First Cup: Tuesday

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Once the Hawks started rolling, there was no stopping them. The Pistons offered little resistance any way. The Hawks built a 26-point lead and posted a 114-103 victory over the Pistons Monday night at The Palace at Auburn Hills. The victory moves the Hawks into a fourth-place tie with the Nets in the Eastern Conference. Al Horford continued his strong scoring efforts. He finished with 23 points and 22 rebounds, tying a career-high. It was the sixth straight game Horford has scored 20 or more points. Horford put an exclamation point on his effort by hitting a 3-pointer in the final minutes.

  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: There is an old saying that NBA teams don't feel sorry for teams filled with injuries. The Pistons were that team Monday night. They were without guards Brandon Knight and Will Bynum against the Hawks, who cruised past the Pistons, 114-103. Team officials announced about a half-hour before tip-off that Brandon Knight would miss his third straight game with a hyperextended right knee. Knight moved around gingerly during the game-day shoot-around and did not appear ready to play. He wanted to see, however, how he felt at game time. They also were without Bynum, who was suspended a game for hitting Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough. "Nobody feels sorry for you," Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: A league source confirmed a published report that the Wizards were close to completing a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline that would haveresulted in a reunion with Caron Butler. NBA.com’s David Aldridge reported that the Wizards and Clippers had agreed to a swap of Butler for Trevor Ariza late Wednesday night but Clippers owner Donald Sterling rejected the deal because he didn’t want to disrupt the chemistry of a 40-18 team that currently has the third-best record in the Western Conference, or risk upsetting Chris Paul, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Butler spent four and a half seasons in Washington, making two all-star appearances and earning the nickname “Tuff Juice” as a member of a high-scoring trio with Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. The Wizards dealt Butler to Dallas at the trade deadline in February 2010 to begin the rebuilding process after President Ernie Grunfeld finally decided to break up the team after the Arenas gun incident.

  • Robert MacLeod of the Globe and Mail: If the Raptors (23-34) hope to make a serious run they cannot afford to put up ragged displays like Monday’s against the Wizards (18-37), who walked away with a 90-84 victory. It was an excruciating night of basketball, especially on behalf of the Raptors, who seemed to be listless participants playing without any sense of urgency. “Why we wouldn’t have that at this time of year, and for what we’re fighting for and scratching for and what we’ve been through is shocking to me,” an upset Casey said afterward. Toronto had defeated Washington 96-88 last week, but was flat during a tepid opening half, as the Wizards opened up a 40-32 lead. … The Raptors now have 25 games remaining in the regular season, 13 against teams that currently sport sub-.500 records. Not an impossible task, but not an easy one, either. “So we got a tough row to hoe,” Casey said.

  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: So, where does that leave Colangelo? In lieu of a franchise superstar — and Gay is not at that level — the person in charge of moulding the roster is arguably the most integral man in any basketball organization. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will have three options: pick up the third-year option on Colangelo’s contract; offer Colangelo an extension beyond next year; or decline to pick up the option, effectively firing him. But, as Casey noted, this is what was promised before the year. You might disagree with some of the decisions that have been made along the way, such as the Gay trade or the contract extension given to DeMar DeRozan, but this team has done what was expected as a whole, even if there have been some individual disappointments. When the Raptors traded a pick nearly assured to be in the lottery for Lowry, they knew a late-lottery pick in this weak draft was the probable result. They were OK about that price. More than likely, how you feel about Colangelo, and by extension the Raptors’ direction, depends almost entirely on how you felt before this season. It is not clear if the people in charge of MLSE share this belief, though, so nights like Monday cannot help Colangelo’s cause.

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: He began the five-game road trip in Denver with a 2-for-14 shooting night, vowing afterward to be better. Last night Paul Pierce ended his largely uneven journey with a Tour de Truth performance, saving his best for last in the Celtics’ 110-107 overtime victory against the Jazz. After missing a twisting 19-footer at the buzzer in regulation, the captain clanged no more. He made all three of his shots in the extra frame, scoring seven of the Celts’ 13 points and finishing with 26. Asked about the perfect punctuation to Pierce’s up-and-down trip, Doc Rivers said, “He had an up-and-down game tonight. He was struggling, and then all of a sudden he just kind of reached down. “He’s just a great player, and that’s what great players do. He was exhausted, and you could just see it. He just reached down and grabbed it from somewhere and made shots for us. We needed it. We wouldn’t have won without that.”

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: It is the common perception that the Celtics dressing room is a healing commune where those of questionable basketball reputation can be saved. A Lourdes of leaping, if you will. So as the Celts return home today with Terrence Williams and Jordan Crawford — two players who would not have been available to them were it not for concerns about their approach to the game and the fact they did not entirely please previous employers — there is the expectation among some, and hope among others, that regularly observing Kevin Garnett and breathing the same air will improve their focus and make them better teammates. The newest C’s have the opportunity to either prove the perceptions a lie or rip off the old tags and begin anew. Pierce knows that altering the career course of another adult may be quite a bit to ask, but he also recognizes it’s part of his job as captain and accomplished veteran. “I think you just try to feel things out with new guys,” he said. “I mean, at this point in the season you usually get a chance to talk to guys in practice, but there’s not a lot of practice time.”

  • Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News: Al Jefferson was trying to pick up his first victory ever against the team that drafted him in 2004 with the 15th pick. With Monday’s loss, he’s now 0-11 against the Celtics. Jefferson was traded to Minnesota along with four other players in July 2007 for Kevin Garnett, who teamed with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to win an NBA title in 2007. Jefferson downplayed his connection to Boston after Monday’s shootaround, but he talked about playing against Garnett, who was traded for Jefferson and four other players in July of 2007. When asked about a “rivalry” with Garnett, Jefferson said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry. KG loves to compete. I love to compete. If you don’t stand up for yourself and hit him back, he’s going to be dogging you all night. It’s nothing personal, just basketball.’’

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets were flying above the Lakers like they were playing Quidditch. Dunk! Dunk! Dunk! "Our running game was sensational, and I think we put enough defense into the game," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I think anytime we play the Lakers, it's a speed-versus-size game, even without Pau Gasol. I thought our guys had the extra engine to play as many minutes in the 48 that you can play fast." The Nuggets average an NBA-best 56.8 points in the paint, but with 4:27 left in the third quarter — yes, the third quarter — Denver notched its 58th point in the paint. Denver finished with those 78. The Pepsi Center, as it is against the Lakers, was also sort of like the Staples Center. Hundreds of Lakers fans, even a couple who weren't obnoxious, took over certain sections of the arena, creating an intense, playoff atmosphere in mid-February. But the Nuggets fed off it. The Nuggets entered the night a jaw-dropping 23-3 at home — only the Spurs, at 22-2, had a better home record in the conference. And the Nuggets entered Monday winners of eight consecutive home games.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Big picture, the Lakers have still gone 11-5 since the day of their clear-the-air team meeting in Memphis. But the feel-good sentiments were contrasted Monday night by some ongoing cold – or should that be "old"? – realities for this Lakers team. The Lakers were as slow as ever in letting the Denver Nuggets blow by them. Final score: Denver 119, Los Angeles 108. Fast-break points? Denver 33, Los Angeles 3. "Man," Kobe Bryant said, "that's a killer." The Lakers are last in the NBA in points allowed per game off turnovers, and that's just how Denver took control of this game – also running off Bryant's early missed shots. The Nuggets kept control with Dwight Howard shooting 3-for-14 on free throws and Bryant's individual defensive effort lacking even as he rediscovered his shooting stroke. Howard's free-throw shooting is still a major concern for the Lakers, even as his effort has improved in recent games.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley continues to be quite a steal. Conley became the franchise’s all-time steals leader Sunday when he passed Rudy Gay during a 76-72 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Already holding the Grizzlies’ single-season record for total steals (144 in 2010-11), Conley is on pace to also shatter that mark. He ranks first in the NBA with 119 total steals in front of Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (115). Conley will break his own record if he simply grabs one steal in each of the Grizzlies’ remaining 27 regular-season games. … There’s incentive in front of Conley, too. His career-high average of 2.3 steals per game this season ranks second in the league behind Paul (2.5). If Conley continues on this pace, he’ll again earn a contract bonus for ranking among the league’s top five in thievery.