First Cup: Monday

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: Weren’t their Grizzlies just up 24? In the fourth quarter? With 9:13 left in the game? So why were the Clippers dancing and celebrating? Why were Blake Griffin and Chris Paul leaping for joy? And — for the love of all things Grizzly — why did the scoreboard read: Clippers 99, Memphis 98. “It doesn’t happen every day,” said Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. It will take a long time to fathom how it happened Sunday night. But it did happen, you could tell by the silence, and the disbelief. The Grizzlies stormed into the playoffs, smacked the Clippers around for three quarters, and then gagged away a game they should never have lost. ... On this night, the Grizzlies were the ones who got ground up. They lost because they didn’t get back on defense. Because they didn’t share the ball on offense. Because they didn’t cover 3-point shooters. Because they decided the game was done. And then, when it suddenly wasn’t so done, they couldn’t get themselves cranked back up.

  • Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News: Down 95-71 with 9:12 left? No problem. Really? Seriously? Yes, really. Unbelievable. Unthinkable. It happened. Asked to write a headline for what just happened, Chris Paul said: "It depends if it's an L.A. paper or Memphis paper." He opted to go with "Whew," as he wiped his brow, for L.A. papers. Today's papers in Memphis should read: "Debacle." ... Here's how this started for the Clippers. They allowed Memphis to make a season-high 11 3-pointers. So many of those shots were open looks, too. The Clippers, in contrast, missed 12 of their first 15 3-pointers. Yes, they were that bad. In the fourth quarter, everything changed. The Grizzlies wilted with their reserves on the floor, and even when Memphis brought its starters back in, it was too late. "Lob City" just threw down the biggest dagger of the season in a historic, come-from-behind victory for the ages. Black. Cloud. Lifted.

  • Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald: With 41 seconds left in last night’s 83-74 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Rajon Rondo lost control. As a result, the Celtics point guard’s status is out of his control for tomorrow’s Game 2 of the first-round series. ... What happened next is sure to be on an endless loop in the office of NBA disciplinarian Stu Jackson this morning. Rondo accidentally stepped on Davis’ foot and then followed through with a chest-bump. The Celtics are hoping the momentary trip is enough to save Rondo from a Game 2 suspension. “Obviously, I was upset about the call and I said some words to Marc,” Rondo said. “I deserved the first tech, and as I was walking I thought he stopped, my momentum carried me into him — I even think I tripped on his foot — I didn’t intentionally chest-bump him. But that’s what it appears to be.” The league’s official rule allows Rondo that key piece of wiggle room, stating: “Any player or coach guilty of intentional physical contact with an official shall automatically be suspended without pay for one game.” There was no further explanation provided by last night’s officiating crew, which declined to address a pool reporter because there was no rule clarification necessary. It will be up to Jackson to determine if the chest-bump was intentional, though the NBA doesn’t figure to give Rondo the benefit of the doubt considering his history.

  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: This is how you win a playoff series. The Hawks won only one game Sunday night, not a series, but Game 1 was significant. They defeated the Celtics 83-74 at Philips Arena (where Boston amusingly was swept in three playoff games in 2008). They won with significant contributions through the lineup. They won it, not because any single player carried them but because everybody carried them just enough. It was like watching a line of ants transporting a kernel of rice. “We knew we had to win the energy game,” coach Larry Drew said. “We had to win the hustle game. I think we did that.” How perfectly was this win wrapped up in the end? It was the Celtics — the playoff-veteran team — that melted down in the end. ... Maybe externally, expectations aren’t high. But the Hawks view themselves as no worse than equals to the Celtics. They even finished the season with a better record, even though Boston was one of the league’s hottest teams down the stretch (24-10 after the All-Star break). And in Game 1, the Hawks looked like the better team.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: At the end of a long, record-breaking afternoon, Lakers center Andrew Bynum lifted his feet from a bucket of ice, stood up and made his way to the shower after talking to reporters following the Lakers' 103-88 victory over the Denver Nuggets to open the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. A few feet away, teammate Pau Gasol was already dressed and preparing to join Kobe Bryant in the interview room to talk about the Lakers' dominating win. Makes you wonder what a guy has to do these days to get invited to the interview room. Apparently, not the 10 points, 13rebounds and 10 blocked shots Bynum notched Sunday that left everyone delving into the Lakers and NBA record books for perspective. ... Still, none of it earned Bynum an invite to talk at the podium. And that was a bit confusing. See, in the NBA playoffs the interview room is the place to be if you're on the winning team. The league's biggest and brightest stars go to the interview room. The player who makes the biggest impact on the win gets to speak from the podium, typically while wearing a tailored suit and flashing a winning smile. Kobe Bryant is a regular in the interview room during the playoffs. So is Gasol. Getting invited to the interview room is proof you've arrived, made it.

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: Anybody seen Ty Lawson? Did he miss the team bus? Go for a long walk on the beach and forget there was an NBA playoff game? Some imposter wearing his No. 3 uniform was introduced as the Nuggets point guard. During a 103-88 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday, Lawson was nowhere to be found. Eyewitnesses insisted Lawson's body was spotted at the Staples Center. But where was his mind? Oh, never mind. "Ty is going to be a great player. He's had some great games for us. (This) was not one of them," Nuggets coach George Karl said afterward. If the NBA playoffs are where reputations are made, then the last thing Lawson wants to be known as is a no-show. Lawson, who seemed to be the No. 1 reason to believe the Nuggets might have a shot at an upset in the opening round, didn't score a point against Los Angeles until 1:56 p.m. local time. Tip-off was approximately 90 minutes earlier. This is Lawson's team. As such he should be responsible for the Nuggets being ready to play rather than teammates wondering where Lawson disappeared. ... "Sometimes you've got to force the flow," said Lawson, a stand-up guy who took full responsibility for his lousy performance of seven points and two assists. "Sometimes you've got to find a way to get to the basket, push the pass on the break or knock down the open shot." Hey, don't tell me. Go do it.

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: Game 1 victories have been at a premium for the Spurs the last few years. Their 106-91 triumph over Utah snapped a streak of six consecutive Game 1 losses. How long ago was the Spurs’ last Game 1 victory? It came on April 19, 2008 — exactly 1,471 days ago. Jacque Vaughn, Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen and Kurt Thomas all played for the Spurs’ team that notched a 117-115 double-overtime victory over Phoenix in that game. Amar’e Stoudemire, Shaquille O’Neal and Boris Diaw were Suns in that game. Kawhi Leonard was a junior at King High School in Riverside, Calif. And Gary Neal was draining jumpers somewhere in Europe for Barcelona in the Euroleague in his first of three seasons playing overseas. Manu Ginobili said he didn’t realize how long the six-game Game 1 losing streak had been, acting with surprise when he learned how long it had been for a Game 1 victory for the Spurs. “Really, wow!” Ginobili said. “I didn’t know that. I remember, of course, last year, but I didn’t remember before.” Ginobili said the first-game victory will provide the Spurs with a psychological advantage, but it’s not anything they can take for granted.

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: After all of the disjointed play that everybody witnessed Sunday afternoon from the Jazz in their playoff opener with San Antonio, those guys finally got it together in a motivated, efficient performance. The players showered, dressed and boarded the bus to the airport with stunning precision after a 106-91 loss, eager to get home and regroup for a couple of days before returning to the AT&T Center for Wednesday’s Game 2. Obviously, their absence of effective timing and movement against the Spurs was not a continuing problem throughout the day. On the court, the Jazz simply could not keep up with San Antonio’s crisp offense, which features clever passing and inside-out scoring that’s reminiscent of the Jazz of old. Turnovers and the inability to generate any kind of a run also doomed the Jazz to a standard-issue Game 1 defeat on the road, naturally raising questions about their chances of staging much resistance in this series. “Believe it or not,” said Jazz center Al Jefferson, “we do walk out with our heads up a little bit.” His supporting evidence? Mainly, the bad stuff his team was guilty of Sunday, including 16 turnovers. The Jazz also can defend Spurs guard Tony Parker better — they hardly could do any worse after he posted 28 points and eight assists — and create some different opportunities for themselves offensively, with more cutting to help Jefferson and Paul Millsap after throwing the ball to them. ... Can the Jazz recover sufficiently to make this series mildly interesting? Maybe, but that’s all. The Spurs are not kidding around anymore, after losing a first-round series to Memphis last April.