<
>

First Cup: Tuesday

  • Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com: "It was one of those games Lamar Odom seems to churn out once every spring for the Lakers, ensuring up to six more weeks of season. The groundhog might base his annual appearance around seeing his shadow, but Odom uses it to prove without a shadow of a doubt just how valuable he is to his team. Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Monday belonged to Odom well before Kobe Bryant made it feel like he was a spokesman for rejuvenation tonic in the third quarter, peddling his wares to the eager Staples Center crowd that transformed into the spitting image of The Forum in the 1980s (if you ignored all their cell phones). Odom kept his 6-10, 230-pound body folded on the bench until he came into the game with 5:31 remaining in the first quarter and the Lakers down by five, immediately springing into action. He scored seven straight points for the Lakers on a short bank shot, long 3-pointer and a stretched-out tip in to give Los Angeles the lead it would keep the rest of the way in a dominant 128-107 series-starting victory."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Game 2 in the best-of-seven series is Wednesday, assuming the Suns have recovered by that time. How lopsided was it? Lakers fans began chanting for free promotional tacos with seven minutes to play, the Suns down by an eternity, the Lakers on their way to a seventh consecutive victory. The preamble to Game 1 was about the injured knees of Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, with Bryant even skipping practice for an entire week, opting for rest and therapy on his swollen right knee after the Lakers' four-game sweep of Utah. All he did Monday was uncork the 11th 40-point playoff game of his career. 'I practice so much during the season, and in my off-season I work a lot,' Bryant said. 'To take a week off, I'm not going to lose all the work I put in prior to that.' "

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "The final score read like something straight from Showtime, an era when the Lakers routinely sailed over opponents: 128-107. And keep in mind that Suns star Steve Nash entered this game with a black eye. By the time the thrashing was complete, who knows what else on Nash was contused?"

  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: "In the span of 48 minutes, the Lakers held serve and served notice. Theyseized early control of the Western Conference finals, overpowering the Suns with muscle, effort, defense and size. It's only one game. Yet by the end of the first quarter, the Suns' growing swagger was gone. Midway through the third quarter, one of the NBA's great sportsmen (Grant Hill) was assessed a technical foul. And with six minutes left in the game, the crowd at Staples Center broke out a strange chant: 'We want Boston! We want Boston!' That's cold. 'We took them out of their offense,' Lakers reserve Lamar Odom said. This game was the sum of all fears. The Suns were manhandled on offense and eviscerated on defense. Their vaunted bench was outscored by the Lakers' reserves. The hosts scored 56 points in the paint. Odom had 19 rebounds off the bench, or 16 more rebounds than Amar'e Stoudemire, whose passivity was puzzling, alarming and not at all befitting a player yearning for a maximum contract."

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "Kobe Bryant didn't just throw down the gauntlet, he pump faked, reverse pivoted and then swished it. This is what maximum-contract players do. They put their team on their shoulders and will them to greatness. No one else on the court Monday night will ever be confused with Bryant, but if the Suns hope to rebound from their embarrassing 128-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, they need more from Amar'e Stoudemire. Make no mistake. Stoudemire had some standout moments. But a series such as this demands a standout game and the Suns forward didn't deliver. None of his teammates did. There were moments Stoudemire looked disengaged, others when he settled for a jump shot instead of a drive. His 23 points were a team high but the statistic that told the greater story was rebounds. He finished with three. Steve Nash had more."

  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com: "Actor David Arquette is a regular member of the courtside glitterati at Lakers home games. At Monday night's game, he became a lot more than a spectator. Eyewitnesses describe Arquette as a "peacemaker" after he was knocked to the ground trying to help a security guard who'd been pinned to the ground by a fan who rushed the court after the Lakers beat the Suns 128-107 in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. Michael Roth, vice president of communications for AEG, which operates Staples Center, couldn't confirm Arquette's involvement in the incident, but confirmed a physical incident occurred along the courtside seats opposite the Suns bench at the end of the game. 'At the end of the game, a fan came out of the stands and out on to the court,' Roth said. 'Any time a fan breaches the court, you don't know what their intentions are. We approached him and asked him to leave and when he didn't want to leave, there was some force used.' "

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "Doc Rivers acknowledged that with about 30 games to go in the regular season, the Celtics made a conscious decision to focus on staying healthy. That meant scaling back minutes and resting players in situations in which they'd typically be on the floor. That made for a bumpy ride down the stretch, but the Celtics were in peak health when the playoffs started, which Rivers noted numerous times was far more important than a higher seeding. The Celtics have posted a 9-3 mark since the playoffs began, winning four in a row since a lopsided Game 3 defeat to Cleveland at the TD Garden threatened their season 10 days ago. What's more, Boston is playing an inspired brand of ball. Its defense -- ultra-physical and unapologetic -- rivals the 2008 championship squad at times, while the offense is displaying more balance than most tightrope walkers. A bench shortened to the barest of bones is providing key contributions on the biggest of stages after being frustratingly inconsistent all season. Who could have possibly seen this coming? Rivers did. And during Monday's workout, players heaped much of the praise on him for never letting players take their eyes off the ultimate prize. 'Doc Rivers is everything, he's the glue that keeps us all together, the captain of our ship,' said Kevin Garnett."

  • Ron Borges of the Boston Herald: "Most of Kendrick Perkins teammates get a hand when they do their job well. What the Celtics center usually gets is a hand up. It is to Perkins that the job of bumping and banging with the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Shaquille O’Neal and now the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard falls. Often, frankly, the job involves falling down because when you are asked to absorb the kind of hits Perkins takes in the paint you spend more time on the floor than running the floor. Basketball is, in theory, not a contact sport. Don’t try to sell that to Perkins, however, for he has spent the playoffs in close contact with O’Neal, in the second round, and Howard in the Eastern Conference finals. The result is that when he wakes up the morning after a game Perkins doesn’t feel 25, he feels 95. Howard is 6-foot-11, 275 pounds. O’Neal is a 7-footer who weighs a lot more than he admits to - and he admits to 300 plus a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s. Now Perkins is no midget himself, standing 6-11 and going 280, but when a guy as massive as O’Neal or as strong as Howard muscles you, holding your ground requires tent stakes. Many centers fold their tents in such situations. Perkins folds his arms in defiance. If players had theme music, Perkins’ would be 'I Shall Not Be Moved.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Nothing in sports delivers a wake-up call quite like a loss. No wonder Orlando Magic players say they've learned their lesson against the Boston Celtics. Fresh off of their first defeat since early April, all Magic starters pledge they'll work harder tonight in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals than they did Sunday in the series opener. 'We just didn't play hard,' power forward Rashard Lewis said. 'They played harder than we did and we made a lot of mistakes. But it comes down to who played the hardest, and they played the hardest.' One Magic player, in particular, looked eager to play a game as soon as possible. As his teammates concluded Monday's practice at RDV Sportsplex by shooting baskets, small forward Matt Barnes did wind sprints. He ran from one end of the court to the other, touched the baseline and sprinted back to where he had started. Barnes injured his back on May 8, and subsequent muscle spasms limited his effectiveness in Game 1 against Boston. He reported later that his back muscles never felt loose and that he felt more winded than normal because he hadn't done much running recently."

  • Tania Ganguli and Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Kendrick Perkins helped shut down Magic center Dwight Howard in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. Howard scored 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting as Perkins, Rasheed Wallace and Glen 'Big Baby' Davis took turns guarding Howard one-on-one. Howard believes he needs to change his tactics when he faces Perkins, a 6-foot-10, 278-pound bruiser who has the bulk and strength to keep Howard away from the hoop. 'I'm going to have the same outcome against him if I play his game,' Howard said. 'His game is to be physical and try to fight me. But for me, it's not [best] to try to fight him to score. There's other ways around it.' Howard has said in the past that he needs to utilize his quickness and force Perkins to move his feet."

  • Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com: "When it comes to all the hoopla surrounding LeBron James' impending free agency, Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers understands the hype. ... 'It is a big story,' Rivers said of James. 'That guy is a franchise changer. And if he decides to leave, it's going to change two franchises. If he decides to stay, it changes one or it continues one, so it's a huge story. It's the biggest story that I can remember since I've been in the league, quite honestly. It would be like if Michael Jordan had become a free agent and decided that he was going to leave. That story would have been just as crazy, so it deserves what it gets.' Celtics guard Ray Allen isn't surprised by the hoopla. 'I expected a lot of the talk to be about his future,' Allen said. 'Obviously, there was so much talk going into it, it's a big story. You talk about free agency any summer, you talk about your key players, and he's at the head of the class. It's a big story. But we're here and this is what we're talking about now.' Celtics forward Rasheed Wallace spoke for a few other teammates when the topic of James' free agency came up. 'I don't care,' he said. 'It don't matter to me. That's [the media]. That's ya'll sitting up there talking about him and printing in the paper. I don't care. The less of ya'll there is around me the happier I am. So ya'll can keep going, talking about that LeBron stuff.' "