First Cup: Wednesday

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: OK, now it's time to prepare your ears for Game 3 at Oracle Arena on Friday night. But first, before I wade through all the incredible performances in the Warriors' 131-117 Game 2 victory in Denver, I've got two clear statements to make: This was Mark Jackson's finest hour as a coach. Young core, playing rookies, just lost one of their key players, switching up the rotation, a 6th seed on the road against a team that won 57 regular-season games and was 39-3 at home. … And secondly... * This was the best, most complete Warriors performance since Game 1 in Dallas, 2007, which singularly tilted the series towards the 8 seed and away from the 1 seed and the series never tilted back. We'll see if this victory leads to the Warriors taking the series. I think it's basically even-up from here on, but the Warriors had to get this game to have a shot at this series. … I think I'll still project Denver winning this in seven games. (I'm presuming Faried gets a lot quicker with two more off-days before Game 3 and as the series moves on.) But the Warriors just put a jolt into the NBA playoffs, which is always good. They're going to miss David Lee and they're probably not going to get too much further. But for now, the Warriors showed what's possible and how dangerous they can be.

  • Woody Paige of The Denver Post: The Nuggets have a history of losing in the first round of the playoffs. They could be history again ... soon. The Warriors were making their own history Tuesday night, with torrid shooting, the best percentage (64.6) in a postseason game since 1991-92. The Nuggets were defenseless. The only way the Nuggets could lose was to let Stephen Curry go off. Curry scored 30, and the Warriors won easily. In Game 1 of the series, the Nugget threw two, three, four players at Curry. In Game 2 it was as if the Nuggets put no one on the Warriors' best player. … The Warriors certainly couldn't continue to shoot above 60 percent from the field in the second half. Well into the third period, the Warriors continued to shoot above 60 percent. Curry couldn't keep blazing, could he? The Nuggets managed to reduce the Warriors' lead below 10, but Curry had 10 more points in the third as the Warriors pushed the lead back to 13. Where has the team that hadn't lost at home since mid-January? Where were those Nuggets who have won 39 (including Game 1 of the series) at home? Where were those Nuggets who plowed through the NBA since February. Nowhere to be found.

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: There was this one particular little burst here Tuesday night for Dwyane Wade. It was like the old days. It was like the young days. Wade, bending, slashing for consecutive driving layups, then pulling up for a jumper soft off the glass. Three baskets in less than a minute and a half, Heat crowd reenergized inside the downtown bayside gym. There was this one particular little snapshot a bit later in this second first-round NBA playoff game: Wade, taking a pass near the free-throw line, one big stride and a leap finished by a one-handed dunk. Vintage stuff. If you froze the picture, his flight would have reminded you of the famous Michael Jordan silhouette. Later, Wade followed a miss with a dunk and then did that thing he does when he’s alone in a zone, lowering himself and spreading his arms as if about to take flight, fans roaring. Miami beat the Milwaukee Bucks 98-86 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. No surprise there. The defending champions not dispatching an eighth-seeded foe would only rank among the biggest shocks in sports history. … No, the expected result was not the story Tuesday. For me, the story of the night was a gentle reminder that should nourish Heat fans: D-Wade can still bring it. Even still battling a sore right knee, he can still bring it. All things considered, he’s still pretty good for an old guy, isn’t he?

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Backup point guard Ish Smith played only four minutes for the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night. But Smith was in the game during a terrible 2½-minute stretch as the Miami Heat went on a 12-0 run to open the fourth quarter and take control in a 98-86 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference playoff series. "You learn, you grow from it," Smith said. "That's a good team. There's a lot of good things we can pull out of this game. We'll do that, get better in practice and be ready for Game 3." Smith missed one shot and committed a turnover during that stretch as the Heat extended a three-point lead after three quarters to an 80-65 advantage. Smith and Brandon Jennings formed the backcourt at the start of the quarter, with Ekpe Udoh, Marquis Daniels and Mike Dunleavy in the frontcourt. "As a point guard you've got to learn from that," Smith said. "Who do I get a shot for or do I create a shot for myself? The turnover I think Brandon was open and Marquis was open, and LeBron (James) did a great job, just got his hand in the passing lane.”

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: In another time, another spring, the duel would have been tantalizing, electric and potentially epic: Carmelo Anthony versus Paul Pierce, for control of the Eastern Conference. The names alone inspire visions of a classic playoff scoring battle. In another era, it might have been. In this one, the duel has become an unfair fight, between a still-rising superstar and his superior supporting cast and a fading likely Hall of Famer, who has hardly any support at all. Anthony dominated the court again Tuesday night, overpowering Pierce and anyone else in his path, leading the Knicks to an 87-71 rout and a commanding 2-0 lead in this first-round series. Through two games, the Knicks have been sturdier defensively and simply better in the second half, but most of all they have Anthony, who has been brilliant in the critical moments. He scored 34 points Tuesday and might have gone for 40 had the Knicks needed it. He was at his best in the second half, making 8 of 13 shots from the field as the Knicks turned a close game into a stunning rout, outscoring the Celtics, 45-23, over the final 24 minutes. … The Celtics, playing without Rajon Rondo, have never appeared more rudderless, failing to hit the 80-point mark in both games. A younger Pierce would have simply assumed a greater load, but he no longer seems capable and finished with a relatively muted 18 points Tuesday night. Over two games, Anthony has outscored his rival Pierce, 70-39.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: The Celtics have now played two games without the Kevin Garnettthey know and depend on. From the overall offensive malaise of Game 1 to Garnett’s foul trouble in last night’s 87-71 Game 2 loss to the Knicks, the Celtics headed home suffering from KG deprivation and in an 0-2 hole in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Garnett picked up three quick first-half fouls — two of the light-touch variety — and finished with five in 24 minutes — numbers far more influential than his 12-point, 11-rebound double-double. Garnett was restrained on the foul question. … Doc Rivers came much more to the point when he said, “I thought the fouls on Kevin were horrendous. Him not being on the floor — playing 24 minutes and never getting your rhythm, where you could see it looked like he was going to have a big game — it hurt us. And that’s just the way it goes. There’s nothing I can do about it now. But I thought that if it could have gone either way on those, they all went at Kevin. I think that’s tough.”

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The Indiana Pacers know the opportunity is there. They know the Atlanta Hawks are a fragile team that can be shook easily. The Pacers can protect their home court Wednesday and send the Hawks back to Atlanta down 2-0 with even more questions than they already have. It’s just a matter of which Pacers team shows up for Game 2 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse: the one that won Game 1 by 17 points or the one that had the tendency to have a letdown after success during the regular season? … The Pacers’ impressive Game 1 victory no longer means anything. The players can look at the Brooklyn-Chicago series if they need further proof. The Nets beat the Bulls by 17 points at home in Game 1, only to turn around and lose their home-court edge by dropping Game 2. If the Pacers lose Wednesday, home-court advantage belongs to the Hawks. Indiana will have to wait two days for an opportunity to get it back, and then it won’t be easy; the Pacers have lost 11 in a row at Atlanta. That makes winning Game 2 even more important.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Josh Smith, the Hawks’ leading scorer, will play in Game 2 against the Pacers Wednesday after suffering a sprained right ankle in the playoff series opener. Smith was a full participant in Tuesday’s workout. He missed the on-court portion of Monday’s workout after suffering the injury in the third quarter of the Game 1 loss. “I should be all right,” Smith said. “It’s still a little sore but it’s playoff time and I have to suck it up.” Smith said he was hurt when he stepped on the foot of teammate Devin Harris with 9:33 remaining in the third quarter. He stayed in the game after a timeout. Smith finished with 15 points, but only four came in the second half. Hawks coach Larry Drew said Smith moved around well Tuesday and that he anticipated the forward would play Wednesday.

  • David Barron of the Houston Chronicle: Kevin McHale, in schooling the Rockets for Game 2 of the series tonight after the Thunder’s 120-91 win Sunday in Oklahoma City, can hearken back to two of the most famous boom-and-bust cycles in NBA history to show how playoff fortunes can turn on a dime. “I’ve been in playoff series where we’ve won by 30 and lost the next game,” he said. “Every game is new unto itself.” … “Every game in the NBA is new,” McHale said. “Tuesday’s game is not like Wednesday’s game. They’re all different.” Meanwhile, in a universe more akin to the one occupied by the Rockets and Thunder, Harden was quick to note the possible parallels for the Rockets of Chicago’ Game 2 win over Brooklyn after the Nets took Game 1 of that first-round series. “You saw what can happen,” Harden said. “There’s just a matter of us fixing things, watching film and going out and executing. We know what we did (in Game 1). We know what we can change and how much better we can play. We’ve just got to go out there and do it.”

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: There are multiple reasons why Game 1 is one game, and OKC has provided several examples: Three seasons ago, when OKC was the No. 8 seed playing the No. 1-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, the Thunder won 110-89 in Game 4 to tie the series at 2. The next time the teams met at the Ford Center, the Lakers ended the series with a 95-94 victory on a Pau Gasol tip-in with 0.5 seconds left. Two seasons ago, OKC outlasted Memphis 4-3 in a thrilling Western Conference semifinals series that could have gone either way, yet every game was decided by at least eight points. The Thunder won Game 5 by 27, then lost by 12, then won (and clinched) by 15. Last season, OKC trailed 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, a team that had won 20 straight. The Thunder flipped the series and won four straight to advance to the NBA Finals. OKC's regular-season series this year against Houston offered similar evidence. The Thunder won the first two games by an average of 26 points and led the series finale by 14 points with seven minutes left, only to lose 122-119 at Toyota Center.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: It is not often a contending team adds a former two-time NBA scoring champion less than a week before the start of the playoffs. That is exactly what the Spurs did eight days ago, when they signed 33-year-old swingman Tracy McGrady, recently of the Chinese Basketball Association. It could still be a while before McGrady makes his Spurs debut. Inactive for the Spurs’ 91-79 victory over the Lakers in Game 1, McGrady is all but certain to spend Game 2 on Wednesday night in street clothes as well. “We’re going real slow,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “We wanted to have another body just as an insurance policy. You don’t know what’s going to happen during a playoff series. We wanted to add someone.” Having arrived in San Antonio two months after his final game in China, McGrady has spent the past eight days working back into basketball condition and familiarizing himself with the Spurs’ playbook.

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: There's one big, blistering question facing the Lakers. So, uh, who's going to score for you guys? In three games without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have shot 37.9% and averaged 89.7 points, the latter stat padded by nine points in overtime against Houston last week. They shot and shot and missed and missed in their playoff opener against San Antonio. They need to find someone besides Dwight Howard to make something happen Wednesday in Game 2. There are some doubters. "They can't," TNT analyst Kenny Smith said. "They can't. It's not enough." Don't anyone tweet that to Bryant. OK, go ahead. The Lakers could use a fire under their chairs with Bryant presumably watching again from home, though they didn't seem overly concerned about the lack of scoring power. "I think we missed shots, shots that we normally make," said Howard, who made eight of 12 in Game 1. "Scoring's not the issue. Defense is." Not really. The Lakers held San Antonio to 37.6% shooting in Game 1 and lost, 91-79. Defense wasn't the problem. Scoring and turnovers (18 against the Spurs) were the issue. Sorry, Dwight.