First Cup: Monday

  • Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald: The last two weeks have added several chapters to Rondo’s magical mystery tour. He was suspended for two games for throwing the ball at a referee. He participated in his third career All-Star Game. He had a bizarre 0-point, 11-assist, 5-turnover line in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was the subject of intense trade rumors. He was adamantly defended by team president Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers. He had his third triple-double of the season in a win over the New Jersey Nets. But none of that compared to Rondo’s performance in yesterday’s 115-111 overtime win over the New York Knicks at the Garden. Rondo produced a historic stat line of 18 points, 20 assists and 17 rebounds. That made him the first player since Magic Johnson on April 18, 1989 to record a triple-double with at least 17 in each category. The last player to have a triple-double with numbers as high as Rondo in each category was Wilt Chamberlain, who had 22 points, 25 rebounds and 21 assists on Feb. 2, 1968. Such a heady accomplishment left teammates, coaches and opponents shaking their heads. “Rondo’s line is one that I haven’t seen since I’ve been in the league,” said Garnett, a 17-year veteran. “Very, very impressive. I had to come in here and give him some real (praise) after that. I saved the (box score). Just as a witness that I was here and I actually got to see this up front and center.” According to Garnett, the performance wasn’t a total surprise. A nationally televised matchup with much-hyped Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin amid the swirling trade rumors is a recipe for a monster game from Rondo, who has 17 career triple-doubles.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: It took the Boston Celtics just five minutes to puncture the hype balloon and present a healthy reminder of the distances the Knicks still must travel to consider themselves contenders. On a raucous afternoon at TD Garden, the Celtics muted Jeremy Lin, withstood Carmelo Anthony and — as they have so often done — converted the most critical plays, dealing the Knicks a 115-111 overtime defeat. Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer that forced overtime, then handed off to Ray Allen, who scored 5 straight points to give Boston the lead for good. Along the way, Rajon Rondo made modern statistical history, with 18 points, 20 assists and 17 rebounds — the N.B.A.’s gaudiest triple-double since Magic Johnson had 24, 17 and 17 in 1989. Although the details were different, the result felt a lot like the Knicks defeat here Feb. 3, and the playoff losses they sustained here last spring. The Celtics (19-17), for all of their struggles, remain the model for what the Knicks hope to become by the end of April. “We will,” Anthony said after scoring 25 points. “That takes time. That takes time. They’ve been through the wringer long enough. They’ve been around long enough to know how to close out games. That’s something that we can take from that.”

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: High above the fray, Brown gently stuck out his hand and met Murphy's hand in a high-five for heart. It was that sort of afternoon. The Lakers are becoming that sort of team. A 93-83 victory over the Miami Heat at Staples Center on Sunday was the defining moment in a season for an embattled group that has been pushed around for more than two months before finally figuring out how to hold its ground.Once hopeless, then hapless, the Lakers have actually become pretty good, answering Dwyane Wade's cheapness and James' greatness and the Heat hype Sunday with a power and passion that, like an Andrew Bynum block, soared from the court into the stands. Jack Nicholson stood up and screamed at the officials. Jeanie Buss laughingly engaged LeBron James in conversation. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on the scoreboard and yellow towels were flapping in the stands and, for once this season, that pep talk on the giant flapping pregame sheet was just perfect. "Out of the shadows, into the light," it correctly predicted. Yet the question remains, just how bright? With the March 15 trading deadline looming, the Lakers' Earth opened Sunday to a reveal a team whose 2 1/2-hour answer revealed another, much longer question. Does it now appear they can chase a championship with what they have? Can they now steamroller the trade deadline the way Metta World Peace just flattened about half of South Beach? Can they be deep enough, good enough, for long enough?

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has long called Chris Bosh the team’s “most important player.” That declaration gained traction over the weekend. The 93-83 loss to the Lakers on Sunday marked the first time the Heat has lost back-to-back games since early January. The Heat survived a long stretch with Dwyane Wade out of the lineup but fell apart quickly without Bosh. “No question about it, Chris Bosh is a major component to what we do on both ends of the court,” Spoelstra said. “That’s why we don’t listen to anybody when they talk about Chris’s importance or value. He’s one of the best players in this league, but more importantly, he has a great impact on how we play, and he settles us.” Bosh has missed the Heat’s past three games following the death of his grandmother. He’s expected to rejoin the team Tuesday. Spoelstra said the team learned on Saturday that Bosh wouldn’t be traveling to Los Angeles.

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: Two days after he took just nine shots in a loss to Boston, and on a night when the Nets needed him to go off to save them from their teamwide lethargy, Deron Williams broke out for a career-high and Nets’ single-game record 57 points Sunday night to lead the Nets to a 104-101 win over the lowly Charlotte Bobcats in Time Warner Cable Arena. “That was like incredible man, you know what I’m saying,” teammate Anthony Morrow said of Williams. “I was speechless. Just glad to be a part of history. ... It’s just great to have that kind of superstar on your team, future Hall of Famer.” “I saw T-Mac (Tracy McGrady) do 60-something in Orlando against the Wizards; saw Gilbert (Arenas) give somebody 60 in L.A.,” DeShawn Stevenson said. “This is up there. I’d say top three ever in my life. “I think he’s very underrated,” Stevenson added of Williams. “I know we’re on a bad team and stuff like that, but for a person to pull something off like that, that’s crazy.” Williams’ explosion came on a night when the Nets would finish the game without Brook Lopez, who left the game early in the third quarter with what the Nets said was a rolled right ankle. Lopez missed the first 32 games of the season with a broken bone in his right foot. He left the arena on crutches.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The Ghost of Bobcats Drafts Past: In 2005, then-general manager/coach Bernie Bickerstaff turned down a trade that would have sent point guard Deron Williams to Charlotte. Flash forward seven years, and look at what they passed up: Williams, now with the New Jersey Nets, scored 57 points to single-handedly beat the Bobcats 104-101 at Time Warner Cable Arena. The numbers were staggering: Williams made 16-of-29 from the field and 21-of-21 from the foul line. He added seven assists and six rebounds. Yeah, Williams might have been more help here than Raymond Felton and Sean May were way back when.

  • Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: The Philadelphia 76ers have the Bulls attention, all right. If they didn’t have it before Sunday night’s game at the Wells Fargo Center, they certainly have it now. The Bulls have a new nemesis. The 76ers aren’t at the level of the Heat, and they don’t have the history the Bulls have with the Pacers, who visit the United Center on Monday night, but Doug Collins’ team gives them fits. It took an epic performance from Derrick Rose for the Bulls to win their sixth consecutive game. Although he rarely is mentioned as an MVP candidate this season, he played like one again, driving the baseline for a jaw-dropping runner to give the Bulls a four-point lead with 20.2 seconds left en route to a 96-91 win. He finished with a season-high 35 points. He also had eight assists. “I hit crazy shots all the time,” Rose said. “That was definitely a crazy shot.”

  • Tom Moore of phillyBurbs.com: The Bulls have something the 76ers don’t. That would be a star in Derrick Rose. That also gives them somebody to make a big shot, which the Sixers are desperately trying to find. The Sixers’ 96-91 nationally televised defeat Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center dropped them to 0-6 in games decided by five or fewer points. “We play well enough to win, then just can’t find it down the stretch,” said Sixers coach Doug Collins. Rose hit a difficult floater with 20.9 seconds left to put Eastern Conference-leading Chicago ahead to stay. “That was definitely a crazy shot,” Rose said. The Sixers, given a chance to tie when Taj Gibson missed a pair of free throws, could do no better than Andre Iguodala’s forced 3-pointer that hit nothing but backboard. Jodie Meeks fell down on the play, leaving Iguodala to “just try to make anything happen.” Iguodala had no choice but to launch that 27-footer, but he badly missed a 3-ball with 10 seconds left on the shot clock and 1:11 to go in a two-point game. Collins refused to point to the Sixers’ lack of a star afterward. “If I say that, I’m saying we’re not good enough,” Collins said. “I would never say that.”

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: For the Clippers, there was exasperation and frustration, but finally there was relief. Chris Paul did not get a shot off at the end of regulation, had an uncharacteristic turnover in overtime and missed a key free throw in the extra period, but the Clippers came away with a 105-103 victory over the Houston Rockets. Paul, who had a double-double with 28 points and 10 assists, walked off the Toyota Center court with Blake Griffin, each with looks of relief for having escaped a game they won only after Kevin Martin missed a three-point shot. "Sometimes you're like, 'Man, we got this one,' " Paul said. "Now, that one is out the window. We start back tomorrow." The victory allowed the Clippers to improve to 2-1 on this six-game trip that continues Monday night against a Minnesota Timberwolves team that has defeated the Clippers twice this season.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Of all the times Chris Paul has beaten the Rockets, all the late-game jumpers and last-minute passes that left them defeated and demoralized, rarely has he tormented them as he did Sunday at Toyota Center. This time, he left them just enough room to think they had found the answer. The Rockets thought the game was theirs when Courtney Lee smothered Paul, sending the game into overtime. They thought they had a breakthrough when they led by three with 94 seconds left. Mostly, they believed they had the answer when Kevin Martin launched his 3-pointer in the closing seconds. Terrence Williams began a sprint to celebrate. Kyle Lowry was certain the shot was good. Martin said it felt “perfect.” But when it smacked the rim and bounced away, the Los Angeles Clippers sent the Rockets to a third consecutive defeat, 105-103 in overtime, and Paul had again done just enough to be more than they could handle. “The guy keeps the ball in his hand, and he does a lot of stuff,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We tried changing up. He’s very, very clever. You try to change up on him and give him different looks, but the bottom line is he makes a lot of plays.”

  • Ben Hochman of The Denver Post: The Spurs (25-12) entered the game second in the Western Conference, winning eight of their past 10 and 14 of their 16 total home games. So the Nuggets' win ranks with the best of the season, be it the home win against the Heat (117-104 on Jan. 13), the convincing road win over the Clippers (112-91 on Feb. 2) or the emotionally draining overtime win at the Knicks (119-114 on Jan. 21). This, of course, because the Nuggets (21-17) won Sunday without two starters, two reserves and only 15 minutes from Timofey Mozgov (ankle). ... On Twitter after the game, one fan coined the excitement with one word — Lawsanity. Lawson injured his ankle in the two games before the all-star break, but now in the three games since, he has averaged 20.6 points, 11.6 assists and has made, in total, just four turnovers. And he hit the big shot, the Melo-esque shot. "Against the Lakers, I didn't take the shot — so tonight I'm glad I hit it," he said. "It's a shot I've been working at."

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs’ Big Three was reunited on the basketball court Sunday, but it nearly didn’t happen. Manu Ginobili returned after a two-week absence with a strained left oblique. However, until 15 minutes before tipoff, Tim Duncan wasn’t certain he would have the energy to play against the Nuggets because he had been battling a stomach ailment all day. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t certain how to characterize Duncan’s ailment. “Timmy’s just sick,” he said before tipoff. “Flu, stomach poisoning. We’re going to see if he’s got any energy.” Duncan had enough energy to throw down two first-half dunks, but Popovich was judicious with his playing time. The 13-time All-Star played only three minutes and 50 seconds after starting the game before Popovich gave him his first rest. He played only nine minutes in the first half but totaled 23 for the game. He scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: A day after owner Joe Lacob said the Warriors will never purposely lose games to secure a draft choice, it didn't appear as though his team had gotten the message. "There has been a lot of talk in the media regarding intentional losing in order to advantage future draft positioning," Lacob wrote in an e-mail to The Chronicle on Saturday. "That will NEVER happen. Never. We are working very hard every day to change the culture of this organization. "This Warriors team works very hard and we are proud of their efforts. We will continue to try to win not only every game, but every single quarter and every single possession. Teaching a team to lose is just NOT an option." The Warriors proved they're already well aware of how to lose Sunday, going through the motions against an inferior team and reaching new lows for offensive ineptitude in an 83-75 snoozer to the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns entered Sunday night's game ranked 25th among NBA teams in offensive rebounding and 28th in free-throw attempts. To coach Alvin Gentry, that indicates that the Suns need more physical play. When it happens in spurts, good things happen, such as when they rallied in Sunday's third quarter with Channing Frye's early free throws and a Marcin Gortat follow that started a 9-0 run.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: It's hard to overcome being the worst-shooting team in the NBA. The Kings learned that again after another sub-.400 shooting night in a 96-88 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at US Airways Center. It was the Kings' third consecutive loss and ninth in their past 11 games. Sacramento shot 38.4 percent against the Suns, the 12th time the Kings have shot below 40 percent this season. They are 2-10 in those games and are shooting 41.3 percent for the season. The game looked promising offensively for the Kings after one quarter, but their scoring declined the rest of the way.

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: There’s a part of me that still believes Dwight Howard is long-gone. He’s been looking for reasons, albeit not many good ones at times, to bolt the tiny little suburb of Bore-Lando. Not I’m not so sure. One reason: Alex Martins. The man who once handled media relations for the Orlando Magic way back when has risen to power in the organization, and deservedly so. Martins is the last man standing who might be able to convince Howard to stay. Stan Van Gundy could never do it. He’s too caustic for Dwight’s tastes, and his role as coach is probably not suited for the recruiting thing. Dwight needs a softer, gentler voice. Otis Smith? Nope. Dwight tuned him out a long time ago and made his dissatisfaction with him public. Bob Vander Weide? He bolted town in December under curious circumstances. He left his dream job as CEO of the team _ and the face of the franchise from an organizational standpoint _ to spend more time with his family. Martins, promoted to CEO after Vander Weide left, is the now last man standing between Howard and the bus depot. Martins has been talking to Howard daily, trying to use whatever leverage he can to make the big guy stay. The problem is that Howard has most of the leverage, and it seems fairly obvious that for the last few months, he seems to want out more than he wants in.