First Cup: Thursday

  • Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star: This series is destined to be close. All series long this thing was a race back and forth, back and forth. The Nets are trying to outrun their age, and the Raptors are trying to outrun their youth, and through five games the difference between these two teams is four points, total. These teams are destined to dance like this. ... It might not have been true before, but the pressure is on Brooklyn now. The Raptors know they belong in this series, and Friday they get to prove it. There is no playoff atmosphere there, no pressure, except for this: the Raptors will have a chance to do something this franchise has never done in 18 previous seasons. They will have a chance to win a best-of-seven playoff series and fly to Miami and show this fighting spirit to America and the world. It was fair to wonder whether Lowry was a contract-year phenom this season; it happens, often. It’s fair to ask whether you could trust him. Well, Kyle Lowry needs to stay here. He belongs here. If you don’t trust him now, then you never will.

  • Ian Powers of the New York Daily News: Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have been critical of the energy of Brooklyn Nets fans early in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series compared the to Toronto Raptors fans. Now the Brooklyn Nets’ Twitter account is joining the fray. “#Nets fans take note- this is what a playoff crowd sounds like..set your DVD and take notes #RAPTORSvNETS - LR,” tweeted Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center senior reporter Lenn Robbins, who took over the club’s official Twitter account during the second and third quarters of Game 5 of the series in Toronto Wednesday night. Just before tipoff, Robbins tweeted from his personal Twitter account: “Welcome to Air Canada Centre for pivotal Game 5..got to give it to fans here..they've been louder, prouder, better #RAPTORSvNETS” The Raptors handed out towels that read “We Are North” for each of the three games at Air Canada Centre this series and thousands of fans have turned out to watch the game on the big screen outside the Arena in downtown Toronto.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Tony Parker wasn’t great from an efficiency standpoint in the Spurs’ 109-103 victory over Dallas in Game 5, needing 23 shots to pile up 23 points. It still marked his most aggressive outing by far in a series during which he’s consistently faded during the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter. That he did so on a sprained left ankle suffered in Game 4 was impressive enough. But Parker was also running on fumes after witnessing the birth of his first child, son Josh, earlier in the day. “It was crazy,” he said. “I didn’t sleep the whole night. I’ve basically been running on adrenaline. I’m a happy man right now.” Amazingly, little Josh is the third baby born to a player involved in the series. Manu Ginobili’s third son, Luca, was born after Game 1, while Shawn Marion welcomed his first after Game 2. ... Parker, who was challenged by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to shoot 25 times if necessary before Game 3, set series highs for points and shot attempts to go with five assists. Popovich called his performance “magnificent.” Tim Duncan, in his special Duncan way, called Parker a “drama queen” before dishing out some additional praise for his long-time teammate.

  • Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News: Now if only they could play a little defense. Of course, that’s the age-old complaint with the Mavs. As Rick Carlisle noted after the game, he’s been preaching defense for seven months. Good defense is hard to come by with this team. As long as the personnel remain essentially as is, defense will always be problematic. But offense? That’s not supposed to be a problem. The roster is full of guys who can fill it up. None moreso than Nowitzki, who came into these playoffs with a career postseason average of 25.7. And until Wednesday, he had yet to break 20 points in any of the previous four games. Had it not been for Vince Carter’s spectacular shooting display throughout the game on the way to a game-high 28 points, including 7-of-9 3-pointers, the Mavs wouldn’t have remained in the same zip code. At the end of three quarters, Vinsanity was 8-of-12 from the field. The rest of the Mavs: 17-of-52, or 33 percent. ... On Friday, the Mavs will need Ellis to play like he did in the fourth quarter Wednesday. They’ll need Blair to give them some much-needed tenacity, especially in the paint. They’ll need someone off the bench to provide offense, like Carter did Wednesday. And, yes, they’ll need to play at least a modicum of defense. But mostly they need Dirk. He seems to be back. Not any too soon, either.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Jeremy Lin’s performance still rises with his confidence. OK, we already knew that. Lin has always been a rhythm player, needing to look for his chances to attack when he gets going. He got going when the Rockets had better ball movement, giving Lin chances with the floor spread to beat the Blazers off the dribble. He was already hot from draining a few 3s and rode it to the best postseason performance of his career. ... Pat Beverley is one tough guy. OK, we already knew that, too, but his Game 5 effort can be added to the comebacks from injuries – from a torn abdominal muscle to start the season to a torn knee cartilage to end – through the season. Beverley played with a 101-degree fever after spending most of the past two days in the hospital, saying he planned to return for more intravenous treatment. ... James Harden’s struggles continued, going just 5-of-15 to fall to 34.7 percent shooting in the series. The Rockets made up for his lack of scoring with Lin’s career playoff high off the bench and Chandler Parsons’ 20 points, matching his average in the series, before Harden final scored eight of his 17 points in the final five minutes. The Rockets, however are likely to try to find the regular-season Harden ASAP.

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: LaMarcus Aldridge was quick to dismiss the notion that the pressure swung like one of those giant industrial cranes back toward the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. Still, I ducked in the locker room, and kept my head swiveling anyway. They'd just lost 108-98 to the Rockets. The Blazers' 3-1 series lead was cut to 3-2. Game 6 is scheduled for Friday at the Moda Center. All that. But here was Aldridge insisting that pressure is not aimed at the Blazers like, say, a bazooka. "We put the pressure on ourselves," he said. "They did what they needed to do, now we have to do what we need to do." Great. Now, please, LA. Be quick about closing this thing out before you give us all a nervous breakdown. The Blazers faced an opportunity to clinch their first NBA playoff-series victory in 14 years on Wednesday. The plan was for Portland to fly in, suit up and place their high-tops on James Harden's beard and not let up until it stopped wriggling. Then, onto San Antonio or Dallas for Game 1 of the second round. Somehow, though, that plan got changed into, "Nah, now let's go win Game 6."

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: Sadly, Rich DeVos might be next. In the wake of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling's lifetime ban from the NBA for his tape-recorded racist rant to his gold-digging mistress, is the Orlando Magic's DeVos the next owner to be scrutinized for a stance that is considered biased and bigoted by some in this world? Don't laugh. It's not so far-fetched based on comments by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who says the NBA is traveling down a "slippery slope" when it comes to giving Sterling the NBA's version of the death penalty. ... It's a slope DeVos may be slipping and sliding down. The reason I say this is because CNN was in town this week working on a story about DeVos and his strong stance against gay marriage. Personally, I believe comparing the beloved and benevolent DeVos to a sleazy, racist owner like Sterling is a monumental stretch, but that's the slippery slope Cuban is talking about. Think about it: How does the NBA decide what an owner can and can't say or do? For instance, why is it OK for DeVos to say two men or two women should not be married, but Sterling gets his franchise stripped away for saying a white woman should not be seen in public with a black man?

  • Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News: This may sound like a broken record, but things again went sideways on Wednesday, to borrow a tired D’Antoni phrase. Using the team’s semantics, he quit. Blew a fuse. Had enough. Or thought too highly of himself. Using common sense, they gave him the ultimatum — no more guarantees other than keeping you around for the 2014-15 season, as we both signed up for. That team option for 2015-16 would have to wait. What worked for Don Mattingly and the Dodgers in getting a better deal through media negotiations didn’t necessarily come together as swell for D’Antoni and the Lakers, who had no choice but to thank him for what he didn’t do last year and wish him luck finding another job. D’Antoni’s agent, Warren LeGarie, would only say that his client and the team “hit an insurmountable impasse.” D’Antoni must have driven enough L.A. freeways in the last two years to know what the phrase actually means. And it was still used. ... Moving forward, the Lakers’ best option now might be to make official what many already believe to be true anyway — Kobe Bryant, player-coach? For what they’re paying him.

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: Three hires, three wild swings, three magnificent strikes. Rudy Tomjanovich lasted 43 games. Mike Brown lasted 71 games. And D'Antoni, who was a father-son hire, lasted 154 games. Three strikes and you should be out, but when the legendary Jerry Buss died 14 months ago, his son Jim became even more empowered to make the organization's most important basketball decisions, and there are three big ones awaiting. Who will be next month's top-six draft pick? Who will be an incoming free agent in the potentially lucrative class of 2015? And who is going to coach them all up? That last decision will be a vital piece of the life preserver Jim Buss is attempting to construct to ensure his survival. Recently Buss told The Times' Mike Bresnahan that he informed his family he would resign "in three or four years, if we're not back on top." The next coach will be the navigator of that journey, the only person who can truly steer the future of the Lakers through this winding, treacherous transition.