Thursday, May 9, 2013
First Cup: Thursday
By Nick Borges
- Monte Poole of The Oakland Tribune: For two full days there was a look of self-disgust and acute determination in Klay Thompson's eyes, tugging at the corners of his mouth and, really, masking his entire face. It drifted away Wednesday night, clearing after Thompson delivered a half for the ages and, ultimately, a victory to the Warriors. The second-year guard summoned a huge and redemptive performance, game highs in points (34) and rebounds (14), to push Warriors to a 100-91 win over San Antonio in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, squaring the series as it shifts to Oracle Arena on Friday. The Warriors faced yet another furious comeback, but this one never reached the game-swiping level as that of Game 1. The Spurs hacked at a 20-point deficit but never got closer than six. The cushion was built on Thompson's assertiveness and deadeye shooting while playing all but 84 seconds of the game. "I feel better now,'' Thompson said while dressing and preparing to walk to the postgame podium. "A lot better, actually.'' … The Spurs now have a problem. They entered Game 1 worried about Curry and couldn't stop him, entered Game 2 worried about Curry and got drilled by Thompson. Where do they go from here? "Klay was unbelievable,'' Popovich said, now serious. "A lot of those shots were tough. Some of them were wide open because of mistakes, but others were difficult shots, either contested or off-balance. He knocked them down. "That's what the playoffs are about.'' The Warriors are learning that. They learned it the hard way in Game 1 and the happy way in Game 2. The temperature of this series just went up.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Manu Ginobili called it like it was after Monday’s Game 1, allowing that the Spurs hadn’t deserved to win a contest in which they trailed Golden State by 16 with four minutes remaining. The ensuing comeback in double overtime was the first in NBA playoff history under such circumstances. “It’s just one of those games that happens very rarely, like once in a thousand,” he said. (1 in 393, to be exact, but who’s counting?) As such, the Warriors’ victory in Game 2 felt like poetic justice. The Spurs again threatened Golden State late. But this time the Warriors held firm, holding their veteran opponents off after what had been a 20-point lead shrunk to six late in the fourth quarter. And now the series shifts to the snake pit that is Oracle Arena, where the Spurs lost both meetings this season. “This is everything,” Klay Thompson said leading all scorers 34 points. “It changes the whole dynamic of the series. We have the best home court in the NBA. To go back 1-1, give (our fans) a show on Friday, I’m getting jitters already thinking about it.” … In addition to evening the series at 1-1, the victory snapped Golden State’s 30-game losing streak in San Antonio. The Warriors last won here in February 1997, at which point Thompson had just turned 7 and Curry was 9. Curry seemed less impressed with the feat itself than the small detail that, after 16 years, Tim Duncan had finally been forced to drive home a loser against the Warriors.
- Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: But let's be clear: It wasn't the Heat who broke Chicago. The Heat jumped on them in the third quarter. But it was LeBron who took the Heat to that point. With a few minutes left in the half, this was still a four-point game, and LeBron was the only answer Chicago didn't have. He made seven of his first eight shots. He had 19 points at the half, which was the total of the other four starters combined. Another slow start for the Heat? A hangover from Game 1's loss? "We couldn't let last game affect this one,'' LeBron said. Unlike in the first half of Game 1, when he passed to open teammates, LeBron made sure to go hard to the basket right from Monday's start. Two early lay-ups and a dunk showed that. Even when he failed to make the play successfully, LeBron was actively involved. He determined where Chicago's defense went, certainly helped lure Noah into a technical foul — one of nine between the teams — and put their big men in foul trouble. Somewhere in all this, when the Heat saw LeBron being LeBron instead of the reluctant MVP, they transformed back into their championship form instead of the wayward team of Monday night. … By the end of the game, Wade sat with his shoes off. LeBron sat watching like a bystander. And Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was looking to Friday night in Chicago. "We've got to go get ready to go into the lion's den,'' Spoelstra said. The real Heat team goes, too.
- K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Twelve seconds into the Heat's 115-78 victory over the Bulls, Udonis Haslem delivered a foul that sent Nate Robinson back to his college football days and down hard to the AmericanAirlines Arena court. The Bulls knew right after their stunning Game 1 victory that the Heat would produce a more impassioned effort Wednesday night. Nine technical fouls, two ejections and one flagrant foul later, they got their answer. The Bulls lost a game and their composure, suffering the largest margin of defeat in franchise playoff history and having Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson ejected by official Scott Foster in a flurry of technical fouls at the 10-minute, 13-second mark of the fourth quarter. This was no day at South Beach. In fact, about all this one lacked was Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau joining one of the many scrums to latch onto James' leg, a la when mentor Jeff Van Gundy did the same to Alonzo Mourning during a Knicks-Heat series in 1998. Gibson, who didn't leave the court in a timely fashion and continued to shout profanity at Foster, has a small chance of getting suspended for Friday's Game 3 — and certainly will be fined. Noah, who drew his second technical from the bench, entered the court area, which is an automatic suspension when an altercation is occurring. This wasn't an altercation because the Bulls showed little fight all night. "Not being very Zen," Noah said.
- Ron Higgins of The Commercial-Appeal: Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins seemed a tad looser in a brief media session Wednesday at FedExForum than he did two weeks ago in a similar situation. Back then, his team trailed 0-2 in a Western Conference first-round series to the Clippers, after being blown out 112-91 in Game 1 and then losing 93-91 in Game 2 on Chris Paul’s late shot. But on Wednesday with his team 1-1 after the first two games of the West semifinals at Oklahoma City, Hollins actually smiled a couple of times. That’s because his team has mostly controlled the first two games on the road heading back to Saturday’s Game 3 in FedExForum. … On slowing down OKC’s Kevin Durant, who’s averaging 35.5 points, 13 rebounds and 7.5 assists in this series: “We want to (cut off Durant’s supporting cast), but you still can’t let him get 50. We want to make him work and take a lot of shots. We don’t want to put him on the free throw line. It takes a lot of energy to be an offensive player, regardless of what people think, especially when you have the ball in your hand the majority of the time. We want to work him on that end and work him on the defensive end. We want to run and make him play the entire game,”
- John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Thunder bigs combined for 17 fouls in Game 2. Nick Collison fouled out in just 15:22 of playing time, while Serge Ibakahad five fouls, Kendrick Perkins four and Hasheem Thabeet two. Meanwhile, Memphis frontcourt playersMarc Gasol and Zach Randolphcombined for six fouls with three each and combined for 39 points and 13 rebounds (six offensive). OKC was outrebounded 43-35. Was there anything Thunder perimeter players could have done to help alleviate foul problems for its frontcourt players? “It starts before they get into foul trouble,” Fisher said. “There were some things I don't think we did well in terms of how we defended the Grizzlies that put our bigs in tough positions. You obviously know coming into this series the frontcourt is going to be the focal point and so I thought we did a poor job tonight of providing support and really making it difficult for the two of those guys to be effective.”
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: (Frank) Vogel let his players down Tuesday. The Pacers, for as bad as they played in the first half, were in a good position to take control of the game and possibly go back to Indianapolis with a 2-0 lead in their series over the Knicks. Vogel thought calling a timeout and taking center Roy Hibbert out of the game was the right call to make. It just happened on this night, it turned out to be the wrong move. All it took was a Jeff Pendergraph sighting for the Knicks to forget about possibly losing Game 2. … On most nights when the NBA doesn’t schedule 115 days in between games, you can understand why Vogel said he didn’t want to play his starters 48 minutes. But Game 3 isn’t until Saturday. Go for the kill. Can imagine the Knicks heading into Bankers Life Fieldhouse down 0-2 in the series? What about the confidence the Pacers would have? Tuesday was the first time that Vogel was really scrutinized for his decision making. That’s pretty good considering he’s been on the job for more than two years. It just happened the wrong time.
- Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: Carmelo Anthony’s playoff record with the Knicks is now a nothing-to-write-home-about 6-11. Amar’e Stoudemire is 1-7, which includes hurting his back before Game 2 against the Celtics in 2011 while trying do a trick dunk in warm-ups. The following season against the Heat, he took out his frustrations following a Game 2 loss by smashing a glass case used to protect a fire extinguisher and severely cut his left hand. Neither the fans nor Garden chairman James Dolan were thrilled with Stoudemire’s antics, especially since he had to miss Game 3. Now the chiseled, 6-11 power forward with creaky knees is targeting Game 3 at Indiana Saturday night to make his playoff return. And you think Anthony should be feeling pressure? Puh-leeze. … Anthony is the protected one. He is Dolan’s guy, no question about it. That was proven again in the aftermath of Bernard King sending out, via Twitter, fair but critical analysis of Melo’s Game 1 performance. The fallout was King being emasculated. King, a part-time MSG Network analyst, claimed an associate was responsible for the tweets, which were later removed. Think about it this way: Do you think the Garden would have a problem if King tweeted: “Amar’e, you need to rest your body for next season”? I bet if Dolan had a social media account, he’d retweet that. This doesn’t mean that Stoudemire can’t help the Knicks. But if he’s playing 10 to 15 minutes, that means he’s taking playing time from Chandler and Kenyon Martin. Woodson limited Stoudemire to an average of 23.5 minutes in the 29 games. There’s no way Stoudemire, assuming he can play, comes anywhere close to that number in the playoffs. Stoudemire definitely won’t play much with Anthony. He shouldn’t. And if Woodson is still committed to making that duo a winning combination, he should start with next training camp, not Game 3. After all, there’s no pressure in October.