Chris McCosky of The Detroit News: "Tayshaun Prince had a look on his face that said, 'Why are you asking me? I wouldn't tell you even if I knew.' Prince wasn't about to give away any secrets about how he has kept 76ers leading scorer Andre Iguodala relatively quiet the first two games of this first-round series. 'I really don't know,' he said Thursday when asked what he expected the 76ers to do to get Iguodala going. 'Whatever it is, I just have to be ready for it.'"
Krista Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press: "More than anything he can draw up on a dry-erase board, Pistons coach Flip Saunders wants his team to replicate the 'edge, effort and consistency' it had in Game 2 after losing the series opener."
A. Sherrod Blakely of Booth Newspapers: "Scoring around the basket has never been an issue for Rasheed Wallace. His desire to do so, well, that's another story. Motivation doesn't seem to be an issue for the Philadelphia native thus far in this series, one that he has dominated. In two games, he is averaging a series-best 20 points per game, to go along with eight rebounds and five blocked shots per game."
Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Iguodala would be the first to admit that his performance Wednesday was well below par. However, he insists that his confidence has not been dented. 'Not at all,' he said. 'I got a little frustrated after a game like that, but it puts a little fuel in you.' And that is why Iguodala said he is counting the minutes until he returns to the court tonight, when the crowd should be big and loud."
Phil Jasner of the Philadelphia Daily News: There were all sorts of negatives surrounding the Game 2 loss. The Sixers had been unable to handle the Pistons' traps of point guard Andre Miller. Andre Iguodala hadn't come remotely close to locating a comfort zone in the offense. The paint was packed with large Pistons bodies. The driving lanes were all but shut down. Somehow, Cheeks hopes to convince his guys that things don't have to be the same way in Game 3 tonight at the Wachovia Center. That's what he has been able to do all season. Even when the preseason predictions had the Sixers finishing dead last in the NBA East, when some people had them winning as few as 20 games, when they seemed hopelessly mired in the midst of an early seven-game losing streak, the coach offered seemingly endless rays of hope.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune: "Given Kerr and Del Negro's admiration of Popovich -- and the fact neither Kerr nor owner Robert Sarver would guarantee D'Antoni's return next season -- it's reasonable to assume D'Antoni's job is on the line should the Suns lose this series. I hope that's not the case. D'Antoni is one of the nicest guys in the business. He makes my job easy, and I'm all for that. But the NBA is a harsh league. And if D'Antoni isn't willing to make any adjustments, the Suns may make one for him."
Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: "If the Suns win these next two games at US Airways Center, they erase all the bad stuff that went down in southern Texas. They put all the pressure back on the defending NBA champion Spurs, and it could be a prelude to D'Antoni's greatest triumph. That would help his image tremendously. But if the Suns lose one of these two games, the Spurs can close it at home in Game 5. That kind of first-round debacle could be considered enough of a tail thumping for D'Antoni to lose his job, through early termination or mutual agreement."
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "Four years ago, the Spurs learned about life among the unfortunate 6 percent, and O'Neal was there for that particular tutorial. The Spurs took a 2-0 lead against O'Neal's Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 conference semifinals, then promptly dropped four in a row and the series. The math lesson, as if it bears repeating? It takes four victories to add up to one successful series. 'There's always a natural tendency to feel good about what you've accomplished,' Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. 'I think our team is experienced enough to know they haven't accomplished anything yet.'"
Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Asked if the Suns had to win Game 3 to win the series, Suns guard Steve Nash simply said 'yes,' qualifying it by adding that a 3-0 hole could be overcome if, say, the Spurs all sprained ankles getting off the bus before Game 4. If the Suns are going to advance by winning four of the next five, which only 13 playoff teams have accomplished when in such a 2-0 predicament, they probably will need to go 3-0 at home. 'We've got to win here both games,' Suns power forward Amaré Stoudemire said of Game 3 and Game 4 on Sunday. 'Every game is a heart-rattling game, especially when you're home and down 0-2. We've got to have this one. If we win, we can turn this series around.'"
Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic: "Throughout his coaching career, both domestically and internationally, Mike D'Antoni said he never has ordered an intentional foul in the Hack-a-Shaq spirit. But that doesn't mean he disagrees with the tactic. 'Hey, do whatever you got to do to win,' the Suns coach said. Intentionally fouling a poor free-throw shooter to stop the clock or cut into a lead is nothing new in postseason basketball. Shaquille O'Neal has dealt with it for years, teams gambling that he'll miss one or both so they can cash in on the offensive end."
Nuggets vs. Lakers
Aaron J. Lopez of the Rocky Mountain News: "From barking their way to six technical fouls to trading barbs with Lakers star Kobe Bryant, the Nuggets struggled to maintain their composure while losing the opening two games of their best-of-seven, first-round playoff series. With the series shifting to Denver for Games 3 and 4, Karl would like to see his players back up the talk with a better effort on defense and more generosity in the passing game. Better yet, Karl would like to see them do it without all the off-color commentary. 'I think we all know that it's part of our immaturity at times,' Karl said
after putting the Nuggets through a short film session Thursday. 'You don't earn respect by getting technical fouls. ... In the fourth quarter, every point could strategically have an impact on the game, so keeping your composure, keeping your focus and not beating yourself is a big part of winning games in the NBA. Technicals are a gift to the other team.'"
Chris Tomasson and Aaron J. Lopez of the Rocky Mountain News: "A two-minute stint was all Lakers rookie guard Coby Karl needed for he and his father to get into the record book. With his scoreless stint at the end of the Lakers' lopsided win Wednesday, Coby became the first player to go against his coaching father in an NBA playoff game. The Karls already are one of three father-son regular- season combinations. 'It's cool,' Coby Karl said. 'It's fun for me playing in my first playoff game. ... It's definitely a unique record. I think we're both real proud of it.'"
Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "Two years ago, the Lakers led a first-round series by two games, creating ripples in the NBA world by taking a 3-1 lead over the second-seeded Suns. The Lakers made history, though, by becoming only the eighth NBA team to lose a series after holding such a lead. Forgive them if they don't want to hear about the highly favorable percentages in their corner with a 2-0 edge on Denver in their best-of-seven series. (There's a 93.6% success rate in league history with such a lead, if you dare to whisper it around the Lakers.) Walton took it upon himself to remind some teammates at Thursday's practice that a three-game lead would look a lot better than being up two. Game 3 is Saturday in Denver."
Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "The night after Bynum was lost, Bryant ended months of cool detachment at their surprising start with the 10 words that meant it was morning again in Lakerdom: 'We're a championship-caliber team with him in the lineup.' And so they were. 'Kobe recognized what his advance was this year,' Jackson says of Bynum. 'Obviously, there was a little trial and tribulation for a period of time we went through in training camp. 'But after that -- hey, this is a facet of our game that we haven't had in five years. There it is.' Here's how bright the Lakers' future is: They're still favored to win the West with Bynum gone."
Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Daily News: "These Lakers are allowing themselves to dream big, to dream of a trip back to the Finals, of an NBA title. Want to win, Lakers? Step up the defense. And do it consistently. At some point, it will be absolutely necessary. Count on it."
Jim Alexander of The Press-Enterprise: "Kobe Bryant's performance Wednesday night, in Game 2 of the Lakers' first-round series with Denver, serves as a vivid illustration of why he should, and probably will, win his first MVP award. It's about trust. More than ever before, Bryant trusts the men around him. And, more than ever before, he has good reason to."
Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald: "This is what's so dazzling, and a little scary, about watching Kevin Garnett: Tune in at any point during a Celtics [team stats] game and it is impossible to use his facial expression as a kind of human scoreboard that lets you know who is winning, who is losing, and how much time remains before the final buzzer. Six seconds remaining in the game? Six seconds into the game? Celtics ahead by 30? Celts down by 10? Makes no difference. There is no late-in-the-game, killing-time look of 'mission accomplished' in his repertoire. No wistful, what-might-have-been expression. No. Every second of every minute of every game is 110-109 with ninth-tenths of a second on the clock, Celtics with the ball, Celtics trailing."
Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "While most of the pundits have already written the Hawks' epitaph for this series, coach Mike Woodson is convinced there are adjustments that can be made that can help his team turn things around. But if his players can't shoot any better (they shot under 40 percent from the floor in Games 1 and 2) or execute their offense any better, there will be little else left to work with against the Celtics. 'We have other sets we can put in,' Woodson said, 'but I think if we come down and call a play, we need to attempt to execute it. It cannot just be one or two passes and then the shot goes up. We had good movement earlier in the game [Wednesday], and then guys just got selfish.'"
Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Doc Rivers doesn't want his players, walking as tall as ever with a 2-0 edge, to back down. He also doesn't want them to get thrown out. Judging from some of the hard fouls on both sides during the Celtics' Game 2 win Wednesday night, it's not surprising that the coach's alarm has sounded. 'I don't mind the hard fouls by either team,' Rivers said. 'I just don't like the trash talking and silly stuff where everyone gets in each other's face.'"
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "We understand that Mike Bibby was trying to do the right thing for his team when he said Celtics fans were more front-runners than dedicated followers. He wanted to draw the fire and give his young teammates cover. But what's he going to feel like when he looks into the stands at Philips Arena tomorrow night and sees a sea of green?"
Marc J. Spears of The Boston Globe: "So why are the Celtics so good on the road? 'We don't really question it,' Ray Allen said. 'We just know [winning is] what we have to do. We know what our job is. When we go on the road there is not a letdown or a lack of focus on whomever we are playing on the road. We know we have to get the job done.' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, 'We don't really care where we are at. We didn't make a big deal of it and we never talk about [being] on the road. Our veterans have great focus. That really helps. Young guys lose focus on the road more than veterans. Veterans have been through it all, so they just come to play.'"
Jeff Duncan of The Times-Picayune:: "The last time the Hornets won a game in Dallas, Bill Clinton was in the White House, the Hornets were in Charlotte and Chris Paul was in the seventh grade. In other words, it's been a while -- more than a decade."
John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "Regardless of their motivation to salvage the series, Mavs backup guard Jason Terry said they cannot stop Paul, who has made 64 percent of his shots. 'You've just got to make him work and limit him getting other people the ball,' Terry said. 'They have outworked us on both ends of the floor. We're in an 0-2 hole, but we're going home, and we've got to take care of business.' It's apparent Johnson does not have anyone who can stay in front of Paul. At midseason, the Mavericks traded their quickest player, Devin Harris, to the New Jersey Nets as part of the deal to get Kidd. During Tuesday's game, Paul came through the middle so quickly that 13-year veteran Eddie Jones could only grab him for a foul."
Jeff Caplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Responding to a question about the Hornets, Jerry Stackhouse, rarely one to bite his tongue, said this: 'I think it's just about having personalities that mesh and I think Chris [Paul] is such a great guy, I think he's been able to kind of deal with Byron Scott. I don't think Byron Scott is the best coach. I don't think he's the best guy to deal with -- you know what I'm saying? -- from some things that I've heard from other players and just some dealings that I had with him earlier in the season. ... I was about ready to kick his ass -- you know what I'm saying? He was sitting on the sideline and we just got into a little conversation or something and he was going to tell me, you know, 'Talk to me when you get a ring.' I was like, I told that fool, 'If I played with Magic and Worthy and Kareem I'd have a ring, too. So, you know, he's a sucker in my book, but that's a whole other story.'"
Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News: "Behind every great man there had better be a great second option. Washington had Adams. FDR had Truman. Sonny had Cher. Jordan had Pippen. Dirk has Josh ... right? Only lately has the natural order of the Mavericks been called into question, and rightfully so, given that this postseason bears the markings of another playoff debacle. Of course, it's not too late to get back in this series with New Orleans. But more has to change tonight than just the venue if the Mavs want to extend the season until Tuesday."
Jeff Caplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Does your ankle hurt? No, Josh Howard answers. Your knee? Nope, he says. Your back is still sore then? No. No. No. Howard is growing weary of questions about various body parts that at one time or another have been bruised, sore or sprained. He insists he is 100 percent. The queries keep coming because there seems no other explanation for his struggles, not only in the first two games of the Dallas-New Orleans series, but during a chunk of the second half of the regular season."
Raptors vs. Magic
Bruce Arthur of the National Post: "Sam Mitchell will have his praises sung today because his lever-pulling, it will read, produced the difference between success and failure, between the champagne and the ice bucket. He will deserve it, even if he won't take credit for it in public. But he will be partly right not to do so, because just as much credit should go to the levers in question. Mitchell put his trust -- staked the series, even -- on two players in particular. He trusted Jamario Moon, the most improbable story of the season, with a start in the biggest game of the season. And he left T.J. Ford in at point guard, and prayed the kid could respond."
Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun: "T.J. Ford paid no attention to the standing ovations, to the chanting of his name, to the attention he craves but said: 'I didn't notice.' Then he said he appreciated it. He is not unlike his basketball team, healthy then not, hot then cold, full of life and speed and then seemingly lifeless, able to do more but too often supplying less. The NBA is a fickle world, moreso at playoff time. Home and away means more than it does in other sports, other leagues. One night, the Raptors can give up 43 points in the first quarter against Orlando. Last night they gave up 40 points in the first half. 'We did,' Ford said, 'what we're supposed to do.' And the best-of-seven series no longer is a foregone conclusion."
Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star: "The Maple Leafs are stumbling along leaderless. The Blue Jays were swept into last place by the Tampa Bay Rays, of all people, and the proprietors of the local sporting conglomerate point their fiscal noses at Old Blighty, allegedly sniffing out soccer teams in need of revenue-generating rehabilitation. So as a sporting city turns its lonely eyes to them, it is strictly up to the Raptors to deliver some much-needed good times and they surely delivered last night, blitzing the Orlando Magic early and often, 108-94, to sit 2-1 down in their NBA playoff series."
David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel: "Stan Van Gundy, meet Steve McCroskey. 'Looks like I picked a bad week to quit sniffing glue,' McCroskey once said. Looks like the Magic picked a bad week to quit making 3s. McCroskey was just a beleaguered character in the movie Airplane. Van Gundy is a real life figure in the NBA playoffs. All year his team flew high on 3-pointers and Dwight Howard. Now the altimeter is spinning every time a player launches an outside shot. Panic not Orlando fans, the oxygen masks did not drop. If it happens again on Saturday, we'll start having T-Mac flashbacks. But for now, we'll write it off to one thing. Clang."
Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Now we find out if the Magic are for real. Now we find out if they are truly on the verge of taking that next step. Now we find out if they are truly ready to join the NBA's elite or are they still the not-ready-for-prime-time players. After the relative ease and the raining 3s of the victories in Games 1 and 2, the Magic now find themselves looking straight into the teeth of a bunch of resurgent Raptors. ... Say what you will about Toronto's disappointing regular season and first-quarter flops at Amway Arena, but the Raptors aren't ready for extinction. Sorry, Magic fans, these dinosaurs aren't marching off to the tar pits just yet."
John Denton of Florida Today: "The Orlando Magic don't expect a repeat of last summer when the offseason proved to be one of the most chaotic in franchise history with the hiring of two coaches and the signing of Rashard Lewis. But general manager Otis Smith does anticipate being plenty busy. That's because the Magic have five free agents, two other players who could exercise options out of contracts and the lingering issues with unhappy shooting guard J.J. Redick. Keyon Dooling, Maurice Evans, Carlos Arroyo, Pat Garrity and James Augustine will be unrestricted free agents come July 1. Keith Bogans and Adonal Foyle have opt-out clauses, but both are expected to stay with their current deals."
Mike McGraw of the Arlington Heights Daily Herald: "When it comes to veterans, an interesting option was on display in the season finale when Toronto's T.J. Ford scored 16 points against the Bulls in the first quarter alone. He figures to be available for trade since the Raptors have a better option in Jose Calderon. Would the Raptors accept Andres Nocioni for Ford? Their contracts are similar, with Nocioni's running one more year. ... Another point guard expected to be on the market is Memphis' Kyle Lowry, a player the Bulls liked when he left Villanova. Do they like him enough now to give up the No. 9 pick? Maybe not."
Jody Genessy of the Deseret News "The chant started in the first quarter of Game 3 Thursday night, sounding kind of like: M-V-M-P-V-P-M-M-V! But unlike the unison-challenged-but-very-audible 19,911 fans at EnergySolutions Arena, Deron Williams' game was in sync most of the night. Until Carl Landry's fingertips got in the way, that is. Houston's backup forward spoiled what had otherwise been a sweet night for Williams. Landry swatted away the Jazz point guard's last-second game-winning attempt, securing a 94-92 Houston victory that gave the Rockets some hope in this first-round series."
Brad Rock of the Deseret News: "That's right, same place they guarded during the regular season like Churchill defended Britain. Yet they lost at home for just the fifth time all year -- but the second time against Houston. The Jazz stared down their demons -- road troubles -- in Houston, winning not one but two games against a quality opponent, then fell flat on their dignity in the place they know best."
Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets won one little game Thursday night, but it felt like much more. It felt like they'd passed some kind of test. Heart? They've got plenty. Guts? You bet. Fear? None. If you've got questions about Tracy McGrady, save them for another day because this might have been his finest hour."
Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "Yao Ming sat on a training table in a jubiliant locker room and called across the locker room to the rookie. 'Hey, Carl Landry!' he shouted. 'It takes 16 games to win a championship. So I think you need to sacrifice 15 more teeth. You might look funny, but you'll have a ring.' Call him the Tooth Fairy for the way he left a hard-fought win under the Rockets' pillow. Carl Landry -- Have bridgework will rumble."
Fran Blinebury of the Houston Chronicle: "The uniforms and team colors have changed. The coaches and players have changed. Hairstyles, shoes, home arenas and even the ball itself have changed. But for Rockets fans of several generations, the constant has been Gene Peterson and Jim Foley on the radio. ... Peterson, who will turn 67 on Thursday, and Foley, 68, have been singular in their style and familiar in their delivery through the decades, as identifiable with the team as any player who dunked or dribbled."
Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: Thanks to the stress fracture in his left foot, Yao Ming hasn't played a minute for the Houston Rockets in the last two months. That doesn't mean, though, that his footprints aren't all over this first-round playoff series with the Jazz. Quite literally, in fact, with three of Yao's teammates wearing Chinese brand basketball shoes. Forget Nike, Reebok or Adidas. Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes and Luis Scola have six- and seven-figure endorsement deals with Peak, Li-Ning and Anta, respectively. 'While I would love to believe that it's because of my overwhelming charisma and personality,' Battier said, 'I think it has something to do with Yao.' It is perhaps the greatest tribute to the globalization of the NBA. While Yao wears an American brand of shoes (Reebok), his teammates have cashed in with Chinese companies simply by wearing the same uniform as Yao."
Wizards vs. Cavaliers
Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post: "The Wizards were so much the better team in Game 3 that even LeBron had to laugh when Verizon Center fans began chanting 'Overrated! Overrated!' when he stood at the foul line late in the third quarter. Eddie Jordan has to be credited for taking a chance. He didn't just make the usual playoff adjustments coaches make. He ripped his players apart. 'Tore them down and built them back up, which is sort of risky this time of year,' Jordan admitted afterward. 'I read them the riot act. Showed all the things they did wrong. And the next two days we told them how great they were.' And it worked. For one night."
Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Soulja Boy is going to have to cancel whatever he had planned for Sunday. Now the young rapper has a date at the Verizon Center. 'We've got to get him here,' Washington guard DeShawn Stevenson told a mob of reporters in front of his locker after the Wizards crushed the Cavaliers, 108-72, in Game 3 of the best-of-seven first-round series Thursday night. 'We won with him. Me and [Gilbert Arenas] we're superstitious. So, we got to get him back.' If Soulja Boy had an actual impact on the game, it was mostly psychological. Not so for Stevenson. For the first time in this series, he was a factor. He hit five of seven 3-pointers and had 19 points and three steals for the Wizards, who still trail in the series, 2-1. Game 4 is here at 1 p.m. Sunday."
Patrick McManamon of The Akron Beacon Journal: "The Cavaliers didn't just lose Thursday night. They lost so badly they got the Washington Wizards back into this first-round NBA playoff series. In fact, the Cavs couldn't have done a better job of allowing the Wizards back into things. On Monday, all of Cleveland howled at winning a playoff game by a franchise-record 30 points. On Thursday in the Verizon Center, the Cavs lost by 36 -- another franchise
record. Yuck. As good as the Cavs were in Game 2, they were that bad in Game 3. Pathetic, in fact."
Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "With NBA commissioner David Stern at the Verizon Center, James was asked if he expected a cleaner game. 'No,' James said. 'The commissioner has TVs just like we do. Just because he's in the building, they aren't going to clean it up a bit. It was beyond physical the first two games." As he was talking to the media before the game, he was putting pads on underneath his uniform. Are you wearing more armor than normal? 'No,' James said. Do you need more? 'Yeah, shin guards, shoulder pads, helmets, all that stuff,' he said."