Friday, May 9, 2014
First Cup: Friday
By Nick Borges
- Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: The bench was once again a massive advantage for the Spurs, who outscored Portland’s reserves 50-19 for the second straight game as they took a commanding 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals. The backups also enjoyed edges of 12-4 on the boards and 8-1 in assists, providing a boost Portland simply had no answer for. ... Manu Ginobili bounced back from his lowest-scoring playoff outing since 2003 with a classic line — 16 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals and, Manu being Manu, four turnovers. Marco Belinelli followed up a strong Game 1 with 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting. (As for his defense…well, that’s a subject for another blog post.) Perhaps the best performance of all might have been the burly, ballerina-like stylings of Boris Diaw, who used his old-man-at-the-Y skill set to maneuver for 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting. ... For good measure, former Blazer Patty Mills added seven points in 10 minutes.
- Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com: The San Antonio Spurs proved why they are a fascinating, well-oiled, attention to detail running machine. Their execution is clean and crisp. They run their sets and get into them with plenty of time to go through their options. But what was blatantly noticeable during their 114-97 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers to go up 2-0 in the series is how they got their guys open shots and quality paths to the basket. It’s not rocket science. In order to free someone up, there has to be one of those body-to-body clashes that you seldom see anymore. Damian Lillard explains exactly what that annoying contact is termed in the game of basketball. It’s a tactic the Spurs do often and so well. “Their screens hurt. They actually set real screens,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “They do a great job of setting and holding screens. It wears you down. Chasing Tony Parker is one thing. Getting hit every single time is another thing. It takes a toll on you.”
- Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: With the Heat often altering the rotation, Chalmers has been among the constants. His playing time has wavered little during the past three seasons. He has started every game he's played since the 2011-12 season. "It just shows the hard work and dedication has paid off," Chalmers said. "It's really just a big trust factor." Chalmers finished with 11 points on 4 of 7 shooting and five assists in Thursday's 94-82 victory against the Brooklyn Nets in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. While James Jones, Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem and others have seen their minutes fluctuate, Chalmers has kept steady. Thus far, he is averaging 9.6 points and 3.2 assists in 26.2 minutes during the playoffs. On Thursday, he also played a role in holding Nets guard Deron Williams to zero points. It was Williams' first scoreless playoff game of his career.
- Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: So now the Nets have to internally address Williams’ mental state. That should mean more pep talks from Garnett and Paul Pierce, who have already done a lot of hand-holding in their first season with Williams. Plus, the Nets are also trying to solve some other problems presented by a team that looks well on its way to a fourth straight Finals. You want to beat the Heat? You have to win the 50-50 balls, secure the key defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter and score. The Nets failed to do all three in the final six minutes when they still had a chance to get out of here with a win. On one Miami possession alone, the Heat outworked the Nets for three offensive rebounds. So Miami ended up keeping the ball for a staggering 1:40, then wrapped this game up when James, who is getting his shot anytime he wishes, scored on a layup with 1:59 left for a 10-point lead. Now most of the talk will be about Williams and what he’ll bring the rest of the series. “I think he’ll be fine,” Pierce said. “He’s a competitor. He knows how to bounce back. He’s done it his whole life." Which is pretty much the problem, you’d have to agree.
- Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post: In professional team sports, terms like “chemistry” and “commitment to team” are impossible to define. But you can recognize it when you see it, especially if it’s been part of your job all your life to look for it. Right now, can’t say for how long or with what results, the Wizards have it. And they have it in gobs. In one of those sentences you hardly believe you are typing, the Wizards — with veterans Marcin Gortat, Nene, Trevor Ariza, Martell Webster, Andre Miller and Drew Gooden, plus suddenly mature John Wall and born-old Bradley Beal — seem like the grown-ups in Washington sports. What happened to 60-loss seasons, locker room disgrace and on-court disarray? They’re not only gone. They’ve been reversed.
- Scott Agness of the Pacers.com: One adjustment the Pacers made in Game 2 was having Paul George guard Bradley Beal rather than Trevor Ariza. Beal shot below 50 percent, including 2-of-6 from outside. George Hill did an admirable job covering John Wall, who Indiana refers to as “the head of the snake.” Wall scored just six points, his lowest output of the postseason. The biggest change for Indiana was Roy Hibbert appearing and imposing his will all game long. He put his body on the line, diving after loose balls and getting in great position in the post. Once the entry pass was sent his way, his teammates felt he took his time and truly concentrated. He ended the night with a game-high 28 points. Indiana doesn’t need that kind of performance from him every night, particularly on the offensive end, but they need him to protect the rim, grab rebounds and be aggressive. Meantime, Paul George has struggled offensively, going 9-of-30 from the field this series yet he’s constantly a threat on the floor.
- Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: Doc Rivers wasn’t going to comment. But after dodging questions about Shelly Sterling’s potential ownership of the Clippers on Wednesday night, Rivers, the Clippers coach, couldn’t help himself Thursday. In his mind, it wouldn’t work. “I think it would be a very hard situation. I’ll say that much,” Rivers said. “I think it’d be very difficult. I guarantee every person wouldn’t be on board with that. Whether I would or not, I’m not going to say. But I just know that would be a very difficult situation for everybody.” ... Rivers said Sterling’s relationship with her husband is what makes him leery of having her as owner. “It’s because of the relationship,” he said. “On the other end, I do say, I don’t know what she’s done wrong."
- Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: In a wild spurt to start the second half, Sefolosha was phenomenal. He had two acrobatic and important steals to help key an 11-0 run and scored 12 points in a six-minute spurt. He had a driving dunk, a nice mid-range jumper and confidently drilled two threes. ... His 12 points in the third quarter were more than he’s scored in a game since early February. And the two threes were particularly important. ... Could this Game 2 breakthrough bust him out of a season-long offensive slump? Who knows. But because of his defensive proficiency, Sefolosha will continue to get minutes. And any offensive production will be a needed boost.