First Cup: Wednesday

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "The cameras didn't catch it, but the broadcast's sideline reporter did. Midway through the first half of Monday's Game 4 loss at Denver, the Thunder's All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook reportedly had a heated exchange during a timeout. TNT sideline reporter Pam Oliver reported the verbal dispute during the game. On Tuesday, the Thunder insisted the jawing was positive. 'It was all about trying to do the right thing,' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. 'We got to get a stop. That's what it was about. We got to stop the ball. Their point guards are getting inside the paint. The bigs and the guards have got to do a better job of stopping the basketball. That's what the conversation was about. 'It's funny because it's in the playoffs on national TV, but it happens a lot. It doesn't happen every timeout every game. But guys are emotional. Guys care about what we do and they express that and I like that. I do the same thing.' Durant also downplayed the incident. 'We've been doing that all season,' Durant said. 'That's a part of a basketball team. You're not going to always be happy all the time. … Sometimes you have to scream at guys for them to get the point. That's what we were doing.' "

  • Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle: "You really have to laugh at the prospect of an NBA lockout. The playoffs' first-round action has never carried such wide-ranging suspense, and the cast of heroic characters seems endless. How remarkable, in this theater of the intrigue, that Kobe Bryant continues to rise above them all. Game 5 was a made-for-Hollywood drama in Lakerland, where the series stood 2-2 and New Orleans' Chris Paul had the look of an all-conquering villain. The Lakers had been disjointed, even downright soft, throughout the series. Bryant took the floor on a badly sprained ankle and seemed only a marginal participant over the first hour or so. Cue up the all-time playoff reel, the one featuring Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, Michael Jordan and all the rest. With a pair of stunning dunks that electrified the Staples Center and probably left a permanent imprint on the series, Bryant showed once again why he's the toughest, most single-minded competitor in the league."

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "The injured ankle that Kobe Bryant refused to show doctors was put on display for the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night, and now they know. It's swollen with sorcery. It's twisted with drama. It's black and blue and Kobe all over. Bryant was too injured to lead the Lakers toGame 5 survival? He suckered the Hornets into believing it just long enough to dunk on their glistening heads, shoot over their weary arms and pass around their knocking knees. Two days ago, after apparently spraining his left ankle in the final minutes of the Game 4 loss in New Orleans, Bryant acted as if he couldn't walk. On Tuesday, after a slow start, he literally flew, scoring 19 points with four assists in leading the Lakers to a 106-90 victory and three-games-to-two lead. 'We're not all built the same way,' Bryant said with a sly smile. 'It's the beauty of modern medicine.' ... In a series during which the Lakers have lost all air of invincibility, they have at least regained the percentages, as NBA teams that win the fifth game of a 2-all series have ended up winning the series 83% of the time. So heading back to New Orleans for Game 6 Thursday night, the Hornets can only hope for some luck, some destiny, and for Bryant to not injure the other ankle."

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: "There is no hiding in an NBA game, and you just knew the Hornets would go right at Kobe to see for themselves how seriously he was hurt, how well he could move and defend. And they did, Ariza blowing by him for an early layup. It wouldn't take long for Kobe the asset or Kobe the liability to be revealed. 'He'll k now if he's hurting the team -- he'll know,' Magic Johnson said. And whether or not Kobe was doing further damage, he'd figure that out too. 'He'll know if he's hurting his body,' Magic said. 'But right now he feels good, and if he feels good you've got to go with that. Until something on the floor happens to say otherwise.' The bottom line is, the Lakers needed him out there. They will deal with any ramifications later. Besides, do you really think anyone was going to actually stand in his way? 'His greatness is he has a high tolerance for pain. His greatness is he'll fight through things,' Magic said. 'When you're a competitor you fight through things. He knows this is an important game, that we have to go up 3-2.' He played, and they did."

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: "For 82 games the cry for a new point guard is played over and over. Fans claim on message boards, letters to the editor and comment sections of websites that Derek Fisher is too old and too slow to be starting for the Lakers. Put him on the bench, they say. Start Steve Blake or Shannon Brown or anybody with fresher, younger legs. Then comes the playoffs and Fisher quiets his critics with solid performances that remind the critics why he’s still in a key player for the Lakers. Tuesday was one of those nights. Fisher went 5 for 6 from the field for 13 points and had three assists and one steal in the Lakers’ 106-90 victory against New Orleans in Game 5 at Staples Center. The veteran guard even had a blocked shot to help the Lakers take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven first round series that heads back to New Orleans on Thursday."

  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Instead of duplicating their performance from Sunday night’s Game 4 victory at the New Orleans Arena, the New Orleans Hornets were no match against the Los Angeles Lakers’ size or balanced attack on Tuesday night. The Lakers took back control of the series with a 106-90 Game 5 victory in front of a sellout crowd at the Staples Center. Game 6 is Thursday at 7 p.m. at the New Orleans Arena. The Hornets must win to avoid elimination with the Lakers now holding a 3-2 series. The winner of Game 5 in a best-of-seven series that is tied after four games has gone on to win that series 130 out of 157 times (.828). The Hornets have never won a best-of-seven series when tied at 2-2, going 0-3. 'Our backs are against the wall, it’s going to be a dogfight Thursday,’' Hornets forward Carl Landry said. 'We’re definitely not just going to let them come into our house and push us around. That’s not happening.’ "

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "Derrick Rose has delivered so many breathtaking moments this season that the spectacular has flirted dangerously with becoming the norm. Since the championship run ended, however, the Bulls winning a playoff series isn't normal. That's why Rose's third-quarter stretch in the Bulls' series-clinching 116-89 victory over the Pacers on Tuesday night reminded all what we're witnessing. Saddled with a sprained left ankle, not to mention four fouls, Rose simply took over, turning a taut game into first a blowout and then a blowup. He scored 10 of his 25 points, including three 3-pointers, and dished out two of his six assists as the Bulls closed the third with a 23-8 run that turned the Pacers' physical play into thuggery. ... 'I'm speechless right now,' Rose said. 'I really can't believe it. It's a great accomplishment. I'm happy for my teammates and my coaching staff.' "

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Bad-footed Derrick Rose played, and fortunately the only ankles that gave way Tuesday night were those of the stubborn Indiana Pacers. Take a deep breath, Chicago. Round 1 is over. Honest. The palms were a little sweaty before this game, weren’t they? Can’t blame Bulls followers for being nervous and a tad perplexed. The Pacers were a No. 8 seed, and the Bulls a No. 1, right? So why wasn’t this thing over already? Indeed, if this 116-89 Game 5 win is how it’s going to go in these playoffs, somebody please find Rose some shoes that never melt, never sag, never fail, maybe never come off. Because without this brilliant competitor ... the mind reels. '‘I think he looked great,’ said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. ‘I don’t think he had any problem.’ "

  • Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Tom Thibodeau, who has guided the Bulls from NBA afterthought to championship contender in his first season, should be receiving his NBA Coach of the Year Award in less than a week. His players couldn’t be happier. 'He deserves it,’ forward Taj Gibson said. ‘He’s a great coach. He watches every detail, critiques your game. He’s been phenomenal with me in my growth as a player. He’s turned us into a whole new mode of team. Our passion, our aggression toward every game is pheonomenal.’ "

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "True, the Pacers' season ended Tuesday night, the Bulls blowing out Indiana 116-89 and finishing off the Pacers in five games. True, the Pacers were undone by the best player in the game, presumptive Most Valuable Player Derrick Rose, who came back in the third quarter when the Pacers pulled within four points and went absolutely crazy. (Bad ankle? Is that what a bad ankle looks like?) True, this was the Pacers' worst performance of the playoffs, a night when they lost their direction and their cool. (See Josh McRoberts, A.J. Price and Danny Granger.) Still, this was the best thing that's happened to this franchise in many years. It was only five playoff games, but it was an experience these young players and this young coach desperately needed. For the first time since before The Brawl, the Pacers gave the region a reason to look forward and not look back at the glory days of Reggie Miller and Company. 'We've put Pacers basketball back on the map, and it's here to stay,' said interim coach Frank Vogel. 'Fans should be very, very proud of this team. It's a team they can fall back in love with.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "Danny Granger had to be restrained from going after Bulls center Joakim Noah as the teams exchanged handshakes on the court at the end of the Bulls' series-ending 116-89 win. Granger accused Noah of playing dirty throughout the game, taking cheap shots at Pacers, including forward Josh McRoberts, who was ejected in the third quarter. Granger was in the hallway outside the locker room using expletives to describe Noah's play. 'Everybody saw what Josh did and he got ejected,' Granger said. 'Nobody caught what happened first. It's always the second man. (Noah) was playing dirty the whole game. My teammates got caught with it and nothing happened.' McRoberts was ejected in the final seconds of the third quarter for throwing an elbow at Noah. The former Carmel High School standout said he was retaliating for an "elbow to his throat" from the Bulls center."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Magic, like a struggling heavyweight, were on the ropes. And then suddenly Tuesday night at the Am -- BOOM! -- they landed a right hook to the Atlanta's glass jaw. The shots started raining and the Hawks started reeling. Now the Hawks have something to think about when they return home for Game 6 in what is essentially a must win for them. No way, no how do they want to return to the Am for Game 7. No matter how much talent they have, the Hawks are still the Hawks. They are still Team Dummy. They will always do stupid things and take stupid shots. They will always lose their focus and their composure. Yes, even when the series moves back to Atlanta, where the Hawks have turned into hummingbirds more than once this season. There's a reason the Hawks this season have been blown out at home more than any team with a winning record in NBA history. There is a reason they have suffered five home losses by 20 or more points, including three by more than 30 points. There's a reason those numbers are both NBA records for futility for a team with a winning record. The reason is this: Because sooner or later, without fail, you just know the Atlanta Hawks will turn back into the Atlanta Birdbrains."

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Remember these guys? This is what you feared. Not a game, but a cartoon. Not a loss, but four quarters of exploding body parts. For most of four playoff games against Orlando, we saw what the Hawks were capable of. Then we saw what we already knew they were capable of because they showed it all too often during their bipolar season. Before the game was half over Tuesday night, the Hawks trailed by 10, then 15, then 25, and then everybody pretty much stopped paying attention. Now the doubt is back in Atlanta, and the hope is back in Orlando. The final score was Magic 101, Hawks 76. It would’ve been worse if Orlando hadn’t put it in cruise control early. The Hawks lost by 25, and Dwight Howard wasn’t even a factor. He scored eight points. Remember these guys? There’s only one positive if you’re the Hawks. It counts as only one loss. This remains a very winnable series. They lead it 3-2, and they can still wrap up this playoff series Thursday night at Philips Arena. That would be a good idea because winning a Game 7 back in Orlando generally doesn’t show up on the blueprint."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "Most teams that are up 3-1 in the playoffs are a lot better than their opponents. Like, this year. The Heat are up 3-1 on the Sixers. There's no way the Sixers are coming back. The Spurs probably aren't coming back either. But it's silly to foreclose the possibility that they could. They have to win three games in a row. Know how many times they've done that this year? It's a big number: 16. Two of those three games they have to win are at home. The Spurs almost never lose at home. And after reading about how creaky and washed up and pathetic they are after Monday's humiliating defeat, they're certain to be jacked. 'These guys know it could be it,' said Battier. 'They are going to fight us as hard as they have ever fought.' Beyond all that, the Grizzlies will be trying to do something they've never done before. Don't underestimate how tricky that can be. Or did you miss Rory McIlroy's final round at the Masters this year? It's one thing to bring yourself to the doorstop of a grand accomplishment. It's another thing to walk through that door. See Greg Norman. See the Buffalo Bills."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "As the Spurs return to the AT&T Center for Game 5 tonight, confronted with an earlier end to the season than any of them expected, these are the things that will flash before their eyes. A 61-win season. The No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. What had been presumed to be the last, best opportunity for the Tim Duncan-era Spurs to make a run at a fifth championship. All with a chance to be snuffed out before the clock strikes midnight. To Ginobili and other Spurs, that seems like an awful lot to lose. 'Obviously, the whole team is very frustrated,' point guard Tony Parker said. 'We go through a whole season to get the first seed. Now we’re just one game away from being eliminated.' The Spurs began the series with history in their corner. Just three No. 1 seeds had ever been ousted by a No. 8, and only one of them -- the 2007 Dallas Mavericks -- in a best-of-7 series. Now, history sides with the Grizzlies, who are on the verge of making it. The Spurs have never rallied from down 3-1 to win a playoff series. They are 0 for 5 in the Duncan era."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: "Russell Westbrook staged his own 30 for 30 docudrama Monday night. Thirty points on 30 shots. Think of the marketing possibilities had the 30 for 30 game been aired on ESPN. Alas, TNT had Game 4 of the Thunder-Nugget series, which allowed Chris Webber and Charles Barkley to lambaste Westbrook, reminding him that he's Robin to Kevin Durant's Batman. They were partially right. Thirty shots is way too many for anyone this side of Wilt Chamberlain or maybe Durant, and nobody is pretending otherwise. 'Did he take too many shots? Absolutely,' said Thunder coach Scotty Brooks. So here's what Brooks should do Wednesday for Game 5. Nothing. Nothing at all. Nothing except to remind his staff that anyone who tries to put a bridle on Westbrook is fired on the spot. Westbrook is 22 years old. He's still learning on the job. Westbrook is nowhere near where he was, but he's nowhere near where he will be. 'He's going to get better,' Brooks said. 'You're not seeing Russell at this level for the rest of his career.' Some say Westbrook plays with a chip on his shoulder. No kidding. Whatever Westbrook is doing, keep it up. And he's not the Boy Wonder. He's not Rocky Bleier to Durant's Franco Harris. He's John Stallworth to Durant's Lynn Swann. I know people haven't come to grips with it, but the Thunder has two Batmans."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The NBA announced Tuesday night that if the Miami Heat close out their series against the Philadelphia 76ers either in Wednesday night's Game 5 at AmericanAirlines Arena or a potential Friday night Game 6 in Philadelphia, then an Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Celtics would open Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat lead the best-of-seven opening-round playoff series against the 76ers 3-1. For the Heat, it ups the stakes in Wednesday's 7 p.m. game. With a loss, it could leave the Heat returning early Saturday morning from a possible Game 6 victory in Philadelphia and then having a single day to prepare for Boston, which has been idle since closing out a 4-0 first-round sweep Sunday against the New York Knicks. Should Heat-76ers go to a Sunday Game 7 at AmericanAirlines Arena, then Game 1 of a possible Heat-Celtics series would open next Tuesday at AmericanAirlines Arena."

  • Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News: "The chondromalacia in Iguodala's right knee, a chronic condition that dates back more than 5 years, flared in mid-March. That's right about the time Phillies second baseman Chase Utley was shelved with the same condition, possibly for as long as 3 months. Had it happened earlier this season, Iguodala would have been shelved, too. Had the Sixers been out of the playoff picture, Iguodala would have been shut down. Instead, he played for the next month. The knee cost Iguodala only the last two games of the regular season, when Sixers management insisted he sit, general manager Ed Stafanski said. ... What he is doing should burnish his shameless legacy; should, in this grit-and-spit town, raise him to heroic heights. The limitations explain why he didn't score much until Game 4. He simply could not stop, he could not leap, he could not finish. And he would not complain. ... After a season of rehab and recriminations, Iguodala already is handicapping his career. He's 27. He said he hopes to play only seven more seasons. The Sixers' faithful should pray they get good seats to witness those seven seasons. It is too bad this series probably ends tonight. What's worse is missing the playoffs. What's worst is ignoring the class and character of the man who brought you there. As for that tattoo, Iguodala is willing to endure a little more pain to erase the irony: 'I'm about to get rid of it.' "

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Clearly, the Mavericks turned that Game 4 debacle in Portland into something constructive. They rebounded well, and in more ways than one Monday, to regain the alpha-male position in the series. Still, it’s hard not to think about what might have been. Had they closed out Game 4, they would have finished the Blazers in five games. At this point, that’s all ifs and buts, and none of it matters. The Mavericks are up 3-2 in the best-of-7 series and need a win on the road Thursday or at home Saturday in Game 7 to advance to the Western Conference semifinals. The Mavericks’ show of force in Monday’s 93-82 win at American Airlines Center was commendable. They were coming off the huge heartbreak of losing a 23-point lead in Game 4. Everybody questioned their will and heart. They responded with a thorough pounding of the Blazers. But if anybody thinks that means the trip to Portland for Game 6 will be any easier, they haven’t been paying attention. The best thing the Mavericks have going for them is they have regrouped and shown they will not splinter in tough situations."

  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian: "One of the more lasting images from the end of Game 5 took place when Dallas bench-warmer Brian Cardinal set a particularly hard pick on Blazers point guard Patty Mills with four seconds left in the game and the win secure. Wesley Matthews appeared to have some choice words for Cardinal following the screen, and after the game, he told the Oregonian 'I’m not going to forget it, that’s for sure.' Nate McMillan, meanwhile, looked as though he was protesting the play. Tuesday, however, he didn’t seem so up in arms. 'There’s a lot of screens where guys were getting hit. Your bigs need to up to communicate on pick and roll defense,' McMillan said. 'I think that’s more on us than it is on Dallas. We gotta be up there talking to our teammates.' Even with four seconds left in the game? 'There’s still time on the clock.' "

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: "Joking aside, Al Jefferson and other Jazz personnel thoroughly enjoyed having Jeff Hornacek become more involved with the team after the resignations of Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson left the organization with only two coaches in February. 'He's certainly been good for us while he's been here,' Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin said. Being away from his family was the biggest challenge of the transition Hornacek made going from part-time shooting coach to full-time assistant alongside Scott Layden. Hornacek went from only being with the Jazz a few days a week on average with limited travel (aside from trips from his home in Phoenix to Salt Lake City) to being with the team every day and only seeing his family on a couple of occasions between February and April. 'It's the toughest part,' Hornacek said of being away from his family. But the Jazz benefited from the level of expertise and insight one of the premier shooters of his generation -- and a guy who knows the franchise's system like the back of his old hot hand -- brought to the court. ... Until the NBA's labor situation is resolved, however, Hornacek won't know his future employment status. His current contract with the Jazz ends on June 30, but he hopes that gets extended eventually. 'I like this group of guys. Ty's a great guy, and Scottie,' Hornacek said. 'With all of the stuff that's happened, (you want) to be part of a turnaround.' "