Tuesday, May 14, 2013
First Cup: Tuesday
By Nick Borges
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder found out just why the Grizzlies have three NBA All-Defensive players and a stinginess that earns them the right to be called the most oppressive team in the league. It was a reminder Monday night that couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Thunder. The Grizzlies, though, did what they have all season — turned up their defense intensity when it mattered most. Memphis held Oklahoma City to 1 of 8 shooting over the final five minutes of its 103-97 overtime victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series in FedExForum. The Griz took a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is Wednesday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The Thunder will need better clutch play from Durant if its wants to extend the series. Durant missed all five of his shots in the overtime. Mike Conley led the Griz with 24 points. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph each chipped in 23 points for the Griz, who haven’t lost at home in the postseason. The streak was in jeopardy for most of the night.
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: By third quarter's end, Memphis had caught the Thunder, and it was back to the grit-and-grind basketball that has defined this series and at which Memphis excels. Ibaka was superb much of the game; he had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone and found his shooting touch, which had disappeared. Martin was good, too. But Memphis doesn't let any offense look good for long. So at crunch time, expecting to deliver winning offense is dicey. In this same situation two years ago — down 2-1 at Memphis in the West semifinals — the Thunder won an epic three-overtime game. But Durant that night had help from names that now are gone. James Harden, gone to Houston, and Russell Westbrook, gone to injury. This Thunder team, at least against Memphis, can't rely on offensive heroics to win. It must win with defense. And the defense disappeared for too long in Game 4, and now the Thunder season is in serious jeopardy.
- Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: They were all caught up in the celebration of one of the spare offensive highlights in Monday night’s 88-65 victory over Chicago. There was one notable exception, one guy who stayed stapled to his spot. That guy, Dwyane Wade, is caught in a pain loop. Discomfort is his undeniable, unfortunate reality these days due to the bruised right knee that began bothering him in March, idled him for much of April and continues to trouble him in May. … “I aggravated it,” Wade said. “Just a shooting pain. It hurt, but eventually I was able to come back, re-tape my knee and try to finish.” Yes, he did return, making three of his final five shots to finish with six points — including a dunk on a pass that was reminiscent of one James gave him in Game 4 in Indiana last year to get him going. Going forward, it’s clear that his issue isn’t going away without a full offseason of rest and rehab. Yes, going forward. … So it’s no longer a question of whether the Heat can win a championship without Wade at his best, as I believe they can. It’s a question of whether they will. … So would it help to skip Game 5 against Chicago, as he skipped Game 4 against Milwaukee? “Nah,” Wade said. “Just some days are better than others. In certain games, I might do a move and the shooting pain might come up. This was the first time y’all seen it. Other times I’ve been able to not show y’all.”
- Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune: If the Bulls don't stun the Heat in Game 5 in Miami, this will almost certainly go down as Richard Hamilton's final home game at the United Center. (At 35 with back issues, he'll have his $1 million option bought out by the Bulls.) The same fate figures to await Nate Robinson, who will be an unrestricted free agent and likely has priced himself out of the Bulls' plans. Robinson reached the highest of highs in Game 4 of the Nets series, scoring 23 points in the fourth quarter — one shy of Michael Jordan's club postseason record for a quarter. Contrast that to Monday. After shooting 0-for-6 in the first half, Robinson threw the ball away on a break, missed the rim on a lefty layup and had a runner off the glass go in and out. That left him shaking his head. It was his 12th field-goal attempt of the game — all misses. "When you're trying to shoot shots you make every day, every game and they don't fall, it takes a toll," he said. "And then you don't want to feel like you're hurting the team by shooting even more." Thibodeau pulled Robinson after 32 minutes and four turnovers. It didn't help that he banged his left shoulder in a collision with James.
- Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Q: You have the life of luxury. You work one day a week during the regular season. But how much do you think about running a team in the front office? Reggie Miller: “All the time. It would have to be the right situation (and), for me, the only situation I know is Indiana. Those competitive juices always flow. During the regular season, not so much because it’s only one day a week. It really picks up come the end of March and April when the playoffs are about to start and we have a lot of games. That’s when my blood starts to boil and I start to sweat a little bit more. I’m in the action because every possession means something. That’s when I think I could possibly do that. Again, it’ll have to be the right situation. We’ll see. I’m not going to broadcast forever. I’ll probably want to do something else in basketball, which will probably be running a team or at least helping run a team.”
- Howard Beck of The New York Times: A victory over the Pacers on Tuesday would tie the series and make it a best-of-three affair, with two of those games at Madison Square Garden. A loss would leave the Knicks in a 3-1 hole, with long odds of recovering. “Tomorrow will tell us a lot about our team,” said Carmelo Anthony, who called Tuesday’s game both a “must win” and a “gut check,” each an apt cliché. The Pacers have yet to lose a home playoff game. The Knicks are 0-3 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season and have seemingly forgotten how to score. Only eight N.B.A. teams have won a series after falling behind by 3-1. Team health remains a serious concern. J. R. Smith and Kenyon Martin were left at the team hotel Monday because of illness, with Martin showing some of the same feverish symptoms that sapped Smith of his strength in Game 3. Iman Shumpert was also held out of practice because of soreness in his surgically repaired left knee. … Mike Woodson agreed with Tyson Chandler’s concerns about poor ball movement, saying, “You’ve got to sacrifice the ball for the sake of the team, and good things happen offensively when you do that.” Carmelo Anthony’s 6-for-16 performance from the field Saturday — including an 0-for-3 mark in the fourth quarter — had some commentators suggesting he should shoot more, not less. Woodson waved off the entire discussion. “It’s just not Melo,” he said. “I don’t want this to be a one-man show.” Rather, Woodson said he wants to see a return to the style that had five Knicks averaging double-digit scoring in the regular season.
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: The offensive numbers do not paint a pretty picture through four games of the Spurs’ Western Conference semifinal series with Golden State. The Spurs shot 35.5 percent from the floor in Sunday’s overtime loss in Game 4, their second-lowest mark of the season. Factor in 3-pointers (25.9 percent) and free throws (56.0 percent), and it was the Spurs’ worst collective shooting performance since the 11th game of Tim Duncan’s career in 1997. They’re at 42.1 percent for the series, and that’s after shooting a comparatively scorching 50.6 percent in Game 3. And yet, the Spurs remain relatively pleased with their execution. Everything, that is, except their frigid touch. “All in all we played pretty well,” Duncan said of Game 4, in which the Spurs missed 15 of their final 17 attempts. “Shots just didn’t go in for us. We left a bunch of points at the free throw line. Our shooting wasn’t great. But all in all, I don’t think we’re going to change a whole lot.” “Hopefully it’s an aberration to be that bad,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “But you can’t count on that. They go in or they don’t. You count on your defense, your aggressiveness, your physicality. That’s what we’re looking for.”
- Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: The NBA announced its All-Defensive teams on Monday, and no Warrior player received a single vote. “Get in line,” Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said before his team flew from the Bay Area to San Antonio for Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals. “Our executive finished in seventh place. Steph Curry was home during All-Star week. Joe Lacob is probably the No. 7 owner in the league. Harrison Barnes didn’t get any Rookie of the Year votes. He shouldn’t have been the Rookie of the Year, but he should be First-Team All-Rookie. Jarrett Jack wasn’t the Sixth Man of the Year. The only thing they got right was me.” Jackson finished seventh in the Coach of the Year voting, which was announced last week. Meanwhile, his team has made marked strides — doubling last season’s win total and improving their standing in opponent’s field-goal percentage and defensive rebounding by more than 20 spots among the league.