Wizards vs. Cavaliers
Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "The Washington Wizards were reminded, rather rudely Monday night, of the enormous difference between an all-star and a superstar. The Wizards have three all-stars but put together they don't come close to equaling the one transcendent iconic player Cleveland has in LeBron James. Yes, in NBA math three can be less than one. The Wizards left Cleveland with barely a whimper on Monday night, looking like chumps, like a lottery team instead of one with playoff aspirations. Nothing that transpired in Cleveland's humiliating 30-point Game 2 victory suggests that a change in venue, to Verizon Center for Thursday's Game 3, will make an enormous difference in the outcome of this series."
Ivan Carter of The Washington Post: "Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan disputed the notion that his team is out to rough up James. Many of his own players have been on the receiving end of hard fouls. Andray Blatche was elbowed in the face by James in Game 1 and knocked on the head by Anderson Varejao on a drive Monday night. 'Officials shouldn't be swayed by what we say,' Jordan said. 'Officials shouldn't be swayed by what happened the last game. We said, first of all, we want to stay in front of James, so he wouldn't get to the rim. It's hard to take a charge on LeBron and we said that if we can't get a shot block on him, we have to send him to the line. I don't think there is anything wrong with that and I don't think the officials should be swayed by it.' Asked for his feelings on the Haywood foul, Jordan said: 'It's an official's call and I will leave it at that.'"
Brian Windhorst of The Akron Beacon-Journal: "DeShawn Stevenson is not dealing with the extra pressure, and Brendan Haywood has not been the same player since the confrontation with LeBron in Game 1. Eddie Jordan said he did a 'horrible job trying to keep our guys in an organized fashion.' Antawn Jamison said as a captain he has done a bad job of 'controlling this team.'"
Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "There's a new phrase in the basketball lexicon: the LeBron foul. It's been the biggest topic in the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series thus far. Cavaliers coach Mike Brown has been campaigning loud and hard for the officials to blow their whistles when LeBron James drives to the basket. When James was asked to explain a 'LeBron foul,' he said it's obvious. 'I think you can see it,' he said. 'I don't need to tell you. You'll see it (Monday). "There's a difference from a foul and a LeBron foul or a Shaq foul these days. It takes a little more of a hit to get a foul.' ... Opposing teams used to attempt to make James shoot mid-range and long jumpers instead of allowing him to drive to the basket. Now, it seems, they might be allowing him in the lane and then hammering him and sending him to the line. After all, he's a 73-percent foul shooter in his career."
Branson Wright of The Plain Dealer: "There was 'Hack-a-Shaq' for Shaquille O'Neal and 'Hack-a-Ben' for Ben Wallace over the years, when teams decided to foul them because they were poor free-throw shooters. The Washington Wizards might have established their version of 'Hack-a-'Bron' when it comes to fouling LeBron James hard enough so he won't score, instead sending him to the line. The Wizards don't want James to score easy buckets without a body check. 'Teams may think I have a temper problem and that I'm going to get upset, but I'm not going to get upset [when fouled],' James said. 'Physical contact is part of the game. There's a difference between a foul and a LeBron foul or a Shaq foul these days. I just have to protect myself.'"
Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: "In Saturday's Game 1 victory, Ben Wallace's 'fro made its first appearance since his mid-season arrival in Cleveland, but there was nothing to fear but fear itself. He had little impact on the game, not attempting a shot in 23 minutes while the player he was marking, Antawn Jamison, erupted for 23 points and 19 rebounds. But in Monday's Game 2, the 'fro was there again -- and so was the old Wallace. 'When he brings the 'fro out, I think it's intimidating for the other team,' Cavaliers forward Joe Smith said. 'They know it's business tonight.'"
UPDATE: Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon Journal on his blog: "Before the game, another reporter overheard Brendan Haywood saying he wasn't going to do anything in this series to get suspended because last time that happened (in 2006 when he fought Etan Thomas and was benched by the team) it cost him $60,000. Then he goes out and gets ejected for a flagrant-2 on LeBron. ... My guess is Haywood will be writing a $5,000 check (in addition to the $1,000 for the technical in Game 1) and moving on to Game 3. Then again, the NBA may want to send a message."
Rockets vs. Jazz
Michael Murphy of the Houston Chronicle: "For most players, coming close to a triple-double in an NBA playoff game would be cause for hosannas. But even though Tracy McGrady approached that yardstick for statistical dominance, finishing with 23 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in Monday's game against the Utah Jazz, nobody wanted to discuss that near-triple-double. No, all anybody wanted to discuss was his single. That would be the single point he scored in the fourth quarter of the 90-84 loss that put the Rockets in a 2-0 hole as they head to Salt Lake City for Thursday's Game 3 in the best-of-seven first-round series. McGrady had been rolling up to that point, even blocking a pair of shots and picking off three steals. But the load he carried in the first three quarters apparently took everything out of McGrady, leaving precious little for the stretch run."
Jonathan Feigen and Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "With Rockets point guard Rafer Alston trying to come back from a pulled hamstring and several other players battling health issues, coach Rick Adelman was critical of the schedule. 'I wish we had one more day,' Adelman said. 'We were the series they picked to have one day in between. Everybody else has two days between. One day doesn't help us any, because we're not healthy. That's just a little thing I threw in there. I don't know why we're the team that goes one day in between. We go to Utah, and we're still the team that gets one day in between (Games 3 and 4). Other guys get three days off. I know it's all about TV. I wish we had a couple days off to get Rafer one more day or Shane (Battier) one more day. But we don't.'"
Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "These are the games that keep players up at night. It's not just one crucial, stunning, controversial call. It's the shots the Jazz nailed at the buzzer. It's the missed free throws. It's the rebound, off the side of the backboard, in the game's last minute. It's Tracy M
cGrady going from great for three quarters to gassed in the fourth. But there is that call, too. Keep this in mind. 'It's not a good way to take a loss by pointing a finger at the ref. that game,' Luis Scola said. 'We did not lose because of that at all.' He's right, and pretty classy, too. The Rockets, however, hated, hated, hated that call."
Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Every time they look at the Houston Rockets' bench in this first-round playoff series and find Yao Ming wearing a suit, the Jazz can say a quiet thanks for the good health that has marked their season. In contrast to the Rockets, who lost Yao to a season-ending stress fracture in his left foot in late February, the Jazz have had no significant injuries. Jazz players lost only 45 games all season to injury, illness or personal absence. 'For the most part, we've had most of the guys here for the whole season,' Deron Williams said, 'so it's definitely been a big plus for us to have everybody in there and go through it all together.'"
Tim Buckley of the Deseret News: "Matt Harpring sees enough hope for the inexperienced 21-year-old that he's decided to take the 7-foot-1 [Kyrylo] Fesenko -- who spent most of the season with the NBA Development League's Utah Flash, and who has been inactive for the first two games of the series -- under his wing."
UPDATE: Jason Friedman of the Houston Press: "Through the first two games of this series, Houston's point guards have combined for 8 assists. Rafer Alston never looked so good to Rockets fans. Also problematic: Luis Scola's mysterious inability to convert around the basket. The Rookie of the Year candidate is one of the few Rockets capable of providing easy buckets inside. So it's no surprise Houston faces an 0-2 hole when one takes a gander at Scola's ghastly sub-.400 field goal percentage. Then, of course, there's the bench battle which isn't even a mismatch at this point. It's simply no contest, with Utah's super subs crushing Houston's super duds 54-32. Still, Game 2 was there for the taking; primarily due to McGrady's superhuman opening 36 minutes. For three quarters, he appeared to have discovered the fountain of youth or, at least, Doc's DeLorean, showing off the sort of burst and explosiveness reminiscent of the T-Mac of old."