Wednesday, April 25, 2012
First Cup: Wednesday
- Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Even with Steve Nash at the helm, the Suns have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1988, as they were eliminated with a 100-88 loss Tuesday night at Utah. The Jazz (35-30) clinched the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff seed by snapping a seven-game losing streak to Phoenix and holding the Suns to 40.5 percent shooting with 15 turnovers. The Suns will miss the playoffs for the third time in the past four years and are left to play out the schedule Wednesday night against San Antonio, the West's top seed that likely will use stars lightly or not at all tonight. "You can't afford to not play well in a game like this," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "They did a good job overall on screen and rolls. They took (center) Marcin (Gortat) out of the game. We have to shoot the ball better from the perimeter. "They outplayed us." The Suns (33-32) had to fight from behind nearly all game because of a sloppy first half. They already were missing Channing Frye, who was present but out because of an injured shoulder, and then Grant Hill's comeback was cut short after a brief first-quarter appearance.
- Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: With the win, the Jazz (35-30) earned their 25th playoff appearance in franchise history. The victory cemented an unexpected resurgence by a small-market Utah franchise that went 39-43 during the 2010-11 season, failed to make the postseason, and lost coach Jerry Sloan and All-Star guard Deron Williams. ... The Jazz could finish as high as No. 7 when the regular season ends Thursday. Utah would then take on Oklahoma City in the first round, which starts Saturday. The Jazz are guaranteed at least the eighth seed, and would face No. 1 San Antonio. ... Al Jefferson scored eight points on 4-of-6 shooting during the fourth quarter, finishing with 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. During shootaround Tuesday morning, he called the matchup the biggest contest of his career, since he hadn’t been to the playoffs since his rookie season in 2004-05 with Boston. Against the Suns, Big Al formed a Big Three with Millsap and Favors, and they pounded in a combined 57 points and 42 rebounds. "Seven long years since I been in the playoffs. It’s a blessing," Jefferson said. "It’s a great opportunity to get here. A lot of people counted us out. Nobody thought this team would be in a position to get in the playoffs and we made it. It’s a great group of guys and everyone on our team deserves it."
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: The NBA finally ruled on Metta World Chaos. Seven-game suspension for an elbow assault that gave James Harden a brain bruise and the state of Oklahoma a new Public Enemy No. 1. ... In the Hollywood Hills, they yell foul for too harsh a penalty. In Nichols Hills, they yell not harsh enough. Nothing short of a lifetime banishment would appease the Big Blue mob. Best to go to the man who always talks straight. “I think it's fair for what he done,” said the Thunder's Kendrick Perkins, no choir boy himself but also no brain bruiser, so far as I know. “A play that was uncalled for. Could have seriously injured someone.” Make no mistake. A seven-game suspension is stout. The Laker cuckoo bird will miss the regular-season finale at Sacramento on Thursday, then Los Angeles' first six playoff games, provided the Lakers last that long. Don't laugh. Without Chaos, the Lakers' task against Denver or Dallas just got a lot tougher. The Nuggets' Danilo Gallinari is a happy man today, knowing Chaos won't be in his grill should Denver draw LA. And if it's the Mavs, what do the Lakers do when Dallas goes small? Chaos won't be there to guard Dirk Nowitzki. ... If Harden's OK, then seven games seems a solid sentence. If Harden's not OK, the Thunder season soon will end, and Metta World Chaos becomes an even bigger villain in Boomtown.
- Jason Jones of the The Sacramento Bee: The Kings' coaching staff will look very familiar next season. Coach Keith Smart plans to bring back assistants Jim Eyen, Alex English and Bobby Jackson. Only English was hired after Smart replaced Paul Westphal, who was fired Jan. 5. "This group has been good," Smart said. "They've managed to blend with each other and work with each other and have an understanding of how each other functions." Smart said there also will be a role for special assistant Clifford Ray, who has been assisting with coaching the big men since last month. Smart said the schedule would dictate how much Ray would be with the team. "That guy will always be around me no matter where I'm coaching," Smart said. "Even if I'm coaching my kids, he's going to be around."
- Ryan Lillis of The Sacramento Bee: Mayor Kevin Johnson and Kings co-owner George Maloof spoke again Tuesday morning and have decided to meet in person within the next few days in what will likely be a make-or-break session. The mayor told reporters Tuesday that the next meeting will probably determine whether the city's collapsed arena deal is back on, or if "we don't have the makings of a deal." Asked how confident he was that a deal would be resurrected between the city and its NBA team, Johnson said he was "hopeful rather than confident." A Maloof spokesman told The Bee's Tony Bizjak that the meeting would take place Thursday morning in Sacramento. But aides to the mayor said they had not confirmed their schedule. Maloof told The Bee's Dale Kasler that he'll probably be joined at the meeting by his brother Gavin, plus minority partner John Kehriotis and John Rinehart, the team's senior vice president for business operations.
- Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: For those seeking the intensity of a Heat-Celtics matchup, the best advice was to dig up a tape from the April 10 game in Miami or perhaps the April 1 game at TD Garden, because neither team was recognizable in Tuesday night’s game. Celtics coach Doc Rivers trumped Miami coach Erik Spoelstra’s decision to rest the Heat’s Big Three by sitting Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Mickael Pietrus, and Greg Stiemsma to nurse nagging injuries. Ray Allen had been scratched after Monday’s practice. Rivers said most of those players will return for Thursday’s season finale against the Bucks. Garnett’s absence was the biggest surprise. He told Rivers that a hip flexor injury that caused him to miss a Feb. 15 loss to the Pistons had flared up. Garnett also was held out of Friday’s 97-92 loss to the Hawks to get some rest. “Kevin never comes in, and when he comes in to say, ‘I think I need two more days,’ it speaks volumes,’’ said Rivers. Paul Pierce asked to play Tuesday after being held out of Friday’s game.
- Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: One more regular-season game remains, but the Heat is already in playoff mode. The team conducted an intense, playoff-style practice before Tuesday’s game against the Celtics, and LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh did not play against Boston. With the Heat’s playoff position secure, James, Wade and Bosh are saving their energy for the first round of the playoffs, which will begin either Saturday or Sunday in Miami. The Heat’s Big 3 likely will sit out Thursday’s season finale at Washington, as well. Mario Chalmers and Udonis Haslem started alongside Shane Battier, Mike Miller and Dexter Pittman on Tuesday in Boston. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra began resting his starters after the Heat’s victory against the New Jersey Nets on April 16. ... Haslem played in his 593rd game with the Heat on Tuesday, tying Alonzo Mourning for second on the Heat’s all-time list. “It’s huge,” Haslem said. “Just to think back to when I first came and being undrafted and having to work so hard and the blood, sweat and tears just to be a part of the organization and be a part of the team, and I never would have thought nine years later this is the situation I would be in.” Haslem trails Wade by three games on the games-played list.
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks defeated the Clippers 109-102 in a game with major postseason seeding implications for both teams in a playoff atmosphere at Philips Arena. Joe Johnson’s 3-pointer with 1:28 remaining brought the home crowd to its collective feet. His desperation 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining, with the shot clock expiring, was the final dagger. The Hawks (39-26) moved a game away from clinching home-court advantage in their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Celtics. They need only a win in Thursday’s regular-season finale against the Mavericks or a Celtics loss against the Heat on Tuesday night or the Bucks on Thursday. The Hawks, winners of eight of their past 11, avenged a March loss to the Clippers in Los Angeles. They have now won three straight against the Clippers at Philips Arena. The Clippers (40-25) failed in an attempt to tie the Lakers for the Pacific Division lead and the third seed in the Western Conference playoff race. They lost for only the second time in the past eight games and are 14-4 since March 24.
- Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro wasn't happy with his team, going off on players after a lackluster effort against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night. "They outworked us. They outrebounded us," Del Negro said. "They got loose balls. We didn't really give ourselves a chance.… I didn't think our starters were very good. I didn't think our bench was very good and that's what you get." ... With so much at stake, Del Negro was asked why the effort was lacking. The Clippers knew they needed just one more victory to get the home-court advantage over Memphis in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. Now the Clippers have to beat New York on Wednesday night to start the best-of-seven series at Staples Center this weekend. "Inexperience, young. You can make a bunch of excuses about it," Del Negro said. "The bottom line is you've got to go out and perform and I thought we got outworked tonight. Their (Hawks) backs were against the wall too and ours were. I thought they outworked us. Maybe we've got to take some more vitamins, some more energy drinks, whatever we've got to do. But I didn't like the start of the game."
- Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: That the Warriors replaced general manager Larry Riley with protege Bob Myers comes as no shock. The big surprise is the timing. Why now? According to multiple team sources, a few factors came into play. The coming draft, and all the ensuing prep work. The pending free agent season, which kicks off July 1, and the Warriors’ need to woo someone though armed with nothing more than a mid-level. But perhaps the biggest factor, per the sources, was Myers’ as assistant general manager. It was part of the plan for Myers to succeed Riley when they lured Myers from the player agent side of the business a year ago this month. But at the time, co-owner Joe Lacob said Myers was in line for the job after Riley retired “in a few years.” It’s been 12 months. In that time, Myers, according to sources, has proved to Lacob he is ready now. Lacob is impressed with Myers’ connections around the league, his negotiation skills and the relationships he’s built in the organization. With the draft coming up, followed by an offseason where the Warriors need to add some key pieces, the decision was made to make the move now.