Lakers vs. Jazz
Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "Playing through three hours worth of back pain that literally dropped him to his knees on a Sunday afternoon here, Kobe Bryant was splendidly, brilliantly tough in the Lakers' 123-115 overtime playoff loss to the Utah Jazz. But he was also, like, weird. Bryant valiantly carried the Lakers through regulation's final five minutes, using his head and his heart and the best Mother's Day passing that didn't involve a brunch plate. But once he pulled his team into the overtime, he seemingly abandoned them there. He insisted on shooting even as his wracked body was betraying those shots. He forgot about passing even though that is what the Lakers had done best. The Lakers survived regulation thanks to him, but lost in overtime seemingly because of him, and are now stuck in a frustrating two-games-apiece tie against a team that is fortunate to have lasted this long."
Marcia C. Smith of The Orange County Register: "Deron Williams collapsed into the chair in front of his locker after Utah's overtime victory against the Lakers on Sunday in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals, filled the room with a Goodyear blimp of a sigh and told his teammates, 'Man, I'm really tired but happy.' Tired from a first half of being the offense with 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, five assists, two rebounds and a steal, while leader scorer Carlos Boozer was struggling again. Exhausted from a tense, combative overtime of having to fend off the Lakers after the Jazz's 12-point, fourth-quarter lead had disappeared. Wiped out from three emotionally taxing days of willing the Jazz back into this best-of-7 series in which they had trailed, 2-0, before returning home to Energy Solutions Arena for victories in Games 3 and 4."
Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "It was only one game, but it produced two dominant storylines: Utah's back and Kobe's back. Which one emerges as more significant will be further explored Wednesday, when this suddenly-a-series resumes at Staples Center."
Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune: "Yeah, about that Laker coronation. Hold off on the mailing of the invitations. Ease up on the presumptions of moving up and on. Chuck them all into the same heap with the brooms and the unearned arrogance. Suddenly, there's a whole lot of work left in this second-round series, featuring the Lakers and those other guys from Utah, and remember that the Jazz are not the Nuggets, not even close."
Ross Siler of The Salt Lake Tribune: "As the player on the receiving end of Ronny Turiaf's flagrant foul in the second quarter Sunday, the one who went home with four stitches over his right eye, Ronnie Price doesn't believe the Lakers forward should face suspension by the league office. 'I really don't think that he purposely tried to hurt me,' Price said. 'He probably just kept playing, just how I did. I don't think he had any bad intentions on fouling me like that. It's basketball. Things happen. I'm over it, and I hope that whatever happens with him is not too critical."
Brad Rock of the Deseret News: "Sunday's playoff encounter was a bash you didn't want to miss: great plays, close score, lots of noise. A chance to get a good look at the MVP. The only question being: Which MVP? It's not a new refrain -- at least in Utah -- but there it was again in the Jazz's 123-115 Game 4 win over Los Angeles: They have a guy who should be winning some kind of awards, too. Which is strange, considering he's not among the three Jazz players who have been named All-Stars. Someday that will happen. But for now, Deron Williams will have to keep himself motivated by winning."
Spurs vs. Hornets
Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "I give the Hornets a chance. Their coach is experienced, at least. They also will be playing at home Tuesday, and maybe more voodoo will come out of those fire extinguishers. Maybe, too, the Hornets can find the care-free attitude they had in January when they came to San Antonio and routed the Spurs. Then, they stood around afterward watching replays on a television in the AT&T visitor's locker room. When one of them dunked, they hollered the way high-school kids do. But a New Orleans recovery seems unlikely after what happened the past two games, culminating with Sunday's pointed clinic. Then, the defending champions lived up to their title. And the Hornets lived up to theirs."
Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News: "This is what the Spurs did over the weekend. They took a locker room full of kids and hope and wonder and turned it into a morgue. They met the energy and confidence of youth and slapped it silly with grit and experience. And they put themselves in position to spend next week in Los Angeles, with the only caveat being that the Lakers might lose to the Jazz."
John Reid of The Times-Picayune: "The only objective Peja Stojakovic had since last Tuesday was to win just one game on the Spurs' home court. It did not appear to be an insurmountable task after the Hornets routed the Spurs in the first two games of the second-round playoff series. But Stojakovic found out -- just like the Phoenix Suns did in the first round and the Cleveland Cavaliers in last season's NBA Finals -- that defeating the Spurs at the AT&T Center may one of the most difficult challenges in the postseason. Instead of returning home with a commanding 3-1 series lead, the series is now tied at 2 after the Spurs blasted the Hornets 100-80 on Sunday night."
John DeShazier of The Times-Picayune: "Clearly, the quality of the opponent has taken a quantum leap from the first round (Dallas) to the conference semis (San Antonio). The question now is whether the Hornets have enough lift left in their game to counter the Spurs because, likely, they already have seen the worst of San Antonio."
Celtics vs. Cavaliers
Tony Massarotti of the Boston Herald: "It's time to wonder whether the Celtics have the necessary toughness to win the 2008 NBA championship. Still the possessors of a 2-1 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics will play Game 4 of their Eastern C
onference semifinals tonight at the Quicken Loans Arena. Maybe the Celts will come out and blow the doors off the place. But at this stage of the postseason, the Celts need to show us, themselves and everyone else that they aren't just a collection of bullies who can batter opponents only when they have 18,000 strong behind them. Time to show some meanness."
Marc J. Spears and Michael Vega of The Boston Globe: "Paul Pierce said he believes there has been a double standard toward him, since other players haven't been fined for making hand gestures. Pierce mentioned that Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf made hand gestures that weren't questioned when teammate Kobe Bryant recently was given the MVP award from Stern. Pierce also said no one questions players, most notably Cleveland's LeBron James, for occasionally displaying rapper Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records hand signal, too. 'You can interpret it any way you want, so that's why I thought it was unfair that I got fined,' Pierce said. 'Every game someone is doing something with their hands.'"
Jason Lloyd of The News-Herald: "Acquiring Ben Wallace, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Joe Smith has not only pushed the Cavaliers into the second round of the playoffs, they also pushed the Cavaliers' payroll to just over $81 million, or about $14 million over the luxury tax. That means Gilbert and the Cavaliers will be writing a check for $14 million this summer to the rest of the league - or $1 million more than LeBron James made this season. Staggering? Absolutely. But the 10 extra home games the Cavaliers enjoyed in the playoffs last year could have generated as much as an extra $10 million for the Cavs to play with this year."
Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer: "Shrinking shamrocks are a variety of clover apparently not found in Massachusetts, but recently spotted wherever the Celtics play on the road. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent infestation that could choke a 66-win season and promise the Cavaliers good luck at the same time. The Cavs did beat down Boston in Game 3 in their first series opportunity at home. But in the NBA, that's almost rote. San Antonio, Orlando and Utah all did it, too, after losing the opening two games. What we'll find out starting tonight is if what suddenly seems possible really is the case: that a Cleveland team's greatest matchup edge could be playoff grit."
Magic vs. Pistons
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The catch phrase in boxing is that styles make great fights. That's not necessarily true, aesthetically, in basketball -- unless you're the Detroit Pistons. They see beauty in turning our most graceful and athletic team game into an ugly, slow-down contact sport. The Orlando Magic are the NBA's version of Dancing With the Stars while the Pistons are American Gladiators. As they often do, the Pistons are imposing their style on the Magic -- and are on the verge of eliminating Orlando in the Eastern Conference semifinals, even without all-star point guard Chauncey Billups."
John Denton of Florida Today: "This trek back to suburban Detroit for what could be a season-ending Game 5 won't be a death march or merely an attempt to salvage some pride, Orlando Magic players stressed almost to a man. No, all they want to do is win a game and somehow slingshot the series back to their home court, a place where they let a golden opportunity trickle out of their hands in Saturday's Game 4. 'We're a confident bunch. We're not going to Detroit thinking about moral victories or thinking that we're just going down swinging,' Magic guard Keyon Dooling stressed. 'We still want to win the series. Nothing goes out the window just because we're down 3-1. We've got to man up. Detroit is a battle-tested team, but we've just got to go win a game.'"
Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "High drama generally serves as a casting call for the game's true stars, but Dwight Howard disappointingly proved again in Game 4 against the Pistons on Saturday that he's currently more a creation of hype than its validation. He shrank from the pressure. It was as though the basketball doubled as Kryptonite."
Rick Morrissey of The Chicago Tribune: "Pardon me while I wipe away a tear. Thank you. If you're like me, you're having a hard time just getting through the day. Mike D'Antoni has spurned the Bulls in favor of the Knicks. Most of you already have heard the news, but to those who hadn't until just now, I apologize. Nobody should have to find out about the death of a loved one through the newspaper. Love. There, I wrote it. In the week or so it took to decide this was the coach of Chicago's dreams, our basic indifference (Mike D'Antoni, shrug) had turned to love (Mike D'Amore!). It was one of those May 3 to May 10 romances. You can't explain this sort of thing. We all had invested so much emotion in Mike. He was going to be the guy who would lead the Bulls to their proper place in life, an NBA championship, even though he hadn't actually, you know, won one of the things while coaching a Suns team loaded with talent. But that's nitpicking."
Ian O'Connor of The Record: "Donnie Walsh has put himself on notice. He just made his job as Knicks' president about as difficult as it could be by hiring a coach who needs a dramatically different roster, much sooner rather than later. Mike D'Antoni can't win with the Knicks as we now know them. Red Holzman and Red Auerbach couldn't win with them, either. But by bringing a run-and-gun coach to a jog-and-slog team, Walsh has committed to major reconstructive surgery on a roster littered with players nobody in the league wants."
Howard Beck of The New York Times: "D'Antoni's tenure with Treviso is instructive. That team once featured the 7-footers Denis Marconato and Roberto Chiacig, who played in tandem about 50 percent of the time. It was admittedly not the lineup D'Antoni would have preferred, said Gherardini, now the assistant general manager for the Toronto Raptors. But D'Antoni 'ended up doing the right thing - to grow them, to develop them and to play a different kind of basketball,' Gherardini said, 'because you have to adjust. For as much as he believes in the things that he does, I think he has the quality to adjust.'"
Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Kudos to Donnie Walsh for being Donnie Walsh. Kudos to
James Dolan for not being James Dolan. If you haven't noticed, Dolan has backed off dramatically in the decision-making process. The New York Knicks owner did not fly across the country to Phoenix to accompany the team president to wine and dine Mark Jackson a few weeks ago. Dolan didn't fly back to Phoenix to court Mike D'Antoni. Dolan didn't jet to Houston to sweet talk Avery Johnson. This wasn't Donnie Dolan. It's Walsh's show now, solo, and it's why he landed the big fish, the Suns super coach Saturday morning."
Tom Moore of the Bucks County Courier Times: "Andre Miller was the Sixers' MVP this season. There's no doubt the team wouldn't have reached the playoffs without him or that the young players wouldn't have progressed the way they did if Miller wasn't so good at getting them the ball in spots where they can score. If Stefanski is unable to bring in a power forward via free agency or a trade and Iguodala insists on anything close to the $57-million, five-year deal he turned down last Oct. 31, Stefanski could try to get his 'four' in a sign-and-trade for Iguodala. That could free up some of the $11 million he'll have under the cap for a point guard."
Jake Curtis of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Stay or go? The stories of Chris Taft and Brandon Roy show how weighty the decision is. Most of the 69 college players who applied for early entry into the NBA draft have not signed with an agent and have until June 16 to withdraw. Should a player like Cal sophomore Ryan Anderson stay in, knowing the possibility for a million-dollar contract could disappear if he delays a year? Cal's Devon Hardin might have been drafted in the first round last year, but looks like a second-rounder now. Or should Anderson return to school, noting what happened to Taft and Roy."
Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "That loud noise you hear is every wanna-be NBA GM knocking on the Hawks' door (in the backdoor fashion these things are usually conducted in when there is an opening that everybody seems to want but nobody seems to want to be known as openly campaigning for). While other team's hire and fire people with a list of successor's always at the ready, the Hawks are actually doing the digging themselves. They're vetting candidates on their own for the open GM position (for those of you fresh out of the Fulton County lock up, Billy Knight resigned last week after six years on the job effective July 1). And that means surrogates for each and every hopeful is working hard to push their guy."