<
>

First Cup: Monday

  • Jeff Faraudo of The Oakland Tribune: In a game where neither team shot even 40 percent, Warriors coach Mark Jackson pointed to a player who scored just five points as "a game-changer." Center Andrew Bogut, limited by first-half foul trouble, delivered the defense and rebounding Sunday that helped rally Golden State to a 97-87 overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs, knotting their Western Conference semifinal series at 2-2. Bogut grabbed 18 rebounds, becoming the first Warriors player in 40 seasons to reach that total twice in the same postseason. He is the franchise's first player to corral double-digit rebounds in five straight playoff games in 24 years. "He's a game-changer because of his presence in the paint and his high IQ for the game of basketball," Jackson said. Bogut never has found his offensive rhythm this season while recovering from ankle surgery last spring. "My primary role is to plug that paint up and grab all those rebounds and provide energy plays," he said. "That's kind of been what I've concentrated on in the playoffs." The 7-footer from Melbourne, Australia, played just 5 minutes, 41 seconds in the first half before collecting his third personal foul -- and a technical -- and taking a seat on the bench. "He's a great defender, he's a great rebounder, he's a great rim protector. We were missing him," Jackson said. "But he's played lights out, and he certainly has elevated his game in the postseason." Bogut's role in helping the Warriors prevail in a game where there were few easy points was critical. Facing the specter of a 3-1 series hole heading to San Antonio, Bogut and his teammates utilized defense to win an ugly one.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Warriors point guard Stephen Curry required a pain-killing shot on his injured left ankle to play Sunday. Even at less than his best, Curry still had a massive impact with 22 points and five 3-pointers. He had 16 after halftime, including a driving three-point play that capped a 9-0 run to start overtime and finished the Spurs off for good. Almost as important as his scoring was the extreme attention he continued to draw, clearing up space for Jarrett Jack (24 points) and Harrison Barnes (26 points) to operate. “Watching him warm up, I said there was no way this kid is playing,” Jack said. “The performance he put on down the stretch … I was honestly in awe.” The Spurs finished third in the NBA in free-throw shooting this season at 79.1 percent, a major improvement on what has long been a team weakness. That touch inexplicably vanished Sunday, as they missed 11 of 25 attempts, a crucial shortcoming in a game that went down to the final play of regulation. “It’s uncharacteristic,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I don’t know why.” The Warriors, in comparison, made 20 of 25. The Spurs never really played well at any point. But they were at least five minutes away from taking a 3-1 series lead as they led by eight points down the stretch. They unraveled not long after, missing 15 of their final 17 shots as the Warriors closed on a 25-7 run. It was strikingly similar to what happened to the Warriors in Game 1, who lost in double-overtime after blowing a 16-point lead with four minutes left. “We had them where we wanted,” Manu Ginobili said, “and we blew it. It kind of hurts. We had a great opportunity.”

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Tony Allen was at a Super Bowl party, sitting at Mike Conley’s house supposedly to take his mind off hoops and enjoy the biggest game on the NFL calendar. But Allen kept talking NBA. The playoffs. Team pairings. Player matchups. You name it. Allen, the Grizzlies’ defensive-minded guard and most vocal player, spoke about his postseason bracket in early February. So now the Grizzlies host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night for Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series in FedExForum. And guess what? Allen predicted that this day and several dates with Thunder scoring machine Kevin Durant would come. “Whether he’s guarding (Durant) or not, Tony’s talking about it,” reserve forward Quincy Pondexter said. “He’s been excited about this, I know since we were watching the Super Bowl together. He honestly was talking about it then.” If Durant couldn’t tell by Allen’s doggedness on defense since the end of Game 2, then this should serve as a public-service announcement: Allen is taking his assignment on Durant and this series with the Thunder very personally. “This is the monkey on our back,” Allen said Sunday following Griz practice. “We’ve got to get these guys off our back.”

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Kevin Durant is doing it all. He's averaging 32 points, 12.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 1.7 steals and one blocked shot in the first three games of this semifinal series against Memphis. He's shooting 50 percent and playing 44 minutes per game. He's playing point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and defending the Grizzlies' center. … And yet he finds himself in the unenviable position of having to do more. That's the burden Durant now carries as a star without a sidekick. But even while doing it all, Durant is determined to do more. His team is in a 2-1 hole to the Grizzlies largely because his teammates have struggled to do their fair share. Durant, though, isn't pointing the finger. Instead, he's looking himself in the mirror. “I can do a lot more,” Durant said Sunday. “It's always things you can do more. I talk to one of my good friends and he said no matter how good you're playing you always can do more. That's how I look at it. I just got to find ways to help them out and put them in great positions and continue to just be a vocal leader, a positive leader on the bench and every single time down the court and we'll be fine.” Durant is leading the Thunder in points, rebounds, assists and steals this postseason. Point guards Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher are the only other Thunder players shooting at least 45 percent against the Grizzlies. No other player is above 38 percent.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: It would be easy to say the Indiana Pacers are simply doing their jobs by winning at home. The Pacers are 4-0 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse during the playoffs. But it’s not that simple. The Pacers used their stingy defense to thwart Atlanta in the first round, and they’ve done the same thing twice to take a 2-1 lead over New York in the current series. Much of the national talk is centering on the Knicks’ problems. At some point, the Pacers deserve some credit. The Pacers would put themselves in a great position to advance to the Eastern Conference finals with a victory in Game 4 at the fieldhouse on Tuesday. “We have to come out and expect their best effort,” swingman Paul George said. “We got Game 1 and they came out with great effort in Game 2. We got Game 3 and we should expect them to come out with the same great effort in Game 4 as they had in Game 2.” The Knicks responded to their Game 1 loss by beating the Pacers by 26 points in Game 2. Here are five areas that are key to the Pacers’ success the rest of the series. 1. Keep the score low 2. Offensive Hibbert 3. Make sure George defends 'Melo 4. Be ready for anything from N.Y. 5. Rebounding dominance

  • Neil Best of Newsday: In what has become an intriguing series for Xs and Os hoops geeks, it now is the Knicks coach's turn to try to solve his way out of trouble before it is too late. And he had better do it before the locker room frays, because that is a distinct possibility. Tyson Chandler has spent the past two days criticizing teammates for too much one-on-one offense and not enough rebounding. Chandler did not name names, but many will interpret his remarks Sunday about failing to share the ball and trying to do too much -- but not "maliciously," heaven forbid -- as being directed at Carmelo Anthony and/or J.R. Smith. Of course, teammates could fairly point out that Chandler has been the series' second-best starting center, by a wide margin behind Roy Hibbert. This could get ugly fast, with Game 4 looming Tuesday and the Pacers having been by far the better team if you subtract the final 1 1/2 quarters of Game 2. Woodson addressed all of this Sunday during a 12-minute session with reporters that mined every crevice of the game plan. He politely fielded every strategic question -- or were they suggestions? -- from using Anthony more on pick-and-roll plays to turning to Steve Novak, Chris Copeland or (gasp) Marcus Camby. Complicating matters is an ongoing Smith illness that kept him out of practice Sunday; he was joined in sick bay by Kenyon Martin. "At this stage of the game, most playoff teams are pretty set; we're kind of jumping around a little bit right now," Woodson said. "But we'll figure it out." There were two troubling aspects of the postmortems after Game 3 as they relate to the coach. One was that players and Woodson agreed the Knicks had failed to execute the game plan, from trapping Hibbert to pushing the pace on offense. "I have got to keep screaming and pushing and guys got to recognize that we got to get the ball moving from side to side," Woodson said. "That's the only way we can play and perhaps get out of this series." Whose fault is the persistent execution problems, the coach or the players? "It's both," Woodson said.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: It was the type of gotcha moment that Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah couldn't help but exacerbate. There, by the Bulls' basket in the third quarter of Friday's Game 3, Miami Heat centerChris Bosh was chewing out teammate Mario Chalmers for a botched sequence on the previous possession. As Bosh's ire with his point guard increased, so did Noah's clapping. Impending doom? No, just a 104-94 Heat victory that produced a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series that continues Monday at theUnited Center. "Those," coach Erik Spoelstra said Sunday, "are called, 'Miami Heat huddles,' 'Miami Heat exchanges,' 'Miami Heat dialogue.' I get much more concerned when our dialogue is not passionate." Oh, it was plenty passionate. But it also was between teammates who shared misery during the 2011 NBA Finals and joy during the 2012 Finals. "That was a healthy conversation that was very demonstrative and animated," Spoelstra said. "But it was very specific and detailed to our spacing. I actually very much like that dialogue." The dialogue was followed up by a 34-point Heat fourth quarter. "We had a specific game plan that we talked about," Bosh explained. "I made a play and he didn't follow that game plan. I was going to be in a specific place and he thought I was going to be in another place. And I had to talk about it. We got over it. We talked about it. And we ironed it out and that was it after that." Typically, LeBron James or Dwyane Wade are the ones admonishing Chalmers. But Bosh thought it was a moment that required immediate attention.

  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: I don’t think I’ve seen more anger directed at a member of the Chicago sports community than I have at Derrick Rose. Not at Tank Johnson, Jay Cutler, Carlos Marmol or Adam Dunn. Not at LaTroy Hawkins, Milton Bradley, Bill Wirtz or Jerry Reinsdorf. And in the non-sports category, not even at Cubs fan Rod Blagojevich. If you want to pick a topic that will elicit outrage in people, choose Rose over the daily slaughter on our streets. Silly, isn’t it? All this hatred toward a basketball player for the sin of doing the wise thing. All this for doing what’s in the best interest of the Bulls’ future. All this for protecting the most valuable knee in town. I’ve received e-mails, and the city’s newspapers have received letters to the editor, all saying the same thing: Trade him. Trade that no-good so-and-so. Establish a franchise in Fargo, N.D., and trade him there. Really? Trade Rose because he doesn’t feel ready to test his surgically repaired knee in a game? Fine. Here are two No. 1 picks and a starter for Rose. Happy? Or, how about Rose for Kevin Love, straight up? Wouldn’t life be so much better? You wouldn’t have that former NBA most valuable player to kick around anymore. No more having to put up with a unique point guard who drives the lane without fear. No more having to listen to teammates gush about a future Hall of Famer. No more 25 points and eight assists a night. I’m serious. How many of you want to see him gone? Judging from what I’ve heard from people around the city, the number is not insignificant. … If Rose doesn’t get traded, I expect all of you outraged people never to cheer for him again. That will prove difficult when he leads the Bulls to an NBA title, though.