First Cup: Thursday

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: The Celtics won’t recover from this, from losing this way, on a night when they dominated for so long and quieted Miami’s packed home arena for so long, and then could only watch as the Heat relentlessly took away what was theirs. It ended 115-111 for Miami in overtime, a survival as much as a victory. It was a thrilling, nearly epic result that gives the Heat a 2-0 series lead, and you get the sense this will be an unbearable weight for the Celtics to carry back up the coast. How can it not be? This result was as devastating for Celtics hopes as it was uplifting for Miami. Boston got 44 points from Rajon Rondo, who put on one of the great playoff performances the NBA has seen, and yet still lost. If the Heat found a way to somehow win this game, how can Miami possibly lose in this series? If the Celtics couldn’t win on a night like this, what hope can beaten Boston possibly carry forward? Respect your elders. You’d love that to be the feel-good story that you take from Wednesday’s Game 2 of this series. Call the Celtics aging or old, hobbled or hurt, a nostalgia act — just don’t call them out of this series. Not yet. Yes, you want to credit the Celtics’ no-quit courage and fight and all that stuff. The thing is, this will crush Boston. The Celtics will not get back up from this. Some losses devastate. And this one will.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: The Heat survived for a 115-111 overtime victory despite Rajon Rondo. "He was absolutely phenomenal," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "At times, he put the whole team on his shoulders." The Heat even survived the desperation three he stroked - with James bearing down - to force Dwyane Wade to clinch the contest with free throws, an adventure all evening, with Wade ending the suspense by sinking the second one. "Somehow we were able to withstand his incredible game," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. Withstand and survive. It survived Rondo's 53 minutes, all 48 in regulation, all five in the overtime. "He was playing at a pretty good pace, so I just rode him," Rivers said. The Heat survived the third-highest scoring performance by any opposing player in a playoff game -third to Michael Jordan's 56 and 46 in the same 1992 series. Barely. "Embrace the difficult," Spoelstra called his team's mind-set. And was this ever difficult, to survive Rondo at his most sublime - by far the most electric all-around performance by any opponent against the Heat this season. So it's hard to see how Miami will have to endure anything worse, even in the unfriendly confines of the TD Garden.

  • Gary Dzen of The Boston Globe: The Celtics lost in one of the most frustrating ways possible Wednesday night given the closeness of the game, a stellar performance from Rajon Rondo, and the circumstances of the series. But coach Doc Rivers stressed that the team needs to move on and be prepared to play in Game 3 Friday. "We can't getdistracted," said Rivers. "We cannot get distracted in this series. I guarantee right now in our locker room we're distracted, and we have to move on. "You don't throw it away. You hold onto it for 24 hours, and then you move on. We've been really good at that." One thing the Celtics need to move on from is the discrepancy in fouls. The Celtics were whistled for 33 of them in Game 2 to 18 for Miami. Paul Pierce was one of three Celtics to foul out. "Listen, LeBron James took 24 free throws tonight and our team took 29," said Rivers. "Paul Pierce fouled out of a game when he was being aggressive and taking the ball to the basket. ... There's things we can absolutely fix. We'll be ready for Friday."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: The Celtics were clearly left wondering about the officiating crew of Ken Mauer, James Capers and Tom Washington last night, as much as some tried to contain their chagrin. “Can you call it something else besides 50-50 calls?” coach Doc Rivers said in reply to a question about how the Celtics appeared to lose out on most of the calls that could have gone either way. “Can you come up with another percentage? ... I cannot (comment on it). Listen, it is what it is. LeBron James took 24 free throws tonight and our team took 29. “Paul Pierce fouled out of a game where he was attacking the basket. It’s just tough. But we just have to keep playing. I tell my guys that it doesn’t matter. We can’t get distracted. We will not get distracted in this series.” Pierce, who fouled out sending Dwyane Wade to the line with 47.7 seconds left in regulation and the Heat leading by two points, declined comment beyond saying he thought the play was clean. Told of Rivers’ remarks, the Celtics captain smiled and said, “Maybe he has a better view of it from the sideline. I’m just out there in the heat of the game.”

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: People I trust swear Spurs fans were brandishing brooms on Houston Street in the immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s Game 2 victory over the Thunder. Has there been a 3-0 sweep in a seven-game series? San Antonians seem to think it’s possible. So, too, do some national observers. Here’s a sampling of headlines from some of the top sports websites: - Behind the Box Score, Where the Spurs Are As Good As We’ve Ever Seen — Yahoo!Sports.com. Do the Thunder have Any Hope? — SI.com. Present Tense: Thunder in Trouble — ESPN.com. Wow, maybe we all should invest in broom straw futures. Perspective, people: The Spurs are on a magical run, all right, but the Thunder aren’t the Jazz and don’t have a wounded point guard, as did the Clippers. This is the Western Conference finals, and the venue has changed. Consider this a warning: The Thunder are going to play Game 3 on their Chesapeake Energy Arena home court as if it were Game 7 because even the truest believer among Oklahomans understands a loss in tonight’s game means elimination, be it in Game 4 or later.

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Nobody in OKC wants to hear it, but it's not the Thunder's time. That seems clear not just because of what happened in San Antonio the last few days, but what's happened in San Antonio the last few weeks. Popovich has produced an epic team. The Spurs have won 20 straight games, the fourth-longest win streak in NBA history, and he's done it with adults. The Spurs are grown-ups. They are Duncan and Parker and Ginobili, 30somethings all, multiple-NBA champions all, plus Pop, their drill sergeant of a coach and franchise-builder. They have established a culture, a seriousness, that isn't always fun but is stunningly effective when put with the right pieces. Which the Spurs absolutely now have. So call it bum luck for the Thunder. The Boomers have done nothing wrong. The opposite is true. They've done almost everything right in trying to microwave the process of becoming NBA champs. But this is a dues-paying league. The Jordan Bulls. The Bad Boy Pistons. The Kobe Lakers. Even the greatest of teams must wait on their coronation.

  • John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: There’s no way of knowing whether Anthony Davis will add an NBA championship in New Orleans to the NCAA title he helped Kentucky win. But with a joy bordering on hysteria, the Hornets franchise will get the chance to find out. Davis, the consensus game-changing player in the 2012 NBA draft, officially became a Hornet on Wednesday night when, against the odds, New Orleans came up with the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft lottery. “It’s like karma,” Davis said. It’s like justice, I say. ... Regardless of how it happened, it happened. Whether via hard work rewarded, repayment for misery or league intervention – had to throw that one in; conspiracy theorists wouldn’t earn their keep if they didn’t question how the league-owned Hornets won the league’s draft lottery – it happened. And New Orleans certainly isn’t going to apologize for it. The one player everyone seems to believe is the best player will be a Hornet. After all this franchise has endured the past two seasons, that’s a good addition to help balance the scales.

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: If I’m the Charlotte Bobcats, I draft Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Kentucky. I’m not a proponent of male athletes with hyphenated names. Schools with hyphens tend to be feisty. But find me a hyphenated athlete in Charlotte who has excelled. The best of them was Norberto Davidds-Garrido, a former Carolina Panthers tackle. And he wasn’t good. Tackles never should have hyphenated names. Yet, I make exceptions, and Kidd-Gilchrist is one. The candidate I suspect most of you prefer, 6-10 Thomas Robinson of Kansas, will be solid. Kidd-Gilchrist could be less. But he also could be much more. I take that chance.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld, who was given an extension last month, has said that about “two to six players” are vying for the spots in the top five. With the third pick, the Wizards will likely get to choose from a pool that could include Kansas big man Thomas Robinson, Kentucky swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, North Carolina guard Harrison Barnes, Florida guard Bradley Beal and Connecticut big man Andre Drummond. “We feel really good about where we are,” Grunfeld said. “I don’t know if it’s a specific position we’re looking for, but I think we’ll have our pick of someone that can be a solid piece for us.” Now that their draft position has been determined, the Wizards will next look to address who will lead them as coach next season. Grunfeld has been mostly silent about the status of Coach Randy Wittman and his staff since the season ended last month.

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: The next month will be reserved for sifting through the players the Cavaliers can select with their picks at 4, 24, 33 and 34. For now, Chris Grant is pleased they didn't fall to No. 6, the lowest the team could have dropped in the lottery. "I feel great about where we are," Grant said. "We get a chance to add another really good, young player to our roster, so it's a good day. We feel good about it, we're excited about the prospects." There's no point in fretting about what might have been. The Cavaliers would have gotten the No. 1 pick had they lost a coin toss with New Orleans at the end of the season. "It's not something you can control," Grant said. "We felt really good about where we were. And if we were fortunate enough to move up, great. ... We're in a good spot. We're in a really good spot."

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: When the Kings last picked fifth, in 2010, they selected center DeMarcus Cousins, who attended the team's draft party Wednesday at the Firestone Public House in downtown Sacramento. Cousins was sitting next to co-owner Gavin Maloof when the Kings' draft position was announced. Maloof said Cousins could be the best player from the 2010 draft class, so picking fifth isn't necessarily bad. "We're encouraged," Maloof said. "Look at all the teams that passed on Cousins." Kings coach Keith Smart said he prefers versatile players who understand the game. Regardless of which player the Kings land, Smart's focus is on avoiding another lottery party.

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "Obviously having two picks is better than one in a very good draft," said interim general manager Chad Buchanan, who represented the Blazers at the lottery along with guard Wesley Matthews. "We feel fortunate to be able to potentially add two young players to our team. But it also opens the door for other opportunities to improve the team as well." Indeed. Now that the Blazers are one of two teams with two lottery picks -- the New Orleans Hornets won the lottery and own the first and 10th picks -- Buchanan and the Blazers have a great deal of flexibility this offseason. They can keep and use both selections and rebuild the franchise with young talent, or they can package one or both of the valuable picks in a trade to acquire a difference-maker right now. Add in the fact that the Blazers should have between $15-20 million in salary cap space to chase free agents, and the franchise has a surplus of options to orchestrate a quick rebuild following an unexpectedly disastrous season. Roughly 90 minutes after learning the Blazers' draft fate on Wednesday, Buchanan declared the team open for business.

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: They essentially played to lose for the last month of the season, and still needed about 10 different things to all break the right way. Yes, they took -- and are still taking -- heavy criticism and violated the more genteel sporting codes. And what does it matter now? The Warriors kept the seventh slot in the NBA draft lottery Wednesday night, which means they don't have to send it to Utah to satisfy a long-ago trade. For once, what could go wrong for the Warriors did not. It was not pretty, it was not graceful, but it all went right. Which means the franchise's offseason starts off with a giant exhale and the high value of a good draft spot. "It's almost like you had to run a gantlet to end up where we are," general manager Bob Myers said on a call with local reporters after the lottery. "But we can't rest -- it's what we do with it." This is just how practical teams have to operate to accumulate the most value they can. You don't usually get from bad to good by adhering to Robert's Rules of Order.