First Cup: Tuesday

  • Linda Robertson of The Miami Herald: Miami’s Big 3 proved that it adds up to more than the sum of its parts. As for New York’s Big 3, it simply does not add up. The difference? Synergy, which is the way a group functioning together creates a result not attainable by any of its individual members. The constant doubt that Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh could not complement each other on the court is being dispelled in this, their second season together. Each made a significant contribution on Monday in a 104-94 defeat of the Knicks, who played fractured basketball and fell to 0-2 in the first-round playoff series. The postseason has just begun, but it seems the Heat is applying critical lessons learned in last year’s NBA Finals against Dallas, when the better team won. The Mavericks had synergy, the Heat had stars. This time around, the Heat is playing in harmony. The Knicks are mired in cacophony. Heat players, part of a big, happy family, gave credit to each other. New York’s Amare Stoudemire, acting like a petulant child, lost his cool, punched a fire extinguisher and cut his left hand. Makes you wonder what Stoudemire and suspended hotheads like Rajon Rondo and Metta World Peace are thinking when they hurt themselves and their teams.

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: It wasn’t just the Heat, it was the stupidity. Amar’e Stoudemire may have literally punched the Miami Heat’s ticket to the second round after the Knicks’ power forward, in a show of frustration and selfishness, suffered a lacerated left hand during a postgame tirade immediately following the Heat’s 104-94 Game 2 victory Monday night. A Knicks official confirmed that Stoudemire had cut his non-shooting hand when he punched a small glass door that protects a fire extinguisher just outside the Knicks’ locker room. Stoudemire’s hand shattered the pane and he needed an undetermined number of stitches to close the wound. Stoudemire later offered an apology via Twitter, apparently in a one-handed tweet. He did not comment as he exited the arena with his girlfriend and one of his children. Tyson Chandler said that Stoudemire was “out” for Game 3, and it is unlikely he will play for the rest of the series. Stoudemire’s hand was heavily bandaged and his arm was placed in a sling. The Knicks will host the Heat in Game 3 Thursday at the Garden. “It’s far from over,” Carmelo Anthony said after the Knicks matched an NBA record with their 12th straight playoff loss. “We believe that and I believe that.”

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Two games. Two Thunder wins. Both decided by a combined four points. Tells you exactly how even this matchup is. No surprise that a light skirmish broke out midway through the first quarter. The Thunder has been playing Dirk Nowitzki extremely physically and, more importantly, extremely effectively. The Mavsaren’t used to either of those things. And tonight, Dirk had enough. After taking a shot to the head by Serge Ibaka, Nowitzki decided to take matters into his own hands. First, he gave Ibaka a little shove along with a few words as they ran back on D. And then Kendrick Perkins delivered an elbow while trying to back down Dirk in the post. At the end of that possession, Dirk and Perk got tangled up going for a rebound and that’s when all hell damn near broke loose. Perk walked up on Dirk. Then Dirk shoved Perk. And Perk “shoved” back. The two had to be separated as they proceeded to call each other everything but a child of God. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle got in the middle of it all, exchanging words with Perk and eventually having to be separated from Perk, too. Both Nowitzki and Perkins were hit with double technical fouls before we finally got back to basketball. The last thing we needed tonight was Carlisle dangling from Perk’s leg a la Jeff Van Gundy. I actually thought Perk got off light. That “shove” he delivered looked a lot like a punch to me. He’s lucky it wasn’t ruled as such, which would have resulted in an automatic ejection and a suspension.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Dirk Nowitzki is representative of the collective emotions of the Mavericks. And after two games and two hard-luck losses in Oklahoma, he's not going to try to mask the fact that this is a team that has been staggered by the Thunder so far. "It's tough,'' Nowitzki said in his postgame news conference. "Really, all four games we had here, two in the regular season and two in playoffs, we're right there. We're really just a couple bounces away from being up 2-0. So it's tough. It's frustrating.'' But it is not so depressing that the Mavericks are throwing up their hands and feeling like winning this best-of-seven series just isn't meant to be. "We're going to keep coming,'' he said. "We're not going to lay down. We're going to make them beat us. We're going to make them earn it. We got enough warriors over there that will come back Thursday and respond the way they did tonight. When we were down 16, we kept battling and kept making plays We're not going to give it to them. They're going to have to take it.'' Nowitzki had 31 points and six rebounds in Game 2. But he will forever lament a couple of shots that he took in the final two minutes. One, a wide-open 3-pointer, rimmed out and the other, a baseline fadeaway in the final 30 seconds, bounced all around the rim but would not fall into the net. "That 3-ball I had in the corner, that's game time if we go up four,'' Nowitzki said. "The game's over. I had a good look. The other one, the fadeaway, I've made it a hundred times. It bounced, hit every part of the rim and bounced off. That's kind of the way our season's been going."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: It took a game and a half of this first-round Eastern Conference series against the Magic, but after a halftime in which we're guessing paint was peeled from the Pacers' locker room walls, the team that won 42 games remembered what got it the No. 3 seed in the first place. Playing with passion. Pushing the pace. Sharing the basketball. Rebounding like their hair was on fire. "Everybody was pissed (at halftime)," Tyler Hansbrough said as he dug into a postgame bowl of Froot Loops. "Nobody liked the way we were playing. I didn't think we were playing with energy or aggressive enough. All of us were kind of talking here. We knew what we had to do, and we did it in the second half." ... Why did it take a game and a half for the real Pacers to show up? Turns out, this series is not as simple as dumping the ball into Roy Hibbert, who has thus far been outplayed by Davis. Pacers coach Frank Vogel has gone out of his way to say this is not about the perceived mismatch in the post. The Pacers have to guard the pick-and-roll to perfection. They have to challenge long-range shots. They have to corral the long rebounds that come off the deep shots. And when playing half-court offense, they have to -- repeat, have to -- move the ball to the weak side. They started to do those things in the second half Monday. They must do all those things, all the time, if they're going to get this thing done.

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: We have now officially entered an alternative Orlando Magic universe. A universe where up is down. And black is white. And hot is cold. And— are you ready for this? -- Glen "Big Baby" Davis is a team leader. What a wild, whacked-out season it has been. The Magic, after the 93-78 Game 2 playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers Monday night, come back home to the Amway Center for Game 3 tied 1-1. But at least there is some hope now, and it is emanating from the unlikeliest of all beacons: The erratic, enigmatic Big Baby. ... Maybe just maybe the Big Baby is growing up before our very eyes. With apologies to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, who will be playing the Amway Center Thursday night, perhaps they should slightly alter the lyrics of their hit "Mary Jane's Last Dance" to reflect the maturation of Davis during the first two games of this series. "He grew up tall and he grew up right With them Indiana boys on them Indiana nights." Can you believe it? ... Welcome to the Magic's alternative universe. A universe where Davis has not only taken Dwight Howard's place of prominence on the basketball court, but in the locker room as well. Captain Davis, anyone? And here's another frightening thought: With the possibility of Dwight being gone next season, could the Magic actually evolve into Big Baby's team? It truly has been a long, strange season.

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: If they grab a 2-0 lead, it will be difficult for an opponent of advanced age to claim the series by winning the requisite four of five. And the Celtics will be without their best player, Rajon Rondo, who has been suspended for bumping ref Marc Davis at the shank of Game 1. (Wait a second. Isn’t it the Hawks who were supposed to lose their cool?) Without Rondo, you’d have to like the Hawks’ chances. You’d like them until you recall that January loss to depleted Miami, or the home loss this month against a Toronto team that included three men working on 10-day contracts. The simple reason the Hawks aren’t taken more seriously is that, over time, they’ve contrived to lose in ways that suggest they aren’t as good as their record. Here’s their chance to win a big game they’re supposed to win. Here’s their chance to shut some yaps.

  • Amalie Benjamin of The Boston Globe: When Hawks forward Josh Smith played with roommate Rajon Rondo at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, there weren’t many situations that could compare with what took place at the end of Sunday night’s game, when Rondo bumped referee Marc Davis. “We used to beat everybody by 20 or so. We didn’t have to worry about losing,’’ Smith said. Still, Smith knows the spirit the Celtics point guard brings to the game. He witnessed it firsthand. “When we played with Oak Hill, we always played with a competitive edge,’’ said Smith, who hasn’t talked to Rondo since the incident. “He was always competitive, no matter what we did - flag football games, food fights, playing video games against each other. It always intensifies, especially when you’re playing for something, you know the importance of each and every possession.’’ With Rondo suspended for Game 2 Tuesday, the Hawks acknowledged it might give them a break.

  • Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: ‘‘Thibs was adamant that no one’s role needs to change,’’ Kyle Korver said. ‘‘Nobody needs to do more than before. We need to play better team basketball. When shots are there, we definitely need to take them. You can’t have guys passing up shots. We also don’t need guys trying to be Derrick Rose.’’ Based on what we’ve seen from the Bulls, who posted the best record in the league this season despite losing 98 games to injury or illness, the only way they’ll exit the postseason is scratching and clawing. That’s why the first quarter of Game 2 might set the tone for what we see for the rest of the playoffs. Players are saying all the right things when talking about how they still can win without Rose, but a letdown wouldn’t be a failure so much as human nature. Throughout the regular season, the Bulls said they would need Rose to play at his highest level for them to win a championship. Now they’re saying they can win without him. Then again, what are they supposed to say?

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: The question was posed to Sixers coach Doug Collins from a person with a TNT microphone, the station that used to employ Collins. But the coach didn't hide his disdain for the question. The questioner asked Collins if he had to address his team about their mindsets now that Rose is sidelined with a torn ACL. After a long pause and icy stare, Collins said: "You're kidding, right? You're kidding, right? Are we favored to win this series now?" No doubt schematically things will change for the Sixers. In Rose's place will be C.J. Watson, who started 25 games for the Bulls this season as Rose missed time with a plethora of injuries. ... Asked if Watson was his assignment to guard, Holiday said, "No, that's Evan. I'm on Rip (Hamilton) tomorrow." That little sentence was telling. Earlier when asked who would be starting tomorrow, Collins laughed, telling reporters that he wasn't going to answer that, which was his same response on Sunday. With Jodie Meeks so ineffective in Game One and a good performance by Evan Turner, the assumption is that Turner will get the starting nod. Holiday's comment seemed to cement that."

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: At times, it plays like the Three Stooges vs. the Lakers. Even when you're already 7 feet tall, growing up is hard to do in the NBA playoffs. Ask Denver centers Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov, who are enduring painful lessons. "They're going to get smacked in the nose," Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri told me Monday. "But this is one of the reasons why we wanted to get in the playoffs." Who is Denver's center of the future? Nobody knows. The three centers don't know. Ujiri doesn't know. All we know: Nene is gone, and he's not coming back. ... Nobody told us this would be pretty. Rather than diplomas, the school of hard knocks hands out dented egos. When Denver got blown out in Game 1 against the the Lakers, Koufos, McGee and Mozgov got put down. They took 12 shots. They missed 10. They were mere props in highlight after highlight by Bynum, with a little help from Gasol. Talk about your classic mismatch. Gasol and Bynum own four NBA championship rings between them. Koufos, McGee and Mozgov have combined to start one NBA playoff game. While Denver could still make the Lakers sweat in this series, what's more likely is the Nuggets will discover which center stands tallest in the face of adversity.

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: So, exactly how did the Lakers muzzle the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 and limit them to only 88 points on 35.6 percent shooting Sunday at Staples Center? The Lakers said it was a good defense; the Nuggets said it was cheating. Denver coach George Karl said Lakers center Andrew Bynum was guilty of playing an illegal zone defense on "about 30" possessions, which helped to account for his NBA record-tying 10 blocked shots. "If people cut through the lane, you can touch them and you can stand there the whole time," a smiling Bynum said when told of Karl's accusation after the Lakers' practice Monday. "That's part of the game." ... Now retired Lakers coach Phil Jackson was notorious for planting seeds of doubt into the minds of referees during the playoffs and for trying to get opposing players off their games. He did it frequently and often to excellent results. ... Mike Brown, the current Lakers coach, said he applauded Karl for trying to gain an advantage for Game 2 by complaining about illegal defenses in Game 1 by adding, "Maybe George is doing the right thing, following Phil's lead. "I know I've said stuff before. Does it change things for the next game? I don't know. If Phil's done it, Phil's got 11 of them (NBA championships as a coach), the most. It's got to work to a certain degree."