First Cup: Friday

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: Tony Parker made the most of his birthday with an impressive offensive and defensive effort in the Spurs’ 105-88 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. Not only did he produce a game-high 22 points and dish off five assists, but his defensive effort against Chris Paul was his most impressive of the playoffs. Parker’s harrassment limited Paul to 10 points and forced him into a career-worst eight turnovers. ... The major reason was Parker’s defense. ... Parker credited his teammates as much for containing Paul as any individual effort. “I’m trying to just do my best, to contain him and make him take hard shots,” Parker said. “It’s not just me, it’s team defense and it’s everybody being focused on Chris and making sure he doesn’t get going.” The Spurs’ defense on Paul is the biggest reason the Spurs have jumped to a quick 2-0 lead. And the major cause has been their 30-year-old point guard, still looking as spry and athletic as he did when he was a teenager.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: Now the Clippers return to Los Angeles down 2-0 to a Spurs team that finished with the best regular-season record in the NBA and has now won 16 straight games - including six in the postseason. "We can't put our heads down," Clippers guard Chris Paul said. "We're not playing a bunch of scrubs. They're a good team. They've been here before." And right now they are schooling the Clippers, who return home for two games on successive days at Staples Center hoping to avoid a sweep. But knowing they face a experienced, championship-winning team well-versed in how to suffocate a staggering opponent. And yes, the Clippers are staggering right now. No one more so than Paul, who has been forced into 13 turnovers in two games - including a career-high eight in Game 2. He refuses to blame the right hip flexor and right groin injuries he's dealing with as an excuse - "I just have to make better passes," he said - but it's obvious he isn't close to 100 percent. Worse, the Clippers inability to run an effective pick-and-roll - they lack a big man who can consistently hit a 15-footer - allows the Spurs to drop back defensively and limits what Paul can do in the half-court game. "Everyone knows we're not a pick-and-pop shoot team," Paul said. "So they're just packing it in." And the Clippers have yet to figure out a way to pry the Spurs out of the paint. No, the Clippers aren't completely down, but they are clearly reeling.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The Pacers removed any doubt that there would be a letdown in the third quarter. Paging Wade. Paging Wade. Has anybody seen Dwyane Wade? And that might have been the best crowd I’ve seen at the fieldhouse in my seven-plus years of the covering the Pacers. I know I said thatlast round, but the crowd continues to get better. The third quarter is the magic quarter for the Pacers. They’ve outscored Miami 54-26 in that quarter in the past two games. Wade was brutal Thursday. He finished 2-of-13 from the field and also had a nasty exchange with his coach. The Heat are starting to come apart. It’s time for the Pacers to pounce on them and not let them get up. The Pacers and the crowd have to be just as good in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon as they were in Game 3. Do that, and the Pacers will be one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2004. Something tells me coach Frank Vogel will remind his team that once they step on the court for practice Saturday afternoon.

  • Greg Cote The Miami Herald: Coach Erik Spoelstra approached Dwyane Wade during a timeout, as if to place his hand on the player’s shoulder. “Get out of my [expletive] face!” Wade snapped. This is the state of the Heat today — angry, beaten and wondering what to do now — after Thursday night’s 94-75 loss that gave the Indiana Pacers a 2-1 lead in this best-of-7, second-round series. Spoelstra downplayed the outburst by Wade, like you knew he would. “That happens,” the coach said. “That really is nothing. That’s the least of our concerns.” If so, that, too, is indicative of a team reeling and seemingly at a loss for answers. Wade’s frustration was understandable after perhaps the worst night of his stellar career. Has anyone seen Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr.? Black male, 6-3. D.O.B 1-17-82. No visible tattoos but often seen wearing a No.‚ÄČ3 basketball jersey. Mr. Wade is missing. His shots are, anyway. And largely because of that, it now looks as if his team is in jeopardy of disappearing from these playoffs as surely as his shooting touch has. ... If LeBron James were shooting as awfully as Wade is in this series, he would be on a national rotisserie, being turned slowly by a hungrily salivating media brandishing sharp knives. Wade tends to get a pass because even he is eclipsed now by the shadow of James, the league MVP. But Wade’s shoulders are broad enough and his skin thick enough to take the truth: His poor shooting is costing Miami about as dearly right now as the injury absence of Chris Bosh.

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: Lost in the midst of the 76ers’ 107-91 Game 3 drubbing was a fine performance from reserve forward Thaddeus Young. Young, who had been mired in a seven-game playoff slump since a solid Game 1 against the Bulls, scored a team-high 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting in 26 minutes versus the Celtics on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. ... Young hadn’t scored more than eight points in his previous seven postseason games, averaging 5.6 points on 12-for-36 shooting (33.3 percent), after he contributed 13 points in the opener against Chicago. Young had difficulty with the athleticism of the Bulls’ Taj Gibson in the first round and wasn’t a factor in the two one-point contests against Boston after spraining his ankle in Game 1. On Wednesday, Young looked much more like the guy who averaged 12.8 points and shot 50.7 percent in the regular season. ... The task for the Sixers on Friday (8 on ESPN) is to play better than in Game 3 so another Young outing like Wednesday’s could potentially make a difference in the outcome and even the series at 2-2.

  • Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe: Rajon Rondo is not sure what the 76ers are going to throw at him in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night. But he is prepared for the unexpected. “I’m sure they’ll make their adjustments,’’ Rondo said. “Evan Turner’s been checking me - that’s not a normal matchup. So I’m sure they’ll make a change - maybe, maybe not. Not necessarily the matchup between Evan Turner and I. But maybe the defense will shrink a lot more. “Who knows? But we’ll be ready. I’ll be ready.’’ Stopping Rondo, or at least slowing him down, is becoming a major obstacle for the Sixers. In the last two games, Rondo has produced 27 assists with two turnovers, a ratio that indicates he is approaching these games with greater focus. Before Game 2 of this series, Rondo had 76 assists and 25 turnovers in the playoffs. Sixers coach Doug Collins noted that Rondo seems able to take the ball wherever he wants on the court and that “he controlled the game’’ as the Celtics took a 107-91 victory in Game 3 Wednesday.

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: The Thunder scored 42 more points in Game 1 (119) than in Game 2 (77), and astonishingly was victorious both times against the Los Angeles Lakers. How does OKC return to triple-digits Friday at 9:30 p.m. in Game 3 of the Western Cofnerence semifinals at Staples Center? Better shooting is an obvious place to start: The Thunder shot 53.0 percent from the field in Game 1, but 42.0 percent in Game 2. Taking care of the ball is another: OKC had just four turnovers in Game 1, but 13 in Game 2. Second-chance points add up: The Thunder had 21 second-chance points and 13 offensive rebounds in Game 1, but managed just four second-chance points and six offensive boards in Game 2. Getting to the free-throw line helps: OKC made 24 of 29 free throws in Game 1, but 13 of 16 in Game 2. The Lakers also dictate what the scoreboard reads.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: If the Lakers wanted to leave the end of Game 2 in Oklahoma City behind them, it wasn’t made any easier by people getting nasty toward Steve Blake, who missed the team’s last shot while down by one point. Blake’s wife, Kristen, posted to her Twitter account one message that said, in part: “I hope your family gets murdered.” “It’s pretty disappointing,” Steve Blake said Thursday. “There’s a lot of hateful people out there.” Blake said he has gotten plenty of support within the team for his missed shot. For his part, he said it was “time to move on” and “make up for it.” Kobe Bryant said, “Of course!” in response to a question Thursday about whether he wanted to take that last shot. But he also agreed with a reporter, saying Metta World Peace made a “sound decision” to pass to the more open Blake. “Nobody else was open,” World Peace said. “Steve was the only one open. … I trust everybody on our team.” After watching the replay several more times, Lakers coach Mike Brown wavered from his postgame take that Bryant was “wide-open” on the far side of the court on the play. Brown said Thursday that World Peace “made the right decision” despite pointing out that perhaps Andrew Bynum could’ve been fed as he cut toward the basket in the paint, having gotten in front of Kendrick Perkins.