First Cup: Wednesday

  • Bill Livingston of The Plain Dealer: "In the last two minutes Tuesday night, the fans weren't in their seats at The Q. They were standing in front of them, yelling until they were hoarse, red-lining the scream machine. The din rattled memories of when it was like this every night. The last time the Cavaliers played the Miami Heat here, the fans weren't even in the building in the last two minutes. The dispiriting 28-point loss on Dec. 2 razed every expectation for competitiveness that had been raised. The Cavs' 102-90 victory in the rematch was change Cleveland could believe in. 'You guys deserved this,' Anthony Parker, who scored 20 points on nine shots, shouted into the wall of sound engulfing him after the game. The 'guys' were the fans, the MVPs (Most Valuable Patrons). But it was also karma. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said his team lost its defensive identity two games ago and could not change the bad habits. So this was also for Miami, payback to the thief team that is built on Cleveland's false savior, LeBron James."

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The NBA announced Tuesday night that the referees at Tuesday's Miami Heat-Cleveland Cavaliers game at Quicken Loans Arena erred in a allowing a 3-point shot by Heat forward LeBron James at the third-quarter buzzer. While James' three-quarters-court heave in the 102-90 loss did not beat the buzzer, the officiating staff, after consulting video replay, allowed the shot on the basis that the clock had started too early on the play in question. NBA Vice President Stu Jackson announced after the game that the officiating crew had erred in their approach. Had the Cavaliers lost, it is possible a protest could have been granted, forcing a replay from the start of the fourth quarter, if the game had an impact in the playoff race. As it is, James will remain credited with the three points."

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: "On a night when Oklahoma City defeated Golden State 115-114 with some bonus basketball, Kevin Durant broke out of his self-proclaimed slump. He scored 39 points. He hit 13 of 23 shots and 10 of 12 free throws. But most importantly, he carried the freight in overtime, scoring eight of the Thunder's nine points. 'Felt good,' Durant said, smiling.And you could see that it really did. This was only the third time that Durant has scored at least 30 points in a game this month. By comparison, he had four 30-point games in the All-Star Break-shortened month of February and seven in the month of January. Durant has struggled with his shot this month, had nights when he was 3 of 14 and 6 of 21 and 5 of 18. Ugly. No one has been more frustrated by it than the man himself. He figures he works too hard to struggle so badly. He's the guy, after all, who's at the far end of the practice gym working on things that he might actually use in a game while his teammates are horsing around shooting trick shots at the end of practice. He's been annoyed. He's been angry. He's been through his own version of March Madness. 'I've been working hard,' Durant said. 'I was in a little slump, but I stuck with it, kept working hard and shots started to fall.' "

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "The Rockets have made their run since the All Star break for a lot of reasons. The offense has been the NBA's best in that stretch. The defense has been much improved. They have learned how they can be their best, with roles well defined not only in the rotation, but on the floor. More than anything, they have been determined to make something of this season. That might seem like a small thing, even a given, but it has been so strong, it has driven them much further than seemed possible when they headed to the break. That determination is not about any one individual, but no one typifies it more than Lowry has since then or than he did again on Tuesday. With Rick Adelman watching closely, believing Lowry would not admit if he was "hurting" too much to perform, Lowry scored 14 first-quarter points, setting the tone for the rout. He likely would have had his second triple double in four games if he was needed to play the fourth quarter."

  • Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "As big as Carmelo Anthony played for the Knicks in Monday's crucial overtime win over the Orlando Magic, he loomed much larger Tuesday when Boost Mobile unveiled a 128-foot billboard of the All-Star two blocks from the Garden. The endorsement deal with the wireless provider is Anthony's first since being acquired from the Denver Nuggets last month. But it's not his first Manhattan billboard. His ad for Brand Jordan is on 34th and Seventh Ave., the same spot where there was an ad for LeBron James last season. 'It was crazy for me to see the Jordan one,' Anthony said. 'It was right there in the middle of everything. Then to see this one, I can't really put it into words.' "

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "Suns guard Vince Carter came off the bench for the 10th time in his career Tuesday night at Sacramento. Prior to Sunday's demotion in favor of Jared Dudley in the starting lineup, Carter last came off the bench in November 2009. 'I'm good,' Carter said with his reserve role. 'There is nothing to talk about (with coach Alvin Gentry). JD's playing great basketball so he should be in the lineup now. It's a different approach to the game. You're playing in a different time of the game. It's an adjustment. I know that first game was going to be different because of that. I always prepare myself for starting. It's a new challenge.' "

  • Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: "After streaking through much of the season with the best won-loss record in franchise history, the Spurs’ recent four-game losing streak has slowed their record pace considerably. The Spurs now have the second best record in franchise history to this point of the season. The Spurs’ current 57-17 record is behind the pace of the 2006 team, which charged to a 63-19 record for the best single-season winning record in franchise history. With eight games remaining, the Spurs must finish 6-2 to match that franchise record. Coach Gregg Popovich has always shown he’s more interested in resting players late in the season to prepare them for the playoffs rather than winning games. It will be interesting to see how Popovich approaches the rest of the season. I would suspect he will try to keep winning games until the top seed in the league is settled. After that is done, we might expect some lineups like the one that the Spurs employed in their loss Monday night to Portland when four starters were rested."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "John Wall has handed out at least 10 assists twice this month, getting 12 assists on Sunday in Golden State and 10 in an overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last week. He also had a career-high 32 points against the Clippers, becoming the first rookie to record those numbers for the franchise since Earl Monroe had the same line for the Baltimore Bullets on Feb.24, 1968. He ranks sixth in the league with 8.6 assists. And, with nine games remaining, the possibility of Wall joining Mark Jackson, Oscar Robertson and Damon Stoudamire in the nine-assist-per-game-as-rookies-club is becoming more remote. Wall has 527 assists in 61 games this season and would have to get 103 assists -- or average 11.4 -- the rest of the way. Unless more of the Wizards’ top offensive weapons return, that would be difficult. And even if Blatche and Young come back, they would still have to shake off some rust to work their way back. Wall said a few weeks ago that he always tries to think pass first, unless he is rolling offensively, and in the first half against the Utah Jazz on Monday, he couldn’t be stopped. He scored 24 on 10 of 11 shooting as he ran circles around Earl Watson and Ronnie Price, making them look silly with his dizzying drives to the basket. ... Wall likely won’t get nine assists per game, but 8.5 or more is still not bad."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: "Don't simply call him an Energizer Bunny. Grizzlies guard Tony Allen brings not just energy but an eccentric vibe, an animated style -- and an outside-the-box-score impact like nothing this franchise has seen. 'I've never played with anyone quite like him,' Griz forward Shane Battier said, 'and I mean that in a good way. He's 100 percent energy and you have to respect his passion and emotions.' To Battier, he's 'our emotional beacon.' To the chanting fans near the end of Allen's 23-point, five-steal performance in Sunday's 111-104 victory over San Antonio at FedExForum, he was 'TON-Y! TON-Y! TON-Y!' Allen is fifth in the NBA in steals per game despite averaging just 19.7 minutes off the bench. But he may lead the league in style points -- if manic energy, unbridled emotion and head-scratching quirks are your style. 'Some people are like, 'Man, he needs to calm down sometimes.' But that's how he is,' forward Leon Powe said. 'He's hyped during the game, before the game, at practice, and he's just getting himself going. He plays with a lot of energy. That's his game.' "

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: "In these final two weeks of the NBA's regular season, the Nuggets' toughest competition is a team they don't even play. 'Portland,' Nuggets coach George Karl said Tuesday after practice, 'is not going to make it easy on us.' Pesky Portland is on the heels of the Nuggets' Nikes. Denver (44-29) is No. 5 in the Western Conference standings, but only 1 1/2 games ahead of the No. 6 Trail Blazers (43-31). For now, No. 4 Oklahoma City is still within reach for the Nuggets -- they meet twice next week -- but after its overtime win Tuesday against Golden State, the Thunder (49-24) is five games ahead of Denver. That's an all but impossible margin to close in two weeks. So the Nuggets will chase the Thunder. But realistically, they need to be concerned about holding off the Trail Blazers, because one would surmise that Denver has a better chance of beating Oklahoma City in the playoffs than defeating Dallas, or even the Los Angeles Lakers. 'The playoffs begin right about now,' said Karl, whose team hosts Sacramento tonight. 'There's going to be a game almost every night that has a playoff intensity to it because of the playoff ramifications.' "

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "Scottie Pippen opened up old wounds recently when he called the Pistons a dirty team. Those words coincided with what Jordan said in 1991 after the Bulls went up 3-0 against the Pistons in the series. Jordan sat in the risers behind the visitor's basket and blistered the Pistons for 20 minutes. He called them bad champions and said they were bad for basketball. That's why the Pistons walked out. But everybody forgets that. They simply believe the Pistons were poor sports and sore losers. I applauded them for walking out then and I applaud it today, and I'm sorry to see that Thomas apologized to someone who had no respect for the Bad Boys."

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "About the only thing more in abundance than losses as the Raptors close out the 2010/2011 season is uncertainty. From who will eventually own the team to who will manage or even coach it, just about everything seems up in the air. And that doesn’t even begin to address the likelihood of there even being a 2011/2012 season with a lockout looming in July. There are a few certainties within the organization, like the fact that DeMar DeRozan will be back along with rookie Ed Davis. Even the return of Andrea Bargnani is now in question with at least one published report stating the Raptors are open to trading the former first-overall pick. Of course how can a report like that be believed when the GM himself has a contract that expires June 30th and to date the team has not announced an extension."

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "What they don't tell you is that when a college player seeks professional input regarding his strengths and weaknesses, he becomes an individual and no longer a teammate. It becomes more about impressing NBA scouts with his skills and less about the tools that helped his team win. That's the dilemma facing Michigan and its improving point guard Darius Morris. It's not as clean and simple as should he stay or should he go. There's little evidence from recent drafts that suggests a guard -- specifically a point guard -- significantly improved his draft stock after going through the evaluative process, uncovering his flaws, pulling his name out of the draft and returning to college for another season. ... I hope Morris realizes after talking with the advisory committee that it's best to keep his name out of the draft this year. But if he feels it's worth taking the chance, Michigan would be better off next season if Morris stayed in the draft rather than risk him spending another season in Ann Arbor second-guessing himself."

  • Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News: "Jerry West, the former player and general manager, had a hole-in-one at the Lakers Celebrity Invitational at Riviera Country Club on Monday. He aced the 138-yard, par-3 16th with an 8-iron. Two of the par-3s in the charity event showcased cars for anyone who aced the hole. Ironically, the prize on the 16th was Lakers season tickets, and of course, West already has those and rarely goes to games anyway. 'I didn't think I'd make another one,' West said in a phone interview from his office at Riviera. 'I was pretty lucky. Actually, it was a good shot. It was going real close to the hole, and it kind of spun in the hole. It's the first time I'd played in a while. The caddie pointed his finger down to the hole, and I had no idea what the heck he was talking about. Any time you do something like that, you're not as thrilled as everyone else you're playing with. It's a unique thing to happen. A lot of people play for a lifetime and are very accomplished golfers and never have one.' West, 72, was playing with Lakers vendors and corporate sponsors. He now has four career aces."

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: "The Bulls' only trip to Minneapolis uncovered this nugget: Carlos Boozer once rented his West Hollywood mansion to none other than Prince, Minnesota's Purple Rain musical icon. 'My realtor was like, 'Yo, there's this guy who wants to rent your house. He saw it before you bought it,' ' Boozer recalled of the 2004 transaction. 'I was like, 'I'm not leasing my house. I've never done that.' The amount of money he was willing to pay made me reconsider. And that's how Prince rented my house out.' Multiple media outlets reported Prince paid $70,000 per month for the 10-bedroom, 11-bath home. The same reports said attorneys for Boozer filed suit against Prince/MPG Music for violating the eight--month lease because of 'painting the exterior with purple striping, 'prince' symbol, and numbers 3121' -- one of Prince's albums. The suit also cited a purple monogrammed carpet was installed in the master bedroom and plumbing 'for water transfer for beauty salon chairs' was added. 'He made it purple,' Boozer said. 'He wanted to put his personal touch on it because he wanted to make it feel like home. I was kind of worried about that when I saw the house. But Prince was great. I had a conversation with him. He changed everything back the way it was before he moved out.' "

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Add another bizarre incident to the list of strange events that have befallen the Magic this season on the road. After the team lost in overtime to the New York Knicks on Monday night in Manhattan, a bus carrying General Manager Otis Smith, Director of Player Development Adonal Foyle, Magic broadcasters and team support staff barely avoided an accident as it traveled southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike to Newark Liberty International Airport. A car ahead of the bus spun out of control. But the Magic's bus driver reacted quickly and managed to avoid a collision, said Magic spokesman George Galante. The bus stopped safely on the Turnpike's right-hand shoulder, but the car came to a rest in the left-hand shoulder, and the car's front was jutting out into the highway. The bus driver backed the bus up, and heroically ran across the dimly lit Turnpike and extracted the car's occupant from her vehicle. They ran across the Turnpike again and into the safety of the bus. Then, about 30 seconds later, a limo traveling southbound hit the woman's car, Galante said. Fortunately, no one was injured. ... It was just the latest strange incident for the Magic this season. In October, a slippery court forced an exhibition game in Tampa against the Miami Heat to be canceled. In early November, the Magic's first road game against the Knicks was postponed after debris fell from Madison Square Garden's ceiling, creating asbestos concerns. In late December, one of two Magic buses became stuck in a snow drift as it traveled from the team hotel in Hoboken, N.J., to the arena in Newark, N.J."