First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Before the Cavaliers tried for the 12th time to beat the Chicago Bulls, coach Byron Scott gathered his players together Tuesday morning and told them it was time to stand up to the bully. With Kyrie Irving sidelined, the Cavs finally threw the last punch – and the wily veteran was the one swinging. Rookie Dion Waiters scored 25 points in Irving’s absence and Luke Walton made a huge steal late to preserve the Cavs’ 101-98 victory over the Bulls on Tuesday, ending an 11-game skid against a team that had won the last six meetings by an average of 27 points. The fact they did it without Irving made it all the more startling. Irving injured the knee in practice on Friday when he banged knees with Omri Casspi, then tried to play through it during the weekend games at the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat.

  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: Usually when Taj Gibson describes an injury to reporters, it's a sprained ankle or plantar fasciitis, and he claims to be a quick healer. After suffering a left knee sprain on Sunday in Oklahoma City, Gibson isn't sure what to think. He missed Tuesday's game against Cleveland and could be out for two weeks. "I've never felt any pain like that before," Gibson said. "So I just have to take my time. I was (ticked) because I know that I always want to be the guy that can go 82 games every year. I take good care of my body. It's just one of those things that happens by just stepping on somebody else's foot." Gibson said he went up to block a shot and landed on the foot of Thunder guard Reggie Jackson. The incident occurred early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's blowout loss in Oklahoma. The fourth-year forward had an MRI exam Sunday, but said doctors are continuing to examine the knee. … Gibson has never missed more than three games in a season. With this injury, only Nate Robinson and Jimmy Butler have played in every game for the Bulls this year.

  • Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star: Admit it, when you saw Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert swatting away Golden State guard Stephen Curry like baseball’s Pedro Martinez dispatching of Don Zimmer, you thought to yourself: Please, Lord, not another Brawl. Not another Detroit. Not again. In the end, a couple of elbows and angry words were exchanged, Hibbert got tossed, everybody this side of old-timers Freddie Lewis and Rick Barry got technical fouls, but ultimately, the biggest fight of this NBA season turned into much ado about very little. It spilled over into the stands, but in this case, the fans were smart enough — and scared enough — to stay out of the madness. There was no John Green there to throw a cup of liquid on anybody, no Ron Artest to enflame matters. Thank goodness. Because these Pacers have come too far and built way too much goodwill since the events in Auburn Hills, Mich., to throw it away in one flash of anger.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors had their three-game winning streak snapped, their feelings hurt and their resolve tested by the Indiana Pacers. Golden State's 108-97 loss Tuesday was a rugged, scrappy, intense affair, punctuated by a fourth-quarter scuffle that spilled into the seats. Perhaps most important, it probably was a sign of what's to come. As the season winds to a close, and the importance of the games increase, the Warriors will have to reach a higher level. "Teams are gearing up for playoff basketball, ramping up the intensity a little bit," point guard Stephen Curry said. "It's going to happen. It's healthy just to not back down, be physical. You'd like to not see that tussle happen. But for the most part, it was just a good, clean physical game that we have to expect for the rest of the year." The Pacers' size and athleticism, their hands-on style of play, disturbed the Warriors' fluidity. The Warriors committed 20 turnovers, leading to 29 points for Indiana. On top of that, Curry seemed to be the only reliable offense.

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Overshadowed during the Heat’s recent run of brilliance has been the steady play of point guardMario Chalmers. The fifth-year guard entered Tuesday’s game against the Kings shooting 57.6 percent (19 of 33) in his past four games. From three-point range, he was shooting 50 percent (8 of 16) over that stretch. Chalmers had six points and four assists in 32 minutes in the Heat’s 141-129 double-overtime victory against Sacramento. “I wish I necessarily had an answer for it,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. For Spoelstra, it has always been a challenge to explain Chalmers’ streaky play but, for once, the coach was quick to praise his starting point guard for prolonged and consistent success. He even defended Chalmers against the normal criticisms of his enigmatic game, saying he has been “encouraged” with Chalmers over the past six weeks. “And the reason I say six weeks is because people only notice if the ball is going in or not, but there are a lot of other things he is responsible for, and he has been the head of our defense, pick-and-roll defense and setting the tone,” Spoelstra said.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Was it a moral victory? That wasn't how the Kings described their latest loss. But they certainly left American Airlines Arena with their heads held high. In a game most expected them to lose, the Kings had a chance to beat the defending champion Miami Heat. So even though their losing streak is now at a season-worst six games, the Kings weren't down on themselves Tuesday night after their 141-129 double-overtime loss. The Kings (19-39) had good vibes because they worked together in a way not seen for long stretches this season. They also displayed an energy and focus that often has been lacking. It was almost enough to end the Heat's winning streak. But thanks to their superstars, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Miami (41-14) won its 12th game in a row. "It's tough, but this is a loss we consider a good loss," DeMarcus Cousins said.

  • Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: When Andrew Bynum talks it makes news and when he doesn’t speak, it also finds its way into the headlines. Bynum was supposed to give a progress report to reporters before Tuesday’s game with the Orlando Magic at the Wells Fargo Center. With the usual large weekly crowd waiting by his locker, Bynum never appeared. The Sixers said he would likely speak after Friday's practice. There is no practice tomorrow. Bynum has been giving these weekly updates for nearly two months on a Monday or Tuesday. Here is the gist of the news “the left knee hurts, the right knee feels fine and there is progress.” … Bynum is an unrestricted free agent after the season. If the Sixers don’t re-sign him, they would have given up four valuable pieces, including the draft choice, for extra cap space and Richardson. What free agent difference maker would sign with the Sixers? No, the Sixers have to be all-in with Bynum. That is why the charade of these weekly updates will have to keep going on. We’ll all be waiting on Friday.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo said following Monday’s practice that his habit of benching Brook Lopez in the fourth quarter — something he had done three out of the four games since the All-Star break — would come to an end. Sure enough, Carlesimo sent his center back into the game with 5:09 remaining Tuesday night, and Lopez made sure he looked good for doing it. Lopez proceeded to score the next six points for the Nets, helping them to secure their 101-97 victory over the Hornets. “I’ve kept my confidence through this entire week,” Lopez said after finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks. “It’s definitely good to get a win like this, but I try not to put too much stock into one game. ... It is a marathon and not a sprint.” That may be the case, but heading into the game Lopez had been out of sorts ever since returning from his first All-Star Game last weekend in Houston.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Anybody out there see a closer? New Orleans is still searching. The Hornets have struggled all season to find ways in the fourth quarter to close out games. Tuesday was a bit of a different story since New Orleans was playing from behind all night, scratching to find a way to battle back from double-digit deficits. But aside from Vasquez and Anderson, who stepped up in the fourth quarter, the Hornets got 0 points from Eric Gordon, who missed the only two shots he attempted in the final period. In the nine games that Gordon played last season, he showed he could be counted on in crunch time to step up. And when he returned in late December from the knee injury that limited him to just those nine games last year, Gordon again displayed the ability to be a fourth-quarter scorer. He played only about half the final period against the Nets, finishing with 10 points.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks reserve center Samuel Dalembert was suspended for Tuesday's game against Dallas after he arrived late for the team shootaround earlier in the day. Bucks general manager John Hammond announced Dalembert was suspended for one game without pay due to a violation of team policy. Bucks coach Jim Boylan said the suspension was due to a pattern of behavior rather than one specific incident. "Everybody on the team, players, coaches, staff, they have certain responsibilities to the team," Boylan said in his pre-game remarks. "When those responsibilities aren't met, there are consequences. So Sam has not met some of those and the consequence is he is suspended for tonight's game." Dalembert has been serving as the primary backup to starting center Larry Sanders.

  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, tongue planted firmly in cheek, did his best to keep a straight face this evening when asked about Derek Fisher’s signing Monday with Oklahoma City. Fisher, as Mavericks fans know, was with the Mavericks from Nov. 29 to Dec. 22. After he suffered a strained knee, he asked the Mavericks to release him from his contract, saying that family matters necessitated his return to Los Angeles. So what’s changed, two months later? “Look, I understand completely,” Cuban said. “From the time Derek was here to his signing with OKC, his kids are older, they can deal with things better. So I understand him having more comfort in being away from them.” Obviously, Cuban was using sarcasm to make his point, which didn’t prevent reporters from pressing Cuban further. He wouldn’t budge from his somewhat humorous company line. … Is Cuban mad at Fisher? Again, the Mavericks owner stifled a smirk. “No, I understand completely,” he said. “Kids get older. They understand the dad’s job a little better. You just never know when it’s going to click.”

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: I’m not going to punish rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for being 19 years old with a flawed skill set. If any team in the NBA should have a long view on talent development, it must be the Bobcats. … Three educated guesses what’s going on: 1. His inability to make jump shots is widely known, so teams guard him exclusively for the drive. 2. He’s now played virtually the equivalent of two college seasons and he looks exhausted. 3. I don’t know if he has a great coping mechanism when things go south. When you play in high school with Kyrie Irving, then play on a Kentucky team that overwhelmed everyone, you’re used to things going well. … I respect that coach Mike Dunlap’s only power is playing time. But some of his decisions feel a little mean. Tyrus Thomas hasn’t gotten a uniform in a half-dozen games. Ben Gordon didn’t play, by coach’s decision, in two of the last three games. I get that both of these guys are culpable; Thomas doesn’t contribute much, particularly relative to his contract, and Gordon has been insubordinate at times. I also get that when in doubt, play the young guys. But humiliating these veterans – very expensive veterans, by the way – is beginning to have a sense of overkill.

  • Dan Bickley of The Arizona Republic: Rock bottom is a sporting cliché. In Phoenix, it’s a reality. The Suns are the worst team in the Western Conference. The vacant look in Michael Beasley’s eyes reflects the apathy we all feel for this basketball team. And with 24 games left in the regular season, there is only one thing left for this organization to accomplish. Memo to Robert Sarver: It rhymes with banking. The business of tanking games is a delicate matter. No one wants to get caught losing on purpose. It sends the wrong message to fans and hurts the league’s image. But feigning competitiveness can be a necessary evil and a fine art in the NBA, and for the Suns, that time has arrived. … The Suns are now in that shallow pool, along with five other teams competing for the most ping-pong balls. They are Charlotte, Orlando, Cleveland, Washington and Sacramento. Some of those franchises have already been through this process once, and are looking to acquire that second foundational player. The Suns are rookies in this sordid game. But their new reality couldn’t be more clear, a world where every victory is a loss, and every loss a victory.

  • Jarry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Former Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley sold his stuff before he left Minnesota last summer, but he apparently still brought some of his baggage with him when he moved to Phoenix by signing a three-year, $18 million free-agent contract with the Suns. Beasley entered Tuesday's game against the Timberwolves down the Suns' bench beside former Wolves teammate Wes Johnsonbecause of the same issues that caused his former team not to re-sign the 2008 draft's No. 2 overall pick: too many defensive lapses and a short attention span. … Beasley sold some of his belongings last summer in an estate sale at the Orono home he rented during his two seasons in Minnesota. It made news nationally for its eclectic mix of items, ranging from giant glass grapes to a floral headboard to bunny-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers. "A lot of that stuff wasn't mine, like purses and earrings and stuff," he said, referring to a company he hired for the sale that brought other items into the house. "That kind of messed up my street cred. I'm a gangster on the street. I had some stuff that wouldn't fit into my house here, so we just sold it. A lot of the furniture was mine. The dresses and purses? Not mine."