First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks have beaten the Indiana Pacers, who’ve lost eight games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season, on their home floor three times in 22 days. In two of those games, the Hawks led by at least 30 points. In the other, they led by 20. They’re a terrible matchup for the Pacers, who won 56 games because they’re great at clogging the lane on defense. The Hawks have unclogged it so adroitly they should change their nickname to the Roto-Rooters. Indiana entered the series wondering if Roy Hibbert could guard the jump-shooting Pero Antic, but it turns out none of the Pacers can guard any of the Hawks. Six scored in double figures in Game 5, including subs Shelvin Mack, who scored 20 points and made five assists in 25 minutes, and fellow B-teamer Mike Scott, who scored 17 in the second quarter — 12 of those coming on four 3-pointers in the span of 66 seconds.

  • Mark Montieth of Pacers.com: The Pacers now have a season and reputation riding on one game, Thursday in Atlanta, where they will either end one of the most disappointing campaigns in franchise history or force a Game 7 back on their home court. This qualifies as a desperate time, and therefore calls for a desperate measure. Then again, is it really desperate to change the starting lineup when you're down 3-2 and in danger of becoming the sixth No. 1 seed in NBA history to lose to a No. 8 seed? The bold thing would be to go with the status quo. “I consider everything at this point,” Frank Vogel said in the wake of his team's 107-97 loss to the Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Monday. First up for consideration should be benching Roy Hibbert, who appears to have regained his enthusiasm but still went scoreless in 12 minutes, 13 seconds on Monday. Hibbert simply doesn't match up well against Atlanta's spread-eagle offense, and those minutes would have been awfully handy to have back at the end of the game when the Pacers rallied from a 30-point deficit to within nine with four minutes still to play, but ultimately ran out of time. Changes to the starting lineup, or even playing rotation, aren't as simple they're often made out to be, given the lack of time for preparation between games in a playoff series, but a team trailing 3-2 doesn't have the luxury of getting virtually nothing from its starting center.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs survived Game 4 by what’s left of the skin of their teeth Monday, blowing all of a 20-point lead in the second half before holding on for a 93-89 victory that evened their first-round series with Dallas at twogames apiece. “We knew it was going to be hard," said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, who finished with 23 points. “It’s the NBA. It’s the playoffs. It’s the West. It’s tough." The top-seeded Spurs didn’t expect this series to be easy, no matter what the seedings said. But neither could they have expected it to be this difficult, either. Two days after Vince Carter broke their hearts with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win Game 3, the Spurs had to white-knuckle Game 4 into submission in the final minutes. Boris Diaw gave the Spurs their final lead on a tiebreaking, top-of-the-arc 3-pointer with 32.9 seconds to go. It came after the No. 8 Mavericks had completed a raucous rally from 20 points down early in the third quarter, threatening to deal the Spurs another emotional stomach punch. Had Dallas held on, it would have been the largest come-from-behind playoff victory in franchise history, and might have signaled the death knell for the Spurs.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: After the Dallas Mavericks dropped an emotionally-charged 93-89 contest to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night, coach Rick Carlisle was in no mood to discuss the continued shooting struggles of Dirk Nowitzki. As the Spurs evened the best-of-seven series at 2-2, Nowitzki finished with only 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting. It marked just the second time in his storied16-year career that Nowitzki has scored less than 20 points in four consecutive playoff games. The only other time that happened was during Nowitzki's first playoff experience in 2001 when he failed to reach 20 points in the final game of the Mavs' first-round series against Utah and in the opening three games of the Western Conference semifinals against the Spurs. "Let's quit talking about missed shots," Carlisle said when asked about finding ways to get Nowitzki going. "Let's talk about guys getting up and getting into people the way we did in the second half. We were missing shots in the first half because we weren't defending (sic). Look, this is a long series -- the shot-making is going to even out."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Completing their second first-round sweep in as many seasons, the Heat took advantage of a Charlotte lineup lacking hobbled center Al Jefferson in a 109-98 victory Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena that now will give them at least five days off, perhaps even more. "This does not get old and we do not take it for granted, having the opportunity to move on to another round," Spoelstra said when it was over. "We're very pleased that we're able to move on and we're not jaded enough that we don't enjoy this process." The Heat next face the winner of the best-of-seven first-round series between the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors that is tied 2-2. The Heat's next series could open Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena if the Nets-Raptors series is completed by Friday's Game 6. The Heat went 4-0 against the Raptors during the regular season, but 0-4 against the Nets, losing a pair of preseason games against Brooklyn, as well.

  • Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer: Without Big Al, what happened Monday was inevitable. Charlotte played well for a while and then Miami embarked on its inevitable surge. Down by two at the half, the Heat outscored Charlotte 32-17 in the third quarter and won 109-98. Thus did Charlotte’s nine-day playoff run end. Did the Bobcats get anything out of it? If you’re a fan that bases everything on the final score, you wasted nine days. The Bobcats were swept. No other team was swept in the first round. But the Bobcats got something out of it, and many of their fans did, too. The relationship between the team and the town has long simmered. Until this season, the Bobcats weren’t good enough, they weren’t exciting enough and they weren’t managed well enough. Slowly that has changed. ... They have the coach, center, point guard, management and future. The Bobcats had their best season in franchise history. Next season, the Hornets should be better.

  • Janis Carr of The Orange County Register: Boycott or blackout? It’s anyone’s guess how fans will react when the Clippers resume their playoff series Tuesday against Golden State. Will they stay away or dress in all black as a way of protesting the racist comments attributed to owner Donald Sterling in a taped conversation? Even Doc Rivers wasn’t sure what the right response should be. The Clippers coach said Monday he realizes the fans want to take a stance against Sterling, but he doesn’t know what direction they should take when the Clippers take the floor for Game 5. “I don’t know. I don’t know what’s right or what’s wrong,” Rivers said in a conference call. “I swear I wish I knew the answer. I wish I could help people more in this, in helping people know what the right thing is. I really do.” Rivers said whatever action Clippers fans decide on, they need to be unified.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: They return to Los Angeles for Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night as the faces of a franchise seemingly run by a racist. Fans are livid and planning action — some choosing to express themselves by simply by not showing up to Staples Center. Sponsors are opting out of financial relationships with the team. Almost all of them abandoned them Monday in protest of Sterling’s comments. The Clippers can’t be sure who is behind them anymore or whether fans will support them at their utmost time of need today. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said. What a terrible position to be in, and yet here they are. They didn’t ask for it. They despise the cause of it and are angry to have been plunged into such an awful abyss. But they still have a basketball game to play. An important, pivotal and poignant basketball game.

  • Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times: New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has the sword in his hand. There has been talk of banning Sterling from the rest of the playoffs this year. That's not enough, nor might there be many games left anyway. There has been talk of suspending him for a year. Baseball tried that with former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott after she made a series of racist remarks. It didn't work. A couple of years later, she stated her support of Adolf Hitler and was suspended for life. There has been talk of a $1-million fine. Chump change. Instead, how about allowing those Clippers players who no longer want to play for Sterling to have their contracts voided and become free agents? When Coach Doc Rivers said that he couldn't imagine what Sterling could say to him that would make him want to coach the Clippers again next season, that was a hint that couldn't be lost on the NBA. How does a starting team that includes Kobe, CP3 and Blake Griffin sound to Lakers fans? Jim Buss goes from goat to hero. Unfair to Clippers fans? Yes. Suitable punishment for Sterling? Yes. Too crazy to actually happen? Not after what happened the last few days.