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First Cup: Monday

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Grizzlies have not exactly been on a magic carpet ride since they arrived in Memphis. It's been long and tortured road. But when the ball found Shane Battier and then the bucket, all things suddenly seemed possible. They could steal another game Wednesday! They could win the series outright! 'There's no monkey off our backs,' said Michael Heisley. 'We want to win a series now.' Meanwhile, back in the locker room, Battier quietly put ice on his knees. He's not the kid fresh out of Duke any longer. He wasn't certain this moment would ever come. But it had. And he was a part of it. On the same day he became a father once again. 'I'm really happy for the city,' he said. Right back at you, Shane."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: "After being outrebounded by the Grizzlies in all four regular-season games this season, the Spurs had a 40-38 advantage on the boards in Sunday’s game. More amazing: They grabbed 11 offensive rebounds, compared to five for the Grizzlies. They outscored them in second-chance points 15-5. Shouldn’t that have been a formula for a Spurs victory? 'It should be, but it wasn’t,' Spurs captain Tim Duncan said. 'We didn’t do enough down the stretch, and that was the game right there. We stuck to our game plan and did a good job keeping them off the offensive glass, but they made more plays than we did down the stretch.' Backup big man Matt Bonner stressed the importance of continued emphasis on rebounding. 'If we do that again, we’ll put ourselves in a good position to win,' he said. 'If we can keep doing that on the glass as the series moves on, we’re going to have a great shot to win the series.' "

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Sometimes it seems like the easiest role for Paul Pierce to fill is the one that went to Ray Allen last night -- the job of shot-maker. But the Celtics captain, who struggled for his 18 points with a 6-for-16 shootingperformance in last night’s 87-85 Game 1 win over New York, produced his best moments in other ways. The first was his ability, with 21 seconds left and the Knicks leading by a point (85-84), to pressure Carmelo Anthony into a possession-ending elbow. 'I don’t know if he drew it, but he took it,' coach Doc Rivers said of Pierce’s ability to pressure Anthony into the foul. 'And it was the right call. Heck of a call to make, but it was the right call. It was clear, and I give Paul a lot of credit. In the first half, Bill Walker and Carmelo got every shot they wanted. In the second half, that went away, and I thought that was due to Paul.' And then there was one of his biggest assists of the season -- a pass to Allen for the game-winner, after keeping the ball alive at the top of the circle despite heavy Knicks pressure. 'Paul made a great pass,' said Rivers. 'Ray’s the hero with the shot, but Paul was the hero with the pass. That’s a great example of not playing hero basketball -- just trusting what we drew up. And he made the shot.' "

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: "Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony required no ceremonial first elbow from a hostile opponent in white and green to know that this playoff spring was bound to be different from the glorified scrimmages -- comparatively speaking -- they have known out west. 'I’ve played them before,' Anthony said of the Celtics, 'but now I’m in the Eastern Conference.' Welcome, Melo and Amar’e, to the heart of the conference where postseason mayhem happens. Stoudemire, Anthony and Coach Mike D’Antoni came tantalizingly close in their Eastern playoff debut Sunday night. Close enough at TD Garden that the Celtics needed two pictures of inbound perfection in the final 37.3 seconds to pull out an 87-85 victory in Game 1 of their first-round series. In the end, on a night when a statement that would have resounded coast-to-coast could have been made, all the Knicks were left with was a sense of deflation, Chauncey Billups’s strained left knee and the realization that the series will be even more intense than last month’s bloody encounter in New York -- times seven, if necessary."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "The New Orleans Hornets were expected to be overmatched and unable to handle the Los Angeles Lakers' size advantage or Kobe Bryant's scoring in their first-round playoff series. But it was the Lakers who were overmatched that led to a stunning Hornets' 109-100 victory in Game 1 at the Staples Center. Point guard Chris Paul blitzed the Lakers for a team-high 33 points and had 14 assists and seven rebounds. Game 2 is Wednesday at the Staples Center. The Lakers won the season series against the Hornets 4-0. But Sunday, the Hornets outscored the Lakers 52-34 in the lane and closed out the game shooting 51.9 percent."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "No they didn't. No, the Lakers did not just spend the first hours of the 2011 postseason drifting around their downtown gym as if yawning through a Sunday morning parks league. No, they did not just glance up at the scoreboard around mid-afternoon to discover themselves thoroughly whipped in their postseason opener by the thoroughly outmanned New Orleans Hornets. And, no, no, no, Lamar Odom just not just say this was a good thing. 'This could be the best thing to happen to our team,' Odom said Sunday after the Lakers lost to the Hornets, 109-100, in front of mixture of shock and boos at Staples Center. No they didn't. And no, this wasn't. Walking your first postseason mile with the same stumbling gait that marked your final regular-season lap is not a good thing. Beginning your annual two-month postseason journey by unpacking the sort of fears that could cut that journey short -- from Pau Gasol's melting to Kobe Bryant's gunning to Derek Fisher's slowing -- is not a good thing."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "In his first playoff game ever without Ron Artest attached at the hip, Kevin Durant kept making shots of all kinds and all distances. He scored 41 points and the Thunder needed virtually all of them in a 107-103 survival of the wildly interesting and entertaining Denver Nuggets. But on a couple of Durant's four straight shots in the third quarter, the Nuggets had Raymond Felton guarding Durant. Yep. I am not making this up. The Nuggets' 6-foot-1 point guard. Later, when Denver coach George Karl commiserated about a defeat that could have gone the Nuggets' way, he talked about making adjustments. Talked about stiffening up on Durant and Russell Westbrook, too, and making this a seven-game series. There's only one problem. If Karl already has resorted to Felton, the Nuggets already are out of options. Durant was at his best Sunday night; 41 points on 22 shots is big-time basketball, and it didn't seem to matter whether Danilo Gallinari or Wilson Chandler or Kenyon Martin was chasing Durant. Durant was on and ready to proclaim -- through his play; certainly not through his voice -- the 2011 NBA playoffs his grand stage. Durant certainly was the hero of the NBA's first playoff weekend. Sorry Dwight Howard, you've got to win your game to receive that mantle."

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: "The NBA owes the Nuggets an apology. The lone way Oklahoma City beat Denver 107-103 on Sunday was by breaking an obvious rule of basketball. The key basket in Game 1 of this NBA playoff series should never have counted. Thunder center Kendrick Perkins doesn't possess much basketball skill. But he's a pretty decent cheater. With the Nuggets clinging to a one- point lead and 65 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma City went ahead 102-101 when Perkins appeared to commit offensive goaltending not once, but twice, on a single play blown by the officiating crew. 'Appeared?' an incredulous George Karl replied, when I asked him about Perkins pushing the envelope on the rules as he clumsily bulled his way to an offensive rebound on a missed shot by Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook. What Karl said next might well cost him a fine from the league office. But although the consequences might cost him in the wallet, the veteran Nuggets coach left little doubt that the referees made a huge error that cost his team dearly. 'I just feel bad,' Karl said. 'It's obvious we made a stop, and it's obvious it was a goaltend.' "

  • Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Here’s what I like about Tom Thibodeau: After railing all year about little flaws, even when the Bulls were beating people comfortably, they play a subpar first 45 minutes in their playoff opener against the Indiana Pacers and he has his players’ backs. Fans and media are fretting about tentative offense, balanced offense, Carlos Boozer’s defense, whether Derrick Rose is going to hold up. Meanwhile, the perfectionist coach had a nice playoff game face on after practice Sunday at the Berto Center. Hey, he knows the Bulls won the series opener 104-99 on Saturday. Even the way he listed his concerns about ‘every aspect’ of the Bulls’ defense sounded more like a grocery list than a See-Red alert. Eggs, cereal, ball pressure, challenge shots. '‘I didn’t think offense was our problem, to be honest,’ he said. ‘You score 104 points, that should be enough to win.’ ... Shaky first win or not, with Thibodeau at the tiller, they’re headed in the right direction."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Derrick Rose's impact was spread around the court in Game 1. The Chicago Bulls point guard dribbled into the lane at will, forcing the Indiana Pacers' big men to help. The double teams led to plenty of offensive rebounding opportunities for the Bulls. Chicago grabbed 21 offensive rebounds, which played a part in its 19 second-chance points. The Pacers gave up 21 offensive boards only once all season, Dec. 29 against Washington. Bulls center Joakim Noah had eight offensive boards, forward Luol Deng had five and veteran big man Kurt Thomas came off the bench for three. 'It starts with keeping Rose out of the lane,' Pacers interim coach Frank Vogel said. 'Most of those rebounds were a result of Rose drawing help and leaving (Chicago's) bigs under the basket. We have to do a better job of keeping him out of the paint.' Vogel spent time in practice Sunday emphasizing that they have to find a Bulls player and box out."

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "This can get lost in the euphoria of Joe Johnson coming up big in a playoff game, Kirk Hinrich looking almost young again on defense and Jason Collins getting head-butted from a frustrated Dwight Howard. But it’s worth noting: The Hawks followed Larry Drew. They followed his game plan. They followed his season-long cries for a consistent effort and passion, his pleas for mental and physical toughness. They won their playoff series opener against Orlando on Saturday night, and in doing so put to rest any suggestions that players had tuned out or quit on their first-year coach. Wins like this simply don’t happen if guys aren’t paying attention. It doesn’t explain the absurdity of some Hawks performances during the season, including five home losses by 21 or more points. But it gives credence to the theory that the problems have been less about Drew’s ability as a head coach than it is about his players’ occasional reluctance to accept his ideas."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "With a Game 2 victory, the Magic can start working on defying the label of overwhelming underdogs in this championship chase. The Hawks, I predict, will struggle with their new-found identity as favorites before this thing is over. They have stolen home-court advantage, although that's really never been an advantage in Atlanta. The Magic have seen the best this schizophrenic team can possibly offer. There's no place for the Hawks to go but down. And it's often a quick trip to the lower floor, given their reputation as mentally fragile front-runners. The question is whether this Magic team -- so different than last postseason's club -- can get them to crack. ... The Magic and their fans are on high alert with each postseason loss, sensitive and fearful of what toll they might take on Dwight leading to Decision 2012. Everything is seemingly connected to it, from his supporting cast's Game 1 disappearance to Otis Smith's trades to the Magic's sudden decline. Everything is linked to keeping Howard in town. And let's face it: The last thing Orlando wants to be is an overwhelming underdog in that race."

  • Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald: "Without Chris Bosh’s 25 points and 12 rebounds Saturday, the Heat is very likely in the same position as the Spurs and Lakers, down 0-1 and questioning just about everything. With Bosh’s 25 and 12, the Heat is comfortable and talking about correcting mistakes and not recovering from them. They’re not just words anymore. Not just ways to keep Bosh engaged while he learns to adjust to life as a third option. It’s a true assessment from James -- the guy we used to think was the key to the Heat’s title hopes. 'He knows how important he is,' James said of Bosh. 'Hopefully he doesn’t feel this way, but sometimes he feels like he gets the backseat of this whole Big 3 thing, which we don’t believe.' No pressure, Chris. But you might have just gone from backseat to driver’s seat."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: "Saturday, there were several times when Iguodala seemed to have a clear path to the basket, and when he rose you expected him to throw down one of his thunderous dunks. Instead, he would throw a jump-bounce pass to a teammate further away from the basket or fire it across court where the offense would start all over again. As much as his defense is appreciated and needed, if the Sixers are going to make some noise in this series, which resumes tonight at 7 o'clock at American Airlines Arena, Iguodala is going to have to score. 'We need some more points [from him], we do,' said Doug Collins after yesterday's practice. 'He got us four [points in Game 1] and actually got the first two of the game on a tip and then got one [basket] early in the third quarter. We got the ball in his hands a lot, he did get a lot of assists for us [nine] and eight rebounds. But with our team, right now, and with Lou [Williams] trying to get himself back [from injury], we're going to need some points from him.' "

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "By the time Wesley Matthews arrived at American Airlines Center for Game 1 against the Mavericks, Saturday was already a bad day. Little did the Trail Blazers starting shooting guard know, it was about to get worse. It all started at the team's afternoon shootaround, when Matthews discovered both of his game shoes were for the left foot. The team's equipment staff, which packs the player's game gear, had to scramble to find another pair of Nikes that Matthews said weren't as comfortable as his usual shoes. Back at the team's hotel after shootaround, Matthews ordered room service. 'Just wanted some wings,' Matthews said in a how-hard-can-that-be manner. The order took nearly two hours to arrive at his room. Shortly after, he settled in for his habitual game-day nap, which was a success until his hotel room phone started ringing. He picked up and nobody was on the other end of the line. 'You know that crucial part of your nap? Where it's almost the end of it? It woke me up in that last 30 minutes of the nap,' Matthews said. 'I was like, 'Aw, you gotta be kidding me. ' His day wouldn't improve at the arena. Less than four minutes into the game, he was forced to the bench with two fouls, setting the tone for what would be an absent night for the Blazers' second-leading scorer and one of the team's best perimeter defenders. Matthews finished with two points, one rebound and three turnovers in 19 minutes, his lowest offensive output of the season and just the fourth time he played less than 20 minutes. 'A long day,' Matthews said looking back at the Blazers' 89-81 loss. 'A long day.' "

  • David Moore and Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: "In the aftermath of the Mavericks’ victory Saturday night, Nate McMillan charged that the officials called the game differently for both teams in the fourth quarter and his players didn’t know how to respond. The Trail Blazers coach specifically pointed to the Mavericks’ 19-2 edge in free throws attempted in the final period. McMillan didn’t back down Sunday, noting that while his team outscored the Mavericks 46-18 in the paint, they shot 16 fewer free throws. He wondered how a Mavericks team that managed only two points in the paint in the second half (compared to Portland’s 30) made it to the free throw line so often in the stretch. Jason Kidd countered that Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry got to the line in the fourth quarter because they were taking the ball into the lane. Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was asked if McMillan was trying to earn his team an edge in Game 2. 'I believe the officials are going to make every effort to make the calls that are there. If you want to get into a debate about officiating, there’s plenty of calls that could have gone the other way,' Carlisle said."