First Cup: Monday

  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "As both the English poet Chaucer and the British folk group Chad and Jeremy declared so many years apart, all good things must end someday, and so went Kevin Love's 53-game double-double streak in Sunday's disheartening 100-77 loss at Golden State. Love had reached double figures in points and rebounds every game since Nov. 19 until he came to the bench with four minutes left Sunday with six points, 12 rebounds and his team trailing by 22 points. 'It was a good run,' Love said afterward. 'I'm not too upset that the streak has come to an end. More than anything, it felt like a tough loss.' ... Golden State had David Lee front and deny Love the ball all night, and the Warriors then collapsed around him when he did get it. Afterward, Warriors coach Keith Smart said Lee's sole job was defensive. 'He had one objective, and that was to make sure he doesn't get to the glass,' Smart said after Lee scored only eight points but limited Love to two offensive rebounds. When asked if he thought about leaving Love on the floor in the final four minutes of such a blowout loss so he could get four more points (or five more assists), Rambis said: 'The game got out of control. We tried sometimes to get the ball inside to him and we just weren't successful. I wasn't going to go out there as the game deteriorated.' "

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: "David Lee's stat line won't look great: eight points, six rebounds and two assists. But he ended Timberwolves forward Kevin Love's double-double streak and helped the Warriors win their second straight. Just when it looked as if they might have trouble winning two games the rest of the season, the Warriors enjoyed their largest margin of victory this season, forced a season high in turnovers and held Minnesota to its lowest scoring output of the season. 'The player guarding Love tonight was not going to be involved in the game on offense,' coach Keith Smart said. 'He had one objective: That was to make sure Love didn't get the glass. David Lee did a great job of sacrificing. ... I call David Lee a good basketball player. He was locked in to do a job that was necessary. "

  • Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News: "The trouble with raising season ticket prices at the Garden next season by 49% is that expectations are liable to rise well above a .545 winning percentage -- which is the current, ho-hum pace set by the Knickssince acquiring Carmelo Anthony. For such an exorbitant hike, fans have every right to expect, at the very least, a 20% increase in defensive intensity, leading to less than 61.5% shooting for Indiana over the first three quarters. It's only fair, Mr. Dolan. And yet, the Knicks proved no bargain again Sunday night, losing, 106-93, to the struggling, straggling Pacers while dropping to 6-5 in the Anthony era. One nice victory in Miami hardly would appear to justify recent inflationary thinking, or pricing. These Knicks can win or lose on any night, to any opponent. They've beaten the Heat, New Orleans and Memphis. They've dropped two to the Cavs, one to a Pacer team playing without its leading scorer. 'I don't know at what point it becomes a problem,' Chauncey Billups said. 'We had one real practice yesterday. The trade was weeks ago. We have five new players on the team. It's not that easy. We end up practicing in the games.' These slow starts are getting awfully tough to watch. The Knicks continue to play up or down to the level of their opponents, much like most soul-searching, middle-tier teams. Much worse, they seem utterly disinterested in the outcome until things unravel beyond repair."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Milwaukee Bucks coach Scott Skiles didn't mince words after his team set a franchise low for points in its 87-56 loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday at TD Garden. 'That's about as humiliating a defeat as you'll ever see,' Skiles said. 'Right at the jump ball, (Rajon) Rondo got right into Brandon (Jennings) and they got right into our guards. They put us back on our heels and just took our competitive fight right away from us. And we pretty much just gave into it.' The previous low point total for the Bucks was established Feb. 21, 2003, when Milwaukee lost to Seattle, 88-58, in the game after Ray Allen was traded to the SuperSonics. The Bucks scored just nine points in the first quarter, 22 in the first half and 38 through three quarters. And the Celtics also set a franchise record for fewest points by an opponent in the shot clock era, beating the mark of 57 scored by the Milwaukee Hawks against Boston in Providence, R.I., in 1955. That record became official when Bucks guard Keyon Dooling clanged a pair of free throws with 22 seconds left, a perfect symbol for the Bucks' abysmal offense. 'It's a funny league,' said Bucks center Andrew Bogut. 'Philly beats Boston, we blow out Philly and Boston blows us out. It's just the way the league is.' "

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: "The game against the Knicks wasn’t even over yet and I was already receiving messages from fans talking about Danny Granger. 'See what happens when Danny isn’t in the lineup?' one person wrote. 'The Pacers are a better team without Granger. Trade him this summer,' one person said. The Pacers played their best all-around games in weeks against the Knicks, but saying they’re better without Granger isn’t correct. As I’ve said a number of times before, you’re not going to win a championship with Granger as your No. 1 option. The Pacers need to find a way to acquire enough talent that will allow Granger to slide down to the second or third option on the team. The Pacers, who ended their six game losing streak, were scrappy defensively and Tyler Hansbrough owned the paint against the Knicks."

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: "The national press has fired and re-hired coach Erik Spoelstra on numerous occasions. A rumored multi-player locker room crying jag after a March 6 loss to Chicago made headlines previously reserved for Charlie Sheen. Watching all this unfold from afar, and in HD on ESPN, Spurs point guard Tony Parker is just glad he plays for a hum-drum, league-leading team that nobody talks about. 'It just makes me laugh,' Parker said. 'They can have the drama. We’re good.' That’s how preposterous life has been for the Miami Heat this season. A man whose divorce to a soap opera star played out publicly in the tabloids wouldn’t want to trade media treatment with them. ... As the league-leading Spurs take the floor tonight, the focus will again be on the Heat. The Spurs wouldn’t have it any other way. 'It’s funny, watching from the outside, all the drama,' Parker said. 'I prefer where we’re at.' "

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "With 16 games left, an argument could be made that the Heat can’t afford to lose again. Because there is no guarantee the Celtics are going to lose five more (although they do have one game remaining against the Heat). A No. 3 Heat-No. 6 Knicks series is looming large. More significantly, a No. 3 seed would mean, barring upset, playing on the road the balance of the postseason after the first round. The recent five-game losing streak will be difficult to overcome. That’s why Monday’s game is huge. Not because it’s the Spurs. But because there is no more ground to give."

  • Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Derrick, Luol, Joakim, Carlos. It doesn’t have quite the same ring as John, Paul, Ringo, George. '‘I know the Beatles,’ Luol Deng said. ‘I don’t think we’re close to where the Beatles were.’ The way things are going, though, the Bulls are starting to feel rock-star-like love. '‘It’s definitely been swelling,’ Deng said. ‘In the beginning of the year, we had some known names, but you didn’t really know how it was going to work. Now the buzz is there. Everyone’s kind of expecting us to win, even big games. Before, going into big games, people were not giving us the credit.’ They are now. Everywhere they go, it seems. Maybe it’s because there are so many transplanted Chicagoans around the country. Part of it might be because so many NBA stars, such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, have become love-’em-or-hate-’em personalities. Meanwhile, rising young Bulls stars such as Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are endearing themselves with their modesty and enthusiasm as well as their play. And of course, it’s major that they are neck-and-neck with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference. It all adds up to a little extra excitement in the air wherever the Bulls play."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Kevin Durant had to absorb 62 losses in his first season in Seattle and, after adding Russell Westbrook, had to take 59 more whippings when the team moved to Oklahoma City the next year. But with an organization -- led by General Manager Sam Presti -- committed to astute drafting, dealing and development over quick-fix solutions, his Thunder arrives on Monday at Verizon Center as the envy of many around the league. 'I thought this would take a while to get here,' Durant said of his early struggles, 'but you got to give credit to our organization and how they changed things around. We did things the right way every day.' In Oklahoma City, the Washington Wizards see a team they would like to be; one that recognized the need to start over from scratch and reached relevance after an initially gruesome beginning. The Thunder (42-23) has yet to win a championship or a playoff series for that matter, but it already has created a team-building strategy that is referred to around the league as 'the Oklahoma City model.' It took advantage of lottery luck, established and cultivated a core of young talent, made shrewd trades to accumulate draft picks and/or prospects, created financial flexibility and used discretion in free agency. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis often references how the Thunder assembled quality talent around Durant as an example of what he would like to duplicate in Washington around No. 1 overall pick John Wall."

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "The NBA's labor battle is a few months away, but Tracy McGrady is keeping an eye on recent developments in the NFL. 'I'm paying attention, of course,' he said. 'I don't know all the details about how the players are coming together in the NFL, but like us, we all have to stay strong, stand our ground.' The NBA's players and owners met during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, and the tone was cordial afterwards. However, McGrady believes the public perception about the owners wanting an absolute, hard salary cap with no exceptions is false. 'The proposal that they have out here for us, it's really bull,' McGrady said. 'Some of the owners, (Lakers owner) Jerry Buss, the big-market owners, they don't want a scale-down.' The divide between the big and small markets is similar to Major League Baseball, and things are teetering dangerously toward a league of haves and have-nots. 'They're (big-market teams) not really losing money. I understand Milwaukee, Minnesota, they're losing money,' McGrady said. 'But that doesn't have anything to do with us -- don't lowball us.' He cited the way owners were doling out huge contracts this summer, and at the same time claiming losses up to $400 million. Atlanta's Joe Johnson, an All-Star but not a superstar, signed a max deal this summer (six years, $119 million)."

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: "And while Coach Monty Williams conceded last week that 'Every game is a gotta-win. Back in October it was a gotta-win. I don’t differentiate that way,' his players haven’t yet completely adopted a look-at-the-standings-each-day mindset. 'Way too early, way too early,' said guard Chris Paul. 'To me, I feel like it’s going to change night in and night out. We’re all too close. All you can do is keep trying to pile up wins. Because it’s going to change every day. I don’t think about it. I just want to make sure we get as many games as possible and get in. I think we’re one of those teams that not too many people want to play. We just want to make sure we get in. We’d like the highest seed that we can get, but we just want to make sure we’re in.' Each time Paul said in, he said it with emphasis. Paul’s assessment about how the rest of the conference playoff teams might feel about a postseason matchup against the Hornets is well-founded. New Orleans is the only team this season to have beaten the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs twice. The Hornets also have beaten second-seeded Dallas twice, and fourth-seeded Oklahoma City once. The only Western Conference playoff team the Hornets have not yet defeated is the Lakers, and there’s one more try at them at he Staples Center on March 27."

  • Jody Genessy of Deseret News: "It might seem as if their defense is already basking in the warm sunshine and sipping on a cold drink on a remote tropical beach somewhere far from the team's current location. But the Utah Jazz adamantly claim their season is not over yet. They still hope they can delay the beginning of their offseason vacations and bid each other a bon voyage. Center Al Jefferson even acted stunned Saturday when asked if the team has quit on this wacky season moments after the Jazz suffered a third ugly blowout loss in six days. 'No. Heck no,' Jefferson said. 'I hope no one in here have quit, because there's a lot of games to be played and we have a job to do. I can speak for myself and I can speak for a lot guys in there (the locker room), and I know they haven't quit.' But? 'I don't understand,' Big Al added, 'why our effort is the way it is.' Something major will have to change in the Jazz -- and quickly so -- if they hope to extend their playing days into the 2011 postseason instead of calling it a year at the conclusion of the regular-season finale on April 13."

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "The Juggernaut sits wide across Wilson Chandler's shoulder blades, tattooed just under the word 'Unstoppable.' The Marvel Comics X-Men character busts through walls without a worry of being slowed down. The quickest way from point A to B is always a straight line for this fictional character. Chandler, one of the five players acquired recently in the Nuggets' trade of Carmelo Anthony, is softspoken but longs to carry a Juggernaut-type persona. The slender, 6-foot-8 forward is already at point A in his career, a solid contributor on an NBA roster. Point B is breaking through to stardom. 'They call him the Unstoppable Juggernaut,' Chandler said of his tattoo character. 'So one day I hope to be like him on the court.' "