First Cup: Monday

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
5:20
AM ET
  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: In one of the most memorable contests in Jazz history, Utah fell 139-133 in quadruple overtime to Atlanta at Phillips Arena. It was the only four-OT game in the Jazz’s 38 years as a franchise, and the first in the NBA since Phoenix beat Portland 140-139 in 1997. For Utah and Atlanta, Sunday’s combined numbers were staggering: 272 points, 233 field-goal attempts and 128 rebounds during a contest that officially took 68 minutes and lasted 3 hours, 17 minutes. All of Utah’s starters played at least 49:33, with four passing 51 and Hayward clocking a game-high 57:28, which tied a record set by Karl Malone in 1992. The lead changed hands 14 times, the Jazz and Atlanta were tied 19 times, and when the fury was finally over, the teams had tied for the third-longest game in NBA history. "That’s what basketball’s made of. That’s what we play this game for: chances like that, games like that," said Millsap, who scored 25 points and collected 13 rebounds. "Even though it hurts afterwards — we didn’t come up with the win — it was still a fun game to be part of. I just wish we could’ve won it."
  • Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Yes, Joe Johnson makes a lot of money. He will continue to make a lot of money. He probably has an ATM in his pantry, just to the left of the case of Beluga caviar. He is the only person in Atlanta who this week will drive past that billboard that reads, “Mega Millions: $356 million” and think, “You know, I just don’t know if I want to fill out all of that paper work for another direct deposit account.” But in what is turning into a rather remarkable Hawks’ season, Johnson has been far more than a dollar sign with ears lately. The guy known for 2-ton-W-2, with too few big moments and too few big games, has been a relative wonder on the court. Johnson scored 18 points in a perfect eight-for-eight first quarter Sunday night against Utah. Then the legs went dead, or so we thought. On a night when the Hawks continued to amaze — winning a four-overtime game on the third night of a back-to-back-to-oh-my-back — Johnson provided the most jaw-dropping of moments.
  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Think of those odds. Entering the game, Perkins had 16 dunks and Ibaka 20 assists all season. “Our bigs were really good,” Brooks said. “Our big-to-big passing was probably the best so far this season.” Count Durant among the big boys. When he plays like this, the Thunder is hard to beat. On a night when Durant was the game's high scorer (28 points), missed by one being the game's top rebounder (he had nine) and played solid defense on LeBron, Durant's most impressive trait was his passing. “It was one of his best all-around games,” Brooks said. “One thing I tell Kevin, he has to become more of a playmaker. The good teams are not going to allow him to load up and get scores.” Durant is listening. He's up to 3.6 assists per game, and this was his third straight game with at least five assists, all Thunder victories. He had five assists to Perkins alone Sunday night. That's a recipe for beating not just the Heat, but any team in the NBA.
  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: LeBron James and Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant drew lots of attention for their flag football contest in December during the NBA lockout. There are plans for a rematch, but it may have to wait until after next season. Both players considered doing it during the summer, but will be unavailable because of the Olympics in London. "The rematch in flag football will happen," James said. "I don't know if it's this summer because of the Olympics but it will happen at some point." James' team won 73-63 in a game that was streamed live on the Internet. The moment showed the strength of their friendship that began when Durant was in high school. They remained in contact over the years and worked out together last offseason. "We called it 'Hell Week,' " James said. "Monday through Friday, we went twice a day. It was one of the toughest weeks we've both had as workouts. It was some great work that we've got out of it."
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies took a detour on their trip out west by going back down a road well traveled this season. Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins turned to the starting lineup he’s used the most, re-inserting Marreese Speights in place of returning power forward Zach Randolph. The move helped the otherwise lost Grizzlies head back in the right direction with a 102-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday night in the Staples Center. Memphis ended a three-game skid and avoided being swept on its four-game road trip. With a willing Randolph, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds, playing off the bench, the Griz displayed a renewed spirit and played arguably their most cohesive basketball on both ends of the court in a week. The teams entered the game going in opposite directions. Memphis lost five of its past six games. Los Angeles had won seven of nine. But it was the Lakers who looked out of sorts most of the night.
  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: Now that he's moved into the starting lineup and now that he's met Lakers courtside royalty in actor Jack Nicholson, it's time to ask the $1 million question about new point guard Ramon Sessions. How do you pronounce his first name? "Rah-mahn or Ra-mone, it doesn't matter," Sessions said. All right. On to another pressing question. Have you been surprised by your sudden impact on the Lakers? "I wouldn't say it caught me by surprise," said Sessions, acquired March 15 from Cleveland. "It's something I knew deep down inside if I ever got the opportunity to showcase my skill I knew I could fit in with one of the best teams in the league. My career has been kind of like this. I've played well. I've just been (with teams) like Milwaukee, Minnesota and Cleveland that don't get much coverage. I know guys in the NBA circle know I can play. It's a dream come true for that trade to go through and be put in this situation."
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: When Marcin Gortat scored the first 10 points of Sunday's victory against the Cavaliers, the baskets in the paint all came assisted as usual. If only someone would do the same for Steve Nash. Though Gortat has the benefit of having about four-fifths of his baskets assisted, mostly by Nash, the NBA's top backcourt shooter has only 18 percent of his baskets assisted. Nash's scores that are set up by teammates usually are 3-point shots. Nash went until the final minute of the first half Sunday without taking a shot, when he drove for a layup after his previous playmaking against Cleveland's traps had the Cavaliers frozen or guessing wrong thereafter. "He's basically generating all his baskets himself," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. "It needs to go up about 32 percent. I'd like for him to be assisted on half the baskets he gets, but we don't have that luxury with a playmaker at the four or five position." Nash's rare shots usually come in transition for quick pull-ups, in pick and rolls when defenses drop to the roller or when a teammate drives and he winds up with the ball when it is kicked out and swung to him. Nash, who made both his unassisted shots Sunday, is shooting 54.3 percent from the field this season. It reminds Gentry of his years as a Suns assistant when he would help warm up Nash simply by standing under the basket for all the makes.
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: The Cavaliers were unanimous in assessing where they stand after Sunday's effortless loss to the Phoenix Suns, 108-83, at The Q. "We are just not a very good team right now," coach Byron Scott after a third straight defeat and the sixth in seven games. The Cavaliers are now 17-29. "That's the bottom line." Rookie Kyrie Irving agreed completely. "We're not together out there," said Irving, who led the Cavs with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. "We've got to figure it out one way or another." It seems ludicrous to even bring up the playoffs, given the way the team has stumbled around since its surprising three-game winning streak at Denver, at Oklahoma City and against Houston two weeks ago. But the Cavs left the court 5.5 games behind New York for eight place in the Eastern Conference, four games behind Milwaukee.
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: Jackson played with Diaw in Charlotte, and he says Diaw’s passing is on another level. “His basketball IQ,” he said, “is through the roof.” Sunday said the same. Then, Diaw set picks and defended and found his teammates with crisp passes. He ended with seven rebounds and three steals, and his two-assist total was low because various Spurs missed shots with his passes. “It’s been that way,” he deadpanned, “my whole career.” He won’t be Horry. He won’t be knocking down point guards or clutch threes. But he will be reliable and smart, and he will let those who should shoot do just that. Diaw will be calm in Dallas in late April, and he will see the floor in Oklahoma City in May, and he has the ability to compete with the talent in Miami in June, too. He’s living in Tony Parker’s guest house for now, and there’s reason to think he’s at home. His entire career he’s been asked to do more, after all, and now he doesn’t have to. So can Diaw help the Spurs win? Just as he did five years ago.
  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: At the end of the 76ers-Spurs game on Sunday night at AT&T Center, the box-score sheet that was handed out listed the reason for Tim Duncan not playing as OLD. As the Spurs were playing their third game on consecutive nights, coach Gregg Popovich decided to rest his 15-year veteran. But someone on the Spurs staff decided to have a little fun when describing the reason for Duncan's DNP. Despite not having to play against Duncan, there was no fun to be had for the Sixers. They scored just 27 points in the second half, had a season-high 21 turnovers and possessed an attitude similar to a spoiled child not getting his way in a 93-76 loss that dropped them to 27-22. Combined with Boston's 88-76 win over the Washington Wizards, the defeat shrunk their lead to a half-game over the Celtics in the Atlantic Division. San Antonio improved to 33-14 and swept the back-to-back-to-backs for a fourth straight win. Further adding to the Sixers' misery: Just before the game, starting forward Andre Iguodala was pulled from the lineup due to patella tendinitis in his left knee. It is the first game Iguodala has missed this season, after missing 15 last year, most of them due to tendinitis in his other knee.
  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian: Portland’s 90-87 win over Golden State on Sunday likely didn’t shock the rabid Rose Garden fans. But the fact that Raymond Felton scored 24 points and knocked down four of his seven 3-pointers might have had them doing quadruple takes at the stat sheet. The 27-year-old has been one of the more maligned Blazers of the past few years, but after his clutch fourth-quarter led Portland (23-26) to a win, he may get a temporary reprieve. “I can score if I have to, but if I don’t need to, we’ve got enough scorers. Guys weren’t hitting their shots — it happens like that sometimes,” said Felton, who knocked three 3-pointers in the final period. “It felt good. It’s just good to get a win.”
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: In the past three games, the Wolves are averaging 119.0 points. Their 257 combined points against Denver and Oklahoma City are a club record for consecutive games. Where is all this offense coming from, particularly in the aftermath of Rubio's season-ending injury? The Wolves are 3-6 since Rubio went down and there were fears that Wolves players would have more difficulty getting easy shots, a regular occurrence when Rubio was healthy. "Scoring is something we've gotten better at as the season's gone on," Adelman said. "That's something this team did last year, score. Offensively, the guys are getting a good feel for what we have to do to be successful."
  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: The Nuggets are trying not to panic. "There's still a lot of fight in us," point guard Ty Lawson said. "Just because we're maybe one game out of the playoffs doesn't mean we're going to pack it up and the season is over. We still have a lot of games to play, and a lot of games to win." The playoffs are the big picture the Nuggets are trying not to be photoshopped out of. But more efforts like the one they put on the court Sunday in a 117-100 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center will make it difficult not to be. Lately, the Nuggets ignore the details. Sure, key players are out of the lineup — Danilo Gallinari (injury), Arron Afflalo (NBA suspension) — but that doesn't have to mean their pick-and-roll defense has to slip. It doesn't mean effort on the glass has to wane. It doesn't mean bunches of layups have to be missed and unforced turnovers committed. Those are the things getting the Nuggets in trouble. The lack of detail in their performance has blown up to cause back-to-back blowout losses to start this seven-game road trip.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The Celtics were forced to use Avery Bradley at shooting guard Sunday because of injuries to Mickael Pietrus and Ray Allen. The move paid off, as Bradley scored 15 points in the first quarter against the Wizards and finished with a career-high 23 in the Celtics’ 88-76 win at TD Garden. Bradley may man the position for a while as Pietrus and Allen could miss multiple games. Pietrus has been diagnosed with a concussion, according to coach Doc Rivers, and the organization has not discussed when he will begin NBA-mandated tests before he can return. Pietrus has to pass a series of neurological tests and be cleared by a league-sponsored doctor. Pietrus was injured in the second quarter of the Celtics’ 99-86 loss to the 76ers Friday night, but was able to travel back to Boston Saturday. Pietrus did not attend Sunday’s game.
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: In his fifth start of the season – and fourth since JaVale McGee was traded to Denver – Seraphin had 15 points, 11 rebounds and a blocked shot. He also was able to limit Kevin Garnett to just 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting, but the Wizards spent so much time playing from behind, Seraphin said his production felt hollow. “It doesn’t mean nothing. I had my career high but we lost the game,” Seraphin said. No one with the Wizards was pleased with the outcome on Sunday, when they trailed by 25 points in the first half, made a few feeble comeback attempts but never seriously threatened. But Seraphin continues to provide serviceable production since he became a regular rotation player. In his past seven games, Seraphin is averaging 10.4 points and 6.9 rebounds and may have to continue to play at a high level with Nene’s return uncertain because of back spasms. “It’s a lot sore right now,” Nene said after the game. “I want to see for tomorrow. I’m going day-by-day. Two days ago, I started to feeling it a little bit. Yesterday, after the game, I feel like, ‘Oh man.’ It was pretty tight.”

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