First Cup: Monday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Griz only need to win one of their two remaining games -- either at Phoenix on Monday or against Dallas in FedExForum on Wednesday -- and they’ll lock up a fourth straight postseason berth. “It’s amazing that we’re in this position,” Conley said. “If you would have asked me in November and December, I don’t know. You didn’t know what was going to happen with the year. So we’re happy with where we’re at. We still have a lot of work to do but we’re looking forward to (Monday).” Memphis moved to a game ahead of Phoenix for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Phoenix needs to beat Memphis to keep alive its postseason hopes. The Griz, though, own the tiebreaker against the Suns in the season series. “It’s going to be a playoff atmosphere and that’s what you want,” Griz reserve swingman Mike Miller said. “We are real fortunate. I don’t know if the NBA knew it was going to turn out this way. For us to be able to control our own destiny playing two teams we’re chasing is lucky for us and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: In short, Damian Lillard made a series of really poor decisions at the end of the first half, and another crucial mistake at the end of overtime that nearly cost the Blazers the game. Players make mistakes. Especially point guards who handle the ball as much as Lillard does. I understand that, and so does every player in the Blazers locker room. But there is some concern inside the locker room that Lillard is not held to the same accountabilities that other players are. In other words, his mistakes are often either overlooked, or not held to the same examination as others. That’s not to say there is raging discontent among the ranks when it comes to Lillard. From what I gather, he is respected deeply for his talent, his work ethic and his efforts at becoming a leader. But sometimes, even the great players need to be coached. Even the stars need to have their flaws pointed out. ... It’s time some teaching, and some accountability are stressed. Stotts, I believe, is a remarkable teacher. And Lillard, I believe, is an even more remarkable player. Let’s hope the flaws in Sunday’s entertaining victory can lead to greater success.

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: The Free Press learned Sunday that the Pistons will not renew president of basketball operations Joe Dumars’ contract and Dumas has accepted an advisory role with the organization. Though maintaining a bond with the only NBA franchise he has known since 1985, Dumars will have no sayin the daily operations of the team. The Pistons consider this a respectful compromise, an appreciative thank-you for Dumars’ significant contributions to three NBA championships, but also a strong rebuke for his role in what has become five straight playoff-less springs. Yet, however Tom Gores dresses up this transition for public display, the owner got what he sought all along — a fall guy. Dumars should be relieved. He is free from this nonsense. ... Dumars could have rejected the proposal, but it would have contradicted the quiet dignity he has exhibited from his first days in Detroit as a shy, soft-spoken Southerner drafted in the first round out of McNeese State. ... The good equally balanced the disappointing during Dumars’ reign. That’s not good enough in a results-oriented business to spare even the best of people the worst of fates. But Dumars made one last classy gesture.

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: With two games left to play before the Raptors get their first taste of playoff basketball in six years, there seems to be as many signs of concern as there are signs of optimism for this team. But through all the hand-wringing, the Raptors continue to find a way to win. Sunday, despite some newfound rebounding woes, not to mention a pooched 18-point lead, the Raps found the wherewithal to pull out a 116-107 win over Detroit, a team that is playing out the string and is as loose as any you’ll find in the NBA. With the victory the Raptors matched the franchise high for wins in a season with 47 and have two games left to improve on that. They are tied for third place in the East with the Chicago Bulls, but own the tiebreaker. Things got rather tense midway through the third quarter as the Pistons closed the gap. Leading by just two, the Raptors lost the services of point guard Kyle Lowry with 5:51 to go in the game. Lowry left with what was, at that time, a team-high 28 points. DeMar DeRozan surpassed it with 30, 14 of those coming in the final frame. DeRozan knew, just as he has known on so many other nights this season, when to turn it on and was there when the team needed him most.

  • Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com: Sunday afternoon’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse featured two teams with aspirations of hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. But the championship formula for each of those teams couldn’t be more different. In one corner, you had the Oklahoma City Thunder, whose title hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of their two superstars. In the other corner, you had the Indiana Pacers, a team that thrives when it has a balanced attack. For the most part, the Thunder got what they wanted on Sunday. Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer and the prohibitive favorite to be named the league’s Most Valuable Player, was his usually brilliant self on the offensive end, scoring 38 points on 13-of-27 shooting (including a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line). Russell Westbrook, a three-time All-Star, put up big numbers as well: 21 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists. But the Pacers’ balance helped them overcome OKC’s Batman and Robin act in a 102-97 win.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Barring a reprieve from the NBA, tonight was DeMarcus Cousins’ last game of the season. Cousins was called for his 16th technical foul in the fourth quarter of the Kings’ 106-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Sleep Train Arena. That technical foul means Cousins is suspended for Wednesday’s season finale against Phoenix. Cousins did not want to talk about the technical foul, but did talk about the Kings and the game in general. The Kings are off Monday, and assuming Cousins does not speak to the media Tuesday after practice, this would be his last media session of the season if he’s suspended. ... "I think the future is bright. I’m with Malone until the end -- he knows that. He has my back, I’ve got his. You’re going to be seeing him for awhile until he gets rid of me because it won’t be my choice.”

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: True, they should have finished in the top eight in a terrible East. But here we are, ready to embark on the most significant offseason around here since the Knicks came up short for James in the summer of 2010. There’s a coach to hire, whether it’s Steve Kerr or someone else aligned with Jackson. Who’s going to do the daily GM grunt work? Don’t know, but it’s imperative for Jackson to select a person with previous general manager experience. As for this roster, the offseason begins with Anthony, who at least didn’t underachieve. Jackson has stated he wants to build around the player Dolan moved heaven and earth to get. Can the Zen Master change his mind? Sure, but it’s impossible for him to know which player he can definitely bring in to build around. ... As brutal as this season was for Anthony, New York is still New York. He wanted the big stage, he got it. The big money, too. We don’t see him leaving...unless Jackson has a better plan.

  • Neil Best of Newsday: Two hours before Sunday night's game, Nets coach Jason Kidd spoke about how difficult it will be to find sufficient minutes for his three big men -- Kevin Garnett, Andray Blatche and Mason Plumlee -- once the playoffs begin. Fifteen minutes after the game, Kidd was looking at Plumlee's statistics sheet, marveling at yet another dynamic performance that proved his point. The rookie from Duke had 17 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in the Nets' 97-88 victory over the Magic at Barclays Center. He shot 6-for-8 from the field and is 38-for-46 in April. Plumlee is so hot, he even got credited with two points for a ball the Magic's Dewayne Dedmon accidentally tipped into the wrong basket, because he was the closest Net to the play. Now what, though? Garnett, who scored three points in 19 minutes Sunday night, surely will start when the playoffs open this weekend, and Blatche is a veteran presence. "There are 48 minutes [in a game]," Kidd said. "I don't know if I can play all three of them, but we'll try to play all three. But ... in the first round, where it's spread out, KG has a little bit more rest, so we'll see. Sometimes there might be an odd guy out. That's just the way it goes."

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: One of Heath’s tweets proclaimed: “NBA, the ONLY professional league in the US with the reputation that the games are rigged. Know why? Because of games like tonight.” The persecution complex of some people is a little overwhelming. Blaming officiating is for losers. Claiming officiating conspiracies is for the simple-minded. Various reports say NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted to suspend Heath from his microphone duties but settled for a $25,000 fine levied against the Mavs. Heath is not a full-time Maverick employee, so suspension would have been legally squishy. Too bad. Silver’s thoughts are solid. Suspension would have been good. Banishment would have been better. Anyone who believes the NBA rigs games should not be involved with the league. Anyone who promotes the belief needs to move on down the road. It’s asinine that NBA people can keep talking about rigged games and fixed results. They are damaging the league’s reputation much more than a missed call. Much more than 100 missed calls.