge after this game, then we shouldn’t be here.' "
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "The Bulls are the latest team to realize the postseason Hawks aren’t necessarily like the regular-season version. After playing one good half against the Bulls in three regular-season games, the Hawks delivered a convincing 103-95 victory Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Hawks lost two of three games to Chicago during the season -- and had to rally from 19 points down for the lone victory. Chicago had 14 more rebounds per game, and the Hawks couldn’t break 83 points in any of the meetings. In Game 1 the Hawks had a 38-37 rebounding edge and shot 51 percent from the field. 'The regular season is over,' said Hawks guard Joe Johnson, who scored 34 points. 'We’re starting a new season. Collectively, as a team, we’ve been great in the postseason. We’ve approached every game with the same intensity.' It was another turnabout for the Hawks, who won Game 1 against Orlando in the first round, a year after the Magic swept them in the second round. On Monday, the Hawks ended a 15-game losing streak in the second round. 'A lot of people had written us off in the series before it even began,' Hawks coach Larry Drew said Tuesday. 'Now that we have been in these situations a few times, we respond differently. We don’t listen to what’s being said ... and I do believe this team is a little more hungry.' "
- Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: "There was something about the Derrick Rose MVP presentation Tuesday that was so warmhearted, so uplifting, so quietly dignified that you couldn’t help but be moved by it. Even if you thought Dwight Howard (second place) or LeBron James (third) should have won the 2011 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, you had to admit this young Bulls star is such a humble, hard-working, wildly gifted, caring -- and, thus, spectacular -- role model that he is a credit to everything that sport stands for. ‘As great a player as he is,’ Bulls general manager Gar Forman said at the rostrum, ‘he is an even better person.’ Nobody disagreed. Indeed, what you heard whispered like a breeze after the ceremony, as Rose talked with the media while his family, his teammates and front-office folks mingled in the closed-off ballroom of the Lincolnshire Marriott, was precisely this: ‘Isn’t he something?’ Clichés exist because they once had roots in the truth. Rose is the good kid who did right."
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "All season, the Bulls liked to say they were chasing. The motivational ploy worked so well they achieved the league's best record, becoming the chased. The chased is now chasing again, dropping Game 1 of their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals against the Hawks with Game 2 scheduled for Wednesday night at the United Center. And as they try to master the learning curve of being the favorites, they need to get back to what made them the chased. 'We need to be aggressive, especially defensively,' Derrick Rose said. 'If we do that, we can get them off their game. You'll see us getting to the loose balls that we didn't get to in the first game. We'll rebound and be aggressive at both ends.' Indeed, beyond their shotmaking, the Hawks beat the Bulls at their own game -- getting to loose balls, outrebounding them, making the hustle plays."
- Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Since they've already gotten at least a split of their first two playoff games with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks have now gone into greedy mode. The Mavs would like nothing better than to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series against the two-time defending NBA champions. 'For us, again, we know what our goals are,' guard Jason Terry said. 'We've got to win four games [against LA]. We've won one, and this next one is a big game.' Game 2 is 9:30 tonight at Staples Center. All the Mavericks have to do is win their home games and they'll have stamped a ticket to the Western Conference Finals. 'You can't even look that far ahead,' Terry said. 'You win this next game you put yourself in a great position.' Does Terry believe the Mavs shocked the league with the Game 1 victory? 'Don't know; don't really care,' Terry said. 'It don't really matter.' "
- Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "The subject was momentum, specifically, how the Lakers have been lacking it lately and how regaining it now certainly could ease their intended journey. The problem? They aren’t likely to reclaim momentum anytime soon. And that’s not our opinion. That’s Phil Jackson‘s. 'I don’t know if that’s going to happen,' the coach said Tuesday. 'It’s been my experience that that doesn’t always happen because teams are very good at this point in the playoffs. They can make adjustments. They leap-frog each other from game-to-game.' So that means the Lakers and Mavericks could be exchanging blows -- and victories -- in this series. If that’s going to be the case, it has to start with the Laker victory Wednesday."