First Cup: Friday

  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "With suspensions starting to pour out of the NBA office and the other playoff series getting some physical drama that could affect the outcome of games, the Cavaliers are wary about keeping their cool. LeBron James said the team has been discussing the recent dustups, including Thursday suspensions for the Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher and the Orlando Magic's Rafer Alston, and have a goal to keep their temper. 'We've got a few guys on this team that could lose their cool, I'm not going to say who,' James said. 'Hopefully guys on our team know how important the game is and not take things personally.' It is a fine line, James said, between hurting the team with unneeded aggression in a tense moment and protecting yourself. In years past the Cavs were labeled as soft, which has eased over the last two seasons since the addition of Ben Wallace."

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "It's over, folks. More than just losing two games, the Hawks have lost players and heart. They're undermanned. They're overwhelmed. Soon they'll be outta here. This one has sweep written all over it. Yes, a certain series a year ago bore the same look after two distessing road games, and that one went the distance. But Al Horford and Marvin Williams and Joe Johnson weren't injured then, and these are the Cavs and they're even more driven than Boston was. LeBron James might not let his team lose a half, let alone a game. And the Hawks who showed up at Quicken Loans Arena – or, more precisely, didn't show up – pale alongside the spirited bunch that took Games 3, 4 and 6 from Boston, even alongside the polished crew that saw off Miami in Game 7. In three days here the Hawks managed the difficult task of hurting themselves while taking a dive."

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "The Lakers and Rockets have played only two games in their wild ride of a second-round best-of-seven series, and already there have been flagrant fouls, ejections, a suspension ... and plenty of league office reviews of game tape. Word on the street is Round 3 will be played tonight at Toyota Center. 'That's the playoffs for you -- it's a nice and a wild atmosphere at the same time,' the Rockets' Ron Artest said. 'That's got to be fun for the fans.' This is what the city of Houston has been missing. The Rockets and Lakers are reminding us what playoff basketball is all about. Ugly, nasty, tough and fun."

  • Mark Heisler of the Los Angeles Times: "Without any fights this spring, you've already suspended Fisher, Dwight Howard, Rafer Alston and Udonis Haslem, and the second round just started. Have you legal eagles noticed that you keep defining the crimes down? First it was fighting. Then a two-handed shove was a fight. Then you could get suspended for taking one step off the bench if two players were just upset with each other -- as Stoudemire was, after Robert Horry's hard foul on Steve Nash. I was completely behind you when you started this in the '90s, when Detroit's Bad Boys tried to put Michael Jordan on his back every time he drove, putting in the flagrant foul rules that ensured it would be a game of artistry, rather than one in which artists were hunted like deer. Now Bryant hitting Artest with a one-inch elbow as they wrestle for position under the hoop is a flagrant foul? With that as a standard, you would have suspended Kevin McHale for life for clotheslining Kurt Rambis in the 1984 Finals if you had been commissioner. Oh, I forgot, you were commissioner. McHale got a personal foul, but no technical, no fine and no suspension. I miss those days. No, I'm serious. I'll bet even Rambis misses those days."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "I love a conspiracy theory probably more than anybody, but I've heard about enough from Magic fans who believe the NBA has a double standard because they suspended Dwight Howard last week for a flagrant elbow against Philadelphia's Sam Dalembert, but didn't suspend Kobe Bryant Tuesday for a flagrant elbow against Houston's Ron Artest. Come on people, look at the video and photographic evidence. Dwight was facing Dalembert and intentionally threw a retaliatory elbow at Dalembert's head after a play. Kobe had his back to Artest and threw an elbow to Artest's body during the course of a play. The rules clearly state when an intentional punch (or elbow) makes contact above the shoulders (like Dwight's), it is cause for suspension. Kobe's elbow landed in the chest area. How can some fans not see the difference in the two elbows?"

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Just call him Eddie the Irritant. Where Ray Allen will destroy a team by calmly and silently burying deep jumpers, and Rajon Rondo by fearlessly throwing his body into the fray, House is the Celtics player most likely to tick off the other team with his shooting and talking, which often occur simultaneously. Earlier this season you could have asked the Knicks, whose reserves wanted to jump the trash-talking guard, en masse, after he buried a shot from his favorite spot on the floor -- in front of the opponent's bench. Just ask Rafer Alston, who slapped House on the back of the head Wednesday night after the guard buried another jumper in a 31-point performance that not only was his career playoff high, but also tied his overall career high. Alston said House 'shot' an elbow at him after hitting the 20-footer, but the league didn't see it that way. Alston was suspended for tonight's Game 3 in Orlando."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Dahntay Jones' business this series is complicated and quiet. It's a far cry from the spotlight that followed the Nuggets guard in the first-round series against New Orleans. He shadowed, hounded and harassed superstar guard Chris Paul and made headlines doing so. Hornets coach Byron Scott called Jones' play 'dirty.' Nearly every day, annoyed Hornets players fielded questions about Jones' physicality. And Jones loved every second of it. Now his contributions are largely off the radar, though they may actually be more important. His knowledge base has had to expand from one player to four. In the first two games of the Western Conference semifinals against the Mavericks, Jones has guarded Jason Kidd, Jose Barea, Josh Howard and Jason Terry and is asked to stop each one of them. It has required an increased attentiveness to detail and more hours of film study."

  • Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News: "The weirdness of this whole Dirk Nowitzki tale may be just the thing the Mavericks need in their series against Denver. Then again it may be a case where nothing is going to help them beat the Nuggets. But I don't buy into the notion that news of the arrest of a wo
    man at Nowitzki's house is going to a huge distraction either for the 7-footer or his teammates. The subsequent reports that she is or had been engaged to Nowitzki and that a private investigator determined that Cristal Taylor had at least eight aliases is a strange tale but should not affect the series. Athletes always say that when they have off-the-field or off-the-court troubles, the game is the one place where they can find solace, where they can elevate their energy level, put stresses aside and just play the game that they play so well. Think back to Michael Jordan's days and tabloid pictures of his late night gambling forays to Atlantic City. He always said the basketball court was the one place he could find peace. Questionable off-court behavior didn't prevent Jordan from piling up championships."

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were the NBA's top two scorers. They were also second and third, respectively, in Defensive Player of the Year voting because they embraced guarding the other team's best player. Granger didn't make the top 20 in voting. It's no surprise he'll put an emphasis on becoming a lockdown defender this summer. 'LeBron didn't always play defense and D-Wade didn't always play defense,' Granger said. 'Now they've realized to be good in this league or to have an elite team you have to play defense. Next year I'll have more of a commitment to it because you kind of get zoned out. People are always talking about how many points I score and this, that or another. I get zoned out, even in games.'"

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: "Since Joe Dumars took over the reins of the franchise in 2000, the Pistons missed the playoffs only one time -- the 32-50 campaign in his first season. During that same span, only the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs have topped the Pistons' run. So you can be critical of this past season, but probably the hardest thing to do is remain competitive while rebuilding. The quickest route to success is to bottom out, draft a franchise player and then you are in business. ... It's also fair to be skeptical to see if Dumars can turn the franchise around quickly. But it isn't fair to think that it's easy and other franchises have somehow avoided the inevitable bad season here and there."