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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: "The time has come to appreciate the lovable spunk of this Celtics team. There is no Kevin Garnett, nor is there a Leon Powe. James Posey and P.J. Brown are home watching on the high-def. The entire experience is different this year. 'I told them, 'We're not the prettiest team, guys, clearly,' ' said Doc Rivers. "'We're grinders. There were a lot of times we could have quit and given up, but we didn't.' ' You mean, like, when they were down 14 with 8:48 to go? Or when they were down 10 with 5:39 left? They fell behind, 10-8, and spent the next 39:40 trying to take the lead, finally doing so on a classic deep curling three by Ray Allen with 1:20 to go. Then they made all the right decisions (specifically, when and how to foul) and all the right defensive plays in an interminable final 80 seconds, turning what would have been a discouraging loss into one of the great playoff wins in their glorious history, a 92-88 triumph that gives them a 3-2 series lead over the Orlando Magic and thus ensures more spring basketball, more happy North End eateries and drinking establishments, and more general civic merriment."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: "Every day, we hear how much the Boston Celtics miss their injured leader, Kevin Garnett. Every game, the TV cameras point toward K.G. on the Boston bench and the commentators will invariably say: 'The Celtics just aren't the same without the big guy in there.' In the wake of the Magic frittering away yet another big lead Tuesday and handing the Celtics a 92-88 victory in Game 5, isn't it about time for somebody to point out something equally important: The Magic just aren't the same without the Little Guy in there. Yes, the Celtics do miss Garnett; there's no question. But at this juncture in this playoff series, a case could be made that the Magic might miss Jameer Nelson even more."

  • Jeff Miller of The Orange County Register: "In Game 5, they restored their brilliance, and a similar performance Thursday in Houston ends this series and has Phil Jackson pleased again. But then what? How will this act play against a Denver team that became a lot more threatening the moment Chauncey Billups arrived? The Lakers are struggling to dispose of Chuck Hayes, Luis Scola and Carl Landry. Are they going to fare measurably better against Nene, Kenyon Martin and the freakish Chris Andersen? They still might figure all this out in the next month. They have the talent and the time to do so. But their solving the Nuggets and then the Eastern Conference representative will be possible only if they solve the Lakers first."

  • Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle: "The Lakers hit them anyway, relentlessly, endlessly, from start to finish, and the Rockets were blown out 118-78 Tuesday night in Game 5. Kobe Bryant took over early -- controlling the tempo, making plays, forcing mistakes -- and everything was easy after that. If you're squeamish, don't read this paragraph. The Lakers sprinted to a 25-point halftime lead and stretched it to 40 in the third quarter. Now the Rockets are up against it, pushed to the edge, fighting to avoid elimination Thursday in Game 6. After everything this team has been through, after all the injuries and makeovers and all the rest, they've almost run out of time. 'If it was easy, a caveman could do it,' Ron Artest said. Nothing that happens now can taint what this team has accomplished. Still, Game 5 was an embarrassment."

  • Kate Fagan of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "Yesterday, Tony DiLeo looked like a guy who had done a lot of thinking, which he conceded he had done in the time between his last game as Sixers coach April 30 and yesterday's news conference at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. After thanking all the appropriate people - Stefanski, Comcast-Spectacor chairman Ed Snider, his coaching and support staff, the players - DiLeo said his only regret was the meltdown that serves as this season's lasting memory. 'I don't think it's fair that one game should overshadow the identity of the team the entire year,' DiLeo said, adding that he felt the team had battled in almost every game before the finale. ... Afterward, Theo Ratliff accused the coaching staff of being soft, and Andre Iguodala said the team had 'mental lapses.' Did the outcome and those words affect DiLeo's decision? 'It did not weigh into my decision,' DiLeo said. 'Was it disappointing? Yes. But that one game had no effect.'"

  • Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle: "Larry Riley's introductory news conference was an extraordinary success - at the one thing it was meant to be, that is. Specifically, it was meant to be the news conference every high-profile hire deserves as one of the perks of the job. You know, 'See, kids, I really was the general manager of the Golden State Warriors once.' Beyond that, the Warriors did what they always do when confronted with tough questions about the way they do business. They work around the twin elephants in the room, Chris Cohan and Don Nelson, neither of whom is ever in the room at times like this. They go vague with their responses to most questions, and refuse to answer the most direct ones. It's what Bobby Rowell did when asked if Riley had the power to fire Nelson. It's what Riley did when asked to list a time when he disagreed directly with Nelson. This was a news conference designed simply to put the organizational imprimatur on the completion of the parlor game 'Where's Mullie?' in time for Tuesday's NBA draft-lottery show."

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: "Congratulations, Danny Granger. First, an All-Star. Now, the league's Most Improved Player. Next, lead the Indiana Pacers to the playoffs for the first time in four years. How does he lead them there? Easy. Become one of the league's best defenders. Take note that the five top MVP vote-getters (LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul) all made the first or second All-Defensive teams. Accept the challenge of becoming the kind of star who not only scores lots of points, but leads his team on both ends of the floor. 'I don't want to just get better; I want to be an elite player,' Granger said Tuesday. 'I've really patterned my defensive game after Ron Artest, but I probably got away from it the last two years. So next year, I think that (defense) will be my focus. We scored a lot of points, but we gave up a lot. As a leader, it starts with me and I have to be better on the defensive end.'"

  • Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic: "The 2009-10 Suns can find inspiration in this season's Denver playoff team. Look what the Nuggets did with a little bit of motivation. Carmelo Anthony (see Stoudemire) has stepped up his d
    efensive game. The team overall has a lot more want-to. This could be the Suns, because the truth is they are a different team with Stoudemire, and it was hard to find much difference in the Western Conference's seeds two through eight this year. The Suns might be gunning for 2010, but 2009 doesn't look that bad, especially because Alvin Gentry is committed to the team's run-and-gun style. Thank goodness."

  • Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee: "Hire the best man for the job, right? The coach Geoff Petrie favors? The one who fits his job description and his personality? Then hire Eddie Jordan. Swipe him before some other team -- say, the Philadelphia 76ers -- intervenes and lures the Kings' leading candidate to a city closer to his roots. Win one for a change. While the notion of engaging in an extensive, expansive search appeals on many levels, mainly because it's foolish to marry someone after a few dates, that logic only applies if the search is truly extensive and expansive, not limited by elements such as finances or quirky dynamics. This search, however, is limited by two significant elements: finances and quirky dynamics."

  • Sekou Smith of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "Hawks captain Joe Johnson played more minutes during the regular season than any other player in the NBA. He didn't realize what kind of toll that volume of work can take on the body until Tuesday morning, when he woke up and realized that it was all over. So don't expect him to head to the gym immediately for workouts, which he did in his first two seasons when the Hawks didn't make the postseason. 'I've got to get off my feet a little bit and let my body heal up,' Johnson said Tuesday as the Hawks cleared out their lockers. 'I'll get back at it here pretty soon. But right now, I know I could use the rest.'"

  • Frank Zicarelli of the Toronto Sun: "As soon as Pau Gasol got traded and became a second option to Kobe Bryant, Gasol's true value was confirmed. Bosh needs to play on a team with an athletic wing capable of getting Bosh open looks. The Raptors don't have such a player, and the chances of the team acquiring one this off-season are slim to none because there so few are available. A lot has been made of Bosh ending up in South Beach to play alongside Dwyane Wade and still more will be made when Bosh's future in Hogtown resurfaces. Talk of Bosh ending up in Miami makes a lot of sense. What doesn't make sense is for Bosh to stick around Toronto beyond what is contractually obligated."

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: "Allan Houston spent yesterday reminiscing about 'The Shot' 10 years ago, taping an MSG Network special on the Knicks' 1999 run to The NBA Finals. Houston, the Knicks' assistant to Donnie Walsh, finds himself reminded of his historic last-second, game-winning shot in Miami almost every day. Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the May 16 epic in Miami -- when Houston's running right-hander knocked off the front rim, the backboard and into the hoop with .8 seconds left, sending Pat Riley home and New York City into a frenzy. One of the biggest shots in Knicks history rocket-launched the eighth-seeded Knicks to their first-round upset over top-seeded Miami and all the way to The Finals."

  • Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "Of all the participants in an NBA free-agent camp designed to find diamonds in the rough, he is the only player with an official Web site that's impressive mainly because of its polish. Darius Washington still aims to improve the content so that he can better complement those bells and whistles. His winding professional basketball career took another turn this week, landing Washington back in Memphis to compete for the Grizzlies' affection. The former University of Memphis point guard has three things working for him. He's worked closely with Griz coach Lionel Hollins in a different situation. The 6-2 combo guard is still young enough and considered NBA ready. Plus, Washington remains confident despite never earning a guaranteed NBA contract since trying to make it as an undrafted player since 2006. 'I think,' Washington said, 'I can fit in here.' Washington has thought that more than a few times in NBA stops sandwiched between European tours."

  • Dan McGrath of the Chicago Tribune: "Yao Ming from China, Andres Nocioni from Argentina, Luol Deng from Sudan: There are players who have traveled farther to reach their NBA destination than Othyus Jeffers. But there aren't many who have survived a more treacherous road than Jeffers, a 23-year-old who grew up on Chicago's violence-scarred Near West Side. His basketball career spans two high schools, a junior college and two universities, plus a year in the NBA Development League -- the 'D-League,' which boasts an NBA name and NBA rules, but a far more pedestrian lifestyle. His personal story is one of grim survival. Two older brothers were lost to the streets, killed in shooting incidents nine years apart as Jeffers was growing up. He was ensnared in the violence himself two years ago, shot in the thigh while defending his sister from an attack by an estranged boyfriend who's now in jail. His injuries were not serious, and within weeks Jeffers was back on the court. Basketball always has been his refuge -- he plays with a ferocity that screams out his determination to ride it to a better life."