Monday, April 21, 2014
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: The Heat this season put together videos featuring every player that are shown on the home arena’s giant scoreboard screen during games. The one on Dwyane Wade happened to air Sunday during a timeout in the second half of the playoff victory over Charlotte that opened Miami’s postseason bid for a third consecutive NBA championship. It was a look-back on a long career spent entirely here. It was nostalgic to see Dwyane so much younger. The video was emotional. It almost had the feel of a farewell, like the kind of retrospective you’d see at a retirement or something. Wade couldn’t help but glance up and see his career flash before his eyes. “It was weird and cool at the same time,” he said afterward, smiling. ... Wade looked like his old self, not the version of himself that looks old. Miami’s 99-88 victory over Charlotte in Game 1 of this first-round series had a few players’ fingerprints on it, but none more than Wade’s.
- Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: If Al Jefferson isn’t effective, the Charlotte Bobcats have no chance to beat the Miami Heat. If Jefferson ceases to be Big Al, if plantar fasciitis limits what he can do when he has the ball as well as when Miami has it, Charlotte’s season ends quietly. ... It doesn’t seem fair, after the season Jefferson and his teammates have had, for him to get hurt in the first quarter of Charlotte’s first playoff game since 2010. It probably isn’t fair that the Bobcats have to play the Heat. In the playoffs, fairness does not apply. Have to hope modern science becomes especially modern and discovers a plantar fasciitis cure by Wednesday, when the teams next play. As Jefferson stands to leave the interview room, he pauses before slowly walking away. “Don’t laugh at me,” he says, smiling. After all you’ve done for your team, nobody would consider it.
- Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: He missed 10 shots, including one late at the rim without much resistance. His teammates made mistakes, too, but none of it mattered. He would always feel he let one get away, and he went to the podium afterward visibly frustrated. That was Tim Duncan 10 months ago in Miami. That was also Dirk Nowitzki on Sunday. And so those who think the Mavericks missed their one chance, that Nowitzki is too old to carry the Mavericks as he once did, consider what happened the next time Duncan played a playoff game. Aging, tall men who are destined for Springfield have a way of recovering. ... The missed opportunity was real. The Mavericks had caught the Spurs flat, and they had let it get away. So how can Nowitzki get over the sensation that this was “the one you were supposed to get?” “I'm not sure,” Nowitzki said. “We got two days to sit on it and watch the film, make some minor adjustments, and let it all rip in Game 2.” This wasn't a Finals-level disappointment. A first-round opener doesn't compare. But when it comes to recovery, and letting things “rip,” there are some players who are better at it than others.
- Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News: Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle reminded everyone after the game that Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan are two of the 10 greatest NBA players ever, either in scoring or in a general evaluation of their skills. Maybe he felt it was necessary because while Duncan — who turns 38 this week — had just delivered a Game 1 message that he’s anything but long gone, Nowitzki simply looked lost. ... What the Spurs mostly forced was the Mavericks’ bench to supply all the offense. With Nowitzki and Ellis getting 11 points each as the only starters in double figures, Dallas’ starting five shot 32 percent (16-for-50) from the field for a grand total of 39 points. Both teams have an ample amount of time to ponder and institute Game 2 adjustments. They don’t meet again until 7 p.m. Wednesday in San Antonio. I have no idea if Harris and Brandan Wright will contribute another 30 points off the bench, or if the Mavericks can confine their turnovers to single digits (eight in Game 1) a second time. But if Nowitzki doesn’t have more than 11 points by halftime, it will be both a surprise and an indication that this series is fully under the control of the San Antonio Spurs.
- Mike Wise of The Washington Post: The late-game images were so telling: Trevor Ariza chasing down D.J. Augustin from behind with two minutes left, swatting the ball off the glass. Every offensive possession treated not just carefully down the stretch but almost treasured, until someone had a wide-open look or a layup or ended up at the free throw line. The Wizards didn’t merely win Game 1 of their first playoff series in six years; they out- Chicagoed the Bulls. ... It’s one game, sure. But it’s also a series-opening statement by a group that was thought to be too green and not yet playoff-seasoned enough to mount a serious challenge to Chicago. You out-Bull the Bulls in Game 1, though, you’re doing something tremendously right.
- Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: OK, Chicago, what’s the deal in the postseason? The Blackhawks just gagged away two games. And now the Bulls choked on their opener against the Washington Wizards, like it was an Easter egg they forgot to peel. Wizards are magicians, but the Bulls took a 13-point third-quarter lead and made it disappear in a 102-93 loss. It was just so odd, that period when the Bulls had the Wizards on the run. They seemed to get cocky for a couple of minutes, trying to run wild and do stuff they weren’t quite capable of doing. And that’s all it took. These were the fifth-place, 44-38 Wizards, with a bunch of guys who had never been in the playoffs, playing their debut on the road. How? What?
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: The Portland Trail Blazers proved on a grand stage that they now have two superstars on its roster. Damian Lillard joined that select company with LaMarcus Aldridge Sunday night in a 122-120 overtime win over the Houston Rockets in the Toyota Center. This game had every emotion one could have. It was intense, exhilarating, physical, emotional and so much more. Those two faced every obstacle and overcame it. Portland looked as if they had enough midway in the fourth quarter, but they fought back and shocked the Rockets on national television, stealing Game 1 of this series and taking homecourt advantage away from the Rockets. Aldridge played out of his mind to go for a franchise playoff high of 46 points and 17 rebounds along with two blocks before fouling out in overtime. His sidekick Lillard scored 31 points, pulled down nine boards and distributed five assists in his playoff debut. The two were sensational and Lillard took another step towards being one of the true great points guard we have in this game.
- Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: When asked if the Portland Trail Blazers would look to the “Hack-a-Dwight” tactic in their first round playoff series against the Rockets, coach Terry Stotts joked, “First possession, we are doing it.” It didn’t come in the first possession, or any time near it, but when the Trail Blazers needed a comeback in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the fouling began. The Rockets led by 10 with 4:30 to play when the Blazers started fouling him. He would go 2-of-6 in the next two minutes while Portland went on an 11-0 run to come back and eventually send the game into overtime. Howard finished 9-of-17 for the game. “I just have to go up there and be confident and knock those free throws down,” Howard said. “I practice on it enough. I just have to make them.” "That wasn’t the reason they won the game,” he continued. “I don’t think we valued a lot of the possessions.”
- Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Like Saturday night in Game 1 of a Western Conference playoff series against Memphis. The Grizzlies survive on the production of big men Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and the drives of point guard Mike Conley. But Ibaka blocked four shots and made the paint so treacherous that the Grizzlies’ interior players combined to make just 14 of 43 shots. Conley’s quick darts into the lane and the bull rushes of Randolph and Gasol are tempered by the knowledge that Ibaka has impeccable timing at crossing the paint for a backside block. And as we saw Saturday night, when the Thunder won 100-86, Ibaka’s rejections ignite his teammates and the OKC crowd as much as a thundering dunk.
- Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: Eons ago, when Harrison Barnes was a North Carolina high school and college phenom likened to the mighty Jordan, the kid got a nickname: The Black Falcon. You don't drag that kind of high-falutin' nickname into the NBA unless you're a certified god. King James and the Black Mamba can name-drop their own nicknames without a trace of irony. So when the Warriors call Barnes Black Falcon, it's in fun, not reverence. Really, a better fit for Barnes would be the Mystery Falcon, because you never know what kind of performance you'll get from him, or when he'll show up to save the day. It's a superhero nickname, and based on Barnes' playoff performance last season and in Saturday's Game 1 win over the Clippers, he has a mysterious ability to raise his game when the heat is on.
- Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: Before the playoffs began, Doc Rivers told his team that at some point during the playoffs, they were going to lose a game at Staples Center and need to win away from home. "It’s Doc fault,” Chris Paul deadpanned. “He spoke that into existence.” The message wasn’t intended to be taken as instructions. “I didn’t actually mean it,” Rivers said with a laugh. “…You have to be prepared for it, obviously. And obviously, you don’t want to drop the first game. But we did. Now, we have to do something about it.” The Clippers began addressing that with a practice Sunday. While the Clippers need to figure out ways to contain Golden State’s passing and shooting between the lines, the team also has to address the clutter that caused them problems between their ears.