First Cup: Tuesday

  • Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Suddenly, a ghost went poof. Suddenly, a leprechaun went splat. Suddenly as the final seconds ticked down Monday night and the final rebound fell harmlessly to Chris Bosh, this finally was the Heat's night, their game and probably their magic carpet going up in a real way. LeBron James, no longer haunted by this town, pulled Dwyane Wade in for a strong embrace. James walked to Bosh for another hug. There they stood, the Big Three who played that way in Monday's 98-90 overtime win, enjoying the most wonderful sound of all as the Boston crowd filed into the night. Silence. 'Obviously, the biggest win for this team,' Wade said after the Heat took a commanding 3-1 series lead. All year long, all series long, the front-and-center question for the Heat was beating Boston. And beating Boston in its home pit. It went back to Cleveland with LeBron. He called this, 'one of the biggest games of my career.' It went back four years with Wade. The Heat hadn't won in Boston dating to 2007. They did it with LeBron being for the first time in a Heat uniform the LeBron that carried Cleveland in the playoffs everywhere but in this building. James bent steel this night. He leapt tall buildings."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "Miami Heat forward LeBron James said Monday he was reacting to the inanity of a question and did not intend to demean when he muttered 'that's retarded' beneath his breath during a Saturday postgame media session. Following Monday's 98-90 overtime victory against the Boston Celtics, James offered an apology. 'I want to apologize for using the 'R' word after Game 3,' James said from the same podium where he made his comment two nights earlier. 'If I offended anyone, I sincerely apologize.' On Saturday night, as teammate Dwyane Wade was asked a rambling, innocuous question about his supposedly aggressive play in the Heat's Game 3 loss in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series, James, seated alongside, muttered his comment, while covering his face. Asked about his word choice, James initially said, 'I have no idea what you're talking about,' during his Monday media session at the Heat's game-day shootaround at TD Garden. He then said he was annoyed by the question and reacted. 'I didn't understand the question,' he said. 'It's definitely blown out of proportion. I don't think Dwyane is a dirty player.' "

  • Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe: "It’s been done before. Eight teams have come back from 3-1 deficits to win an NBA playoff series. Two of them wore Celtic green. Can Boston’s Wheeze Kids of 2011 turn the trick? Can the broken-down, beaten-up, one-armed, fossilized Celtics win three straight against theMiami Heat? I’m not betting on the Morgan Freeman Five. It feels like we’re watching the final days of the great run we’ve witnessed since Danny Ainge assembled the New Big Three in the summer of 2007. The hated Heat earned a 98-90 overtime victory over the Celtics last night to take a commanding lead in what has evolved into an epic Eastern Conference semifinal series. You can have your Bulls and Hawks, Grizzlies and Thunder, Mavericks and disgraced Lakers. Celtics-Heat is Where Amazing Happens. Commissioner David Stern was in the house last night and he could have just declared that this is the NBA Finals. NBA Future meets NBA past. It’s not going to get better than Boston-Miami. Unfortunately for Green Teamers, this might be the last roundup for the second coming of the Big Three."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Glen Davis sounds like he needs a trip to Tibet, or to the nearest ashram. Last night’s four-point, 1-for-4 performance, including two airballs, left the forward with a 3.5 scoring average in this series, and 4.8 points in eight playoff games. 'I’ve been nowhere to be found through this whole playoffs,' he said after last night’s 98-90 overtime loss to Miami. 'I need to find myself.' There’s only one way back, from what Davis can see. 'Working on my craft and getting back to believing in my game,' he said. 'When you get a couple of games where you’re not playing well, you’ve just got to keep going and continue to believe in what you do. I just can’t find it.' "

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: "What a weird, strange trip this was for the Thunder. The boys in blue came to Memphis and lost a game they weren’t supposed to lose, then won a game they weren’t supposed to win. Two days after an epic meltdown, Oklahoma City authored its own classic comeback. Thunder 133, Grizzlies 123. In triple overtime. And you thought that game on Saturday was crazy. The Thunder blowing a 16-point, second-half lead was nothing compared to what went down Monday night. Down 18 points, the Thunder won by 10 points. In triple overtime. ;Words can’t describe the emotions,' Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ... Had the Thunder been the team that lost, though, this series would’ve been over. The number of teams that have come back from a 3-1 deficit is small, and the Thunder would’ve been a decimated bunch had it lost this one. The crazy thing, the Thunder would much rather have things happen this way, losing the first in Memphis then winning the second instead of the other way around. Look at all the momentum that this team brings back to Oklahoma City for Game 5 on Wednesday night. Look at the doubt that has crept into Memphis’ psyche. The Grizzlies were staring a 3-1 lead square in the face. Now, this is a three-game series with two games in OKC. This is getting good. Chippy, too."

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: "The Oklahoma City Thunder had defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in three overtimes, 133-23. So the fans stood and watched and cheered. Yes, cheered. You couldn’t help but cheer. Cheer for the effort. Cheer for this game of games. Cheer for the privilege of being a witness, and a part of it all. The Grizzlies may or may not figure out a way to win Game 5 in Oklahoma City. They may or may not find a way to win this playoff series and advance to play Dallas in the Western Conference Finals. But in a season of can-you-believe-this-moments, this may be the one that lingers longest in our memories. This night of drama and of history. This night when the game was as full and as wild and as brimming with peril and possibilities as the river that has been making some history of its own. 'This is what it’s all about,' said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace, who was wandering around the Memphis locker room well after 1 a.m., shaking hands with his guys. 'Except for getting the win, it doesn’t get any better than this. This is why you get a team.' "

  • Ron Higgins of The Commercial-Appeal: "When you play a game that lasts four hours and three overtimes, has three players foul out, is even in almost every stat category in the box score, maybe in the very end, you only lose because your scoring options don’t have young, fresh legs. After so much grit and grime and heart and determination, the Oklahoma City Thunder had the luxury in the 61st minute of a 63-minute game of putting the ball in the hands of its youth, a pair of 22-year-olds who were still running to the final, final, final, final buzzer. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored the Thunder’s last eight of 12 points in a 133-123 triple-overtime victory over the Grizzlies on Monday night to tie the best-of-seven Western Conference series at 2-2. While Westbrook had 40 and Durant 35, if anything, it was the fact that Westbrook deferred to Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, that finally got the Thunder the win. Memphis had no outside scoring options at the end because O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley had fouled out. Zach Randolph finished with 34 but was smothered with triple teams at the end."

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Eventually Josh Smith, an Atlanta native, acknowledged that he hears the fans but noted there were a lot of Bulls supporters at the game. 'Those are the people saying it,' he said, still smiling. It was easy for Smith to make light of the situation after his energetic play lifted the Hawks to a 100-88 victory over Chicago on Sunday night. Fans cheered Smith as he made several key plays to help the Hawks tie the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals at two games each. Before the strong ending Smith had missed 6 of 7 shots from beyond 15 feet (one came as the shot clock was about to expire). That was after coach Larry Drew, teammates and vocal fans at Philips Arena all have tried to convince Smith to eschew jump shots for attempts closer to the basket. After the game Smith seemed annoyed by reporters' questions about his jump shots. 'The media is trying to ‘T.O.' me,' Smith said, referring to controversial NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens. Most Hawks fans sounded as if they were appealing to Smith not to shoot rather than deriding him but some booed when he missed. There were similar reactions during the regular season but it's been more noticeable during the playoffs because of larger crowds and increased scrutiny. Smith said the treatment from fans 'doesn't faze me' because his teammates are supportive. He said he believes fans want him to see him play to his potential, especially since he's a local. 'No matter what they say about me I love them,' Smith said. 'I really do. It's a love-hate thing. They hate me.' Smith smiled before adding, 'We've had our times but it's sort of like a brother thing.' "

  • Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "Maybe it has gone somewhat unnoticed because none of the games have come down to the final shot, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is well aware his team has been whistled for defensive three seconds eight times in their Eastern Conference semifinal series, and the Hawks just once. Thibodeau certainly doesn't want to get in the habit of giving away free throws as a result of technical fouls. Then again, the tilting the Bulls use in the defensive sets has helped them get this far, so it's a risk worth taking. 'They're calling it tight,' Thibodeau said of the defensive three seconds. 'In the playoffs, there's probably a little bit more focus on it. If you're aware and you try to tag cutters, which we do, we're cleansing, but they're not seeing it sometimes. So maybe we have to point it out better so we don't get called for it.' "

  • Jennifer Floyd Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "It seems forever ago now, but toward the end of the season when the Mavs had that epic meltdown in LA, Dirk called out Jet and Jason Kidd and Chandler. OK, called out is too strong. This was no Kobe drive-by on Pau. He demanded more, and included himself in those needing to be better. This is not something he did or does a lot of and so it carried weight in the Mavs locker room. It helped. It is not surprising that the national writers were focused on what this meant for LA, the pasturing of Phil Jackson, the crumbling of a dynasty, the tarnishing of the Kobe legacy. I am not among the Kobe haters. He obviously is talented, and his rings speak for themselves. Nor do I hold him responsible for Pau Gasol going all mental or Ron Artest being more mental that usual. The difference was their supporting casts. Kobe had the better teammates. Dirk made his teammates better. This is why, all statistical evidence notwithstanding, Dirk won the battle of big on big. He was as good in all the usual ways, and great in the unusual ones. Kobe already viewed Dirk that way. It is time the stragglers caught up."

  • Mark Whicker of The Orange County Register: "If the NBA is Stalinist enough to fine Phil Jackson for even mentioning a lockout that the NBA is itself prompting, it should suspend Bynum for at least the first 10 games of whatever the next season is. The problem with trading Bynum for Howard is that Orlando would need something else, and the Lakers have nothing else of value, besides maybe Shannon Brown. But if you're asking if the Lakers should get Howard, you might as well ask if Foghorn Leghorn makes a really bad book narrator. Of course they should. Any further personnel advice should come from someone who didn't think the de facto trade of Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest was a good idea. And any roster makeover should begin with Artest, who is contracted through 2014. Just remember that Sunday was not unprecedented. In 2008, the Lakers coughed up a 24-point lead at home to Boston in NBA Finals Game 4. Two games later, the Celtics savaged them in Game 6, 131-92, and ended their season. The sun rose again and the Lakers won the next two titles. Now they have a long summer to rest and reset. They might be yesterday, but they're still news."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "If you listen to all the noise after the Lakers were rudely ushered into summer, the Magic don't need just a backup center. They'll need a starting center, too. Despite ABC's studio crew and other media calling for the Lakers to immediately send their team plane to Orlando for 2012 free agent Dwight Howard … we'll boldly assume Dwight will be here to begin next season. Frankly, I'd be surprised if the Lakers weren't on the phone with Magic GM Otis Smith after Game 3 of their series against Dallas, offering to trade Andrew Bynum and a Laker Girl for Howard. (Otis, it's Jack Nicholson on line 2.) Anyway, among the Magic's many efforts to keep Howard from L.A. or other points unknown, they need to get him some relief from the bench. Could it be Fran Vazquez? Finally? The ghost of the 2005 draft has been telling the club he is interested more than ever in coming to America. Right now, he's more of a Spanish urban myth. The Magic only hope that the 6-foot-11 Vazquez could be as good as Marcin Gortat. After what amounted to a redshirt season, Daniel Orton says he can fill the role, but injuries prevented him from getting on the floor as a rookie. The Magic aren't going to pay a lot for a free-agent center, but at least Dan Gadzuric or Shelden Williams can give them more than Malik Allen did."

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: "There’s a limit to how much Jazz fans could celebrate the meltdown of the Los Angeles Lakers, considering their own team had nothing to do with it. Yet even if the Dallas Mavericks’ sweep of the Lakers in the Western Conference playoffs could not undo what the Lakers did to the Jazz the previous three years, it certainly brought some happiness to Jazzland. Rejoicing in the misery of others may be wrong, but try telling that to those who delighted in that Mother’s Day Massacre. ... The Lakers are in a regrouping stage now, with Bryant needing help, Fisher on his last legs after going 12-3 against his former Jazz teammates in the playoffs and Jackson retiring with a 20-7 postseason record against the Jazz with Chicago and the Lakers. None of L.A.’s problems helps solve the Jazz’s issues, of course. The Jazz finished seven games below the playoff cut in the West, and that’s a lot of ground to make up. So I’m not at all discouraging Jazz fans from finding happiness in the Lakers’ losing. Dallas may have provided them the only postseason satisfaction they’re going to get for a while."

  • Vincent Goodwill Jr. of The Detroit News: "Now, the red carpet seems to be laid out for the Heat, as the Chicago Bulls look an awful lot like LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers of years' past. The Heat can walk to the Finals and if they come away holding the gold trophy this June, you can cancel Christmas for the foreseeable future. We all knew a change was coming. Bryant, Garnett, Tim Duncan and their era of players are rapidly ceding control to Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. All while James is on a stacked team that will only get better as time goes on. All I can say is...uh-oh!"

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "According to Ric Bucher and others among ESPN's army of NBA reporters, Dwight Howard has a list of preferred destinations if he is to leave Orlando as a free agent in 2012. The Knicks are apparently on this list. But they're not at the top, and, if you're rooting for me, it means we can take a break from chasing daily rumors this offseason after two years of the LeBronathon and a season of Melopalooza. You, of course, don't root for me. So my question then is: are you willing to dump Amar'e Stoudemire that quickly to bring in Howard? That is the only real scenario that exists between the Knicks and Magic when it comes to a trade (because there's little chance Orlando just lets him walk as a free agent). Put away your slide rules and attempts to suggest the Magic would consider Chauncey Billups and some spare parts (OK, and who would be your point guard for this superstar front line?), Stoudemire would clearly have to go in a deal for Howard because you can't play two pick-and-roll bigs who don't have a post game. ... The Knicks should obviously monitor the situation, but this shouldn't be priority. Nor should waiting for Chris Paul....unless he is ready to follow Carmelo's script and guide himself to New York by refusing to sign an extension with anyone other than the Knicks. Wait...breaking news! Wasn't he seen wearing a Yankees cap recently? Let the CP3-for-all begin."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "The notion that the Knicks are among the NBA's weaker defensive teams isn't just a media creation or an urban legend created by basketball fans. It is something every NBA coach apparently believes as well. The league released the voting results for the All-Defensive teams Monday and of the 42 players to receive at least one vote, none plays for the Knicks. The league's 30 head coaches are required to select All-Defensive first and second teams by position. According to the NBA, coaches were not permitted to vote for players from their own team. The Knicks and Indiana Pacers are the only two playoff teams who failed to receive a single vote."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The first domino in the Pacers' offseason takes place today when Larry Bird and Herb Simon have their much-anticipated meeting in Southern California. At stake? Whether Bird will continue to run the franchise's basketball operations for at least the next year. ... Things will become murky if Bird and Simon cannot agree. That's why team officials have reached out to potential replacements. Jim Morris made calls to the San Antonio Spurs about assistant general manager Dennis Lindsey, and has also talked to a number people around the league about former Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard. Morway, who has worked alongside Bird for the past three years, is also a possibility, along with former Denver Nuggets general manager Mark Warkentien, the NBA's 2009 Executive of the Year. The odds of Vogel and the rest of his staff being retained are likely to decrease if a new president and general manager are hired."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Suns forward Grant Hill was left off the coaches' All-Defensive first and second teams despite hard campaigning from his coach, Alvin Gentry. Hill finished seventh in media voting for Defensive Player of the Year but was not among the 10 picked by coaches. He received four first-team votes and three second-team votes but was bypassed by 22 opposing coaches. He finished tied for fourth among forwards but Chicago's Joakim Noah was classified as a forward/center to take the fourth forward spot because he had more votes. 'No one did more defensively for their team than him,' Gentry said of Hill, who was at the White House on Monday as a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. 'He got punished for what we did as a team. I'd like to know who else guarded Amar'e Stoudemire, Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Durant and everything but a five (center).' "

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Yes, it's real. And, yes, he really likes it. Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko confirmed today that he recently added some new color to his life. Moreover, he is very happy with how his intense and dramatic full-back tattoo turned out. A photo of Kirilenko's newly inked body first showed up Saturday on the internet, then made waves this afternoon. The image -- a highly detailed portrait that features what appears to be a knight-like warrior riding a dragon-like beast -- took a couple days to flesh out, Kirilenko said. As for the fiery buzz his black-and-red covered back has quickly created? 'It's very strange, because it's so much pain,' Kirilenko said. 'It's so funny, because I didn't do it for the people. … I don't really plan to show it around.' Kirilenko added that his kids love his new look, while he feels that he is entitled to do whatever he wants as a 30-year-old man. 'If I feel like I want [a tattoo], I get one,' Kirilenko said. 'It's really strange that it gets so much attention. … Ninety-nine percent of players have tattoos.' "

  • Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: "Sacramento Kings fans will rally downtown tonight to celebrate last week's news that the team will remain in Sacramento for at least one more year. Team owners Joe and Gavin Maloof are expected to attend, a team official said, along with basketball operations President Geoff Petrie, coach Paul Westphal, and former players Doug Christie and Scot Pollard. The event, called Here We Rally, is to run from 5 to 8 p.m. in Cesar Chavez Plaza, across from old City Hall at 915 I St. The band Tesla will play. Co-organizer Dave Weiglein, known as sports radio's Carmichael Dave, said the event will be a celebration after weeks of uncertainty over the team's future. 'There is a lot of work to be done, but this is the one time we are going to sit back and celebrate,' Weiglein said. 'It has been pretty stressful.' "