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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: Chris Bosh, occasional actor, has mastered the deadpan delivery — and he put those skills on display Tuesday night, shortly after the streaking Heat displayed their basketball skills on the court. Would 20 straight wins, a total that will be on the table Wednesday night in Philadelphia, be sufficient to excite him? “Ten is enough for me,” Bosh said. What about 20? “Twenty’s cool,” Bosh said. “I’ll take it. We’re going to have to earn it, I’m sure.” They will, even if as much of the challenge will come from the circumstances — a late-night flight followed by a 7 p.m. road tip — as from an opponent they’ve defeated 12 straight times. Yet what was apparent again Tuesday, in a 98-81 workmanlike hammering of the Hawks, is that there’s little that can fluster the Heat of late, including when they get little offensively from LeBron James.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Friday’s meeting with Milwaukee — the Heat’s second game on a five-game road trip — could end up being a preview of a first-round playoff series. And at least one Bucks player believes that would be the preferable matchup for Milwaukee, which entered Tuesday in the No. 8 seed. “The two games that we played Miami so far, we matched up well against them,” guard Brandon Jennings told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “If you ask me, that’s who I would want to play first round, Miami. “Right now we haven’t really played well against the Knicks. I just feel better if we play Miami first round, just the fact we have good games against them.” Chris Bosh said Jennings’ comment doesn’t bother him. “That’s great,” Bosh said. “I hope people want to see us. Milwaukee is a good team. It would be great games.” But Rashard Lewis said: “Be careful what you ask for.” The Heat beat Milwaukee in overtime in Miami in November but lost 104-85 Dec. 29 in Wisconsin.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Dwight Howard killed 'em with paint dominance, half-decent free-throw shooting and his usual kindness. Howard rode the positive energy he often preaches through his return game in Orlando on Tuesday. With Howard making 25 of 39 shots from the free-throw line – tying the NBA record for attempts he set a year ago – the Lakers beat Howard's old Orlando Magic team, 106-97. He smiled from pregame warmups to the victorious end – even as Orlando fans wore his old jerseys with the "H" on the back changed into a "C," one fan interrupted the national anthem to insult him and Magic coach Jacque Vaughn deliberately probed time and again at Howard's free-throw weakness. Despite a cold-shooting night from Kobe Bryant, the Lakers won because Howard left Orlando center Nik Vucevic likening him to "the Dwight that dominated the league the past few seasons." Howard finished with 39 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks – and Bryant said the Lakers' 17-6 run has sprung from Howard "just buying in to what we need him to do – him excelling at it."

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: There was plenty of Hack-A-Howard, even more Hate-A-Howard. The entire night was just another sad, bittersweet reminder of the Magic's legacy. For the city of Orlando. For the franchise and its fans. And for Dwight Howard, the guest of dishonor. The leather-lunged booing, caustic commentary and contentious Dwightmosphere turned Amway Center into a venting session first and a sporting event second. These engagements merely have become an embarrassing tradition for the Magic and the faithful, even if some circumstances are out of their control. They lead the NBA in this unfortunate ritual: Their once-beloved superstars return to the city of Orlando for the first time, only to be buried in boos and belligerence. Shaq, Penny, T-Mac, Grant Hill and now Dwight have all had similar toxic reunions here. … Howard put the Magic through the ringer – and the Magic tried to embarrass him as well. They sent his notorious free-throw form to the free-throw line by fouling intentionally – and it backfired.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: Even though the two went through a verbal back-and-forth in the media, Magic guard Jameer Nelson insists Dwight Howard "isn't a bad guy." But Nelson made it clear he's no longer close with the Lakers center. … The relationship strains stem partly from comments Howard made in an interview that aired last week on CBS2/KCAL9 in which he said, "My team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted. I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face." … Still, it appeared the two made some inroads in restoring their relationship. Howard and Nelson talked on the court following the Lakers' 106-97 win Tuesday over the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena. Nelson also prevented Howard from taking a nasty fall on a drive in the second quarter by holding him. "Jameer is my brother," Howard said. "I have no bad feelings toward him." But with Nelson expressing offense to Howard's interview, the Lakers center said he texted the Magic guard to clarify his comments. Did Howard apologize? "I guess publicly," Nelson said. "I'm not looking for an apology."

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: Deron Williams has reached that comfort zone, the same one he enjoyed during the height of his days in Utah. It’s not just his rejuvenated body and rediscovered explosiveness. It’s also his approach. It’s his awareness. He has become the unquestioned leader of the Nets since the All-Star break, the point man calling out plays and taking control of a flowing offense. … For all of the 40 minutes he played Tuesday night at Barclays Center, he was the best player on the court in a 108-98 victory. He had 21 points and 13 assists, picking up the slack while Joe Johnson was inactive because of his sore left heel. It has been a similar story since the break for Williams, who has regained his All-Star form since dropping weight and undergoing another round of cortisone injections into his inflamed ankles. His leadership had been called into question the last two years, mostly because he sulked his way through losing seasons and was blamed for two coaches getting canned. But the last three weeks have undoubtedly represented Williams’ best stretch as a Net. It’s still a small sample size, but also an encouraging trend for the Nets.

  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: In this season of aches and pains, short-handed lineups and overall misery, the Timberwolves were due for some type of feel-good moment. It finally happened with a blowout win over the San Antonio Spurs, the team with the NBA's best record (49-16), and Ricky Rubio's first NBA triple-double. There was even an inspiring second quarter in which the Wolves outscored San Antonio 29-10 to set up a 107-83 victory in front of an impressed crowd of 14,219. Some might want to put an asterisk in front of the victory, given that injured Spurs starters Tim Duncan (sore left knee), Tony Parker (ankle) and Kawhi Leonard (sore left knee) did not make the trip to the Twin Cities. The night, however, belonged to Rubio, who finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists to cap the best performance in his comeback from a major knee injury last season.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: This is how Gerald Henderson describes what he hears from coach Mike Dunlap these days: “He wants me to shoot it every time. He wants me to think, ‘SCORE’ every time.” It doesn’t always work out that way. Henderson is a reluctant ball hog. But Tuesday he was on a preposterous roll that led to a preposterous score: Charlotte Bobcats 100, Boston Celtics 74. Suspend your disbelief; this really did happen for a Bobcats team on a 10-game losing streak and an NBA-worst 14-50 record. This was Charlotte’s widest margin of victory since January of 2010, when the Bobcats beat the Miami Heat 104-65. Many contributed, but none came close to shooting guard Henderson, who finished with a career-high 35 points.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: After the Cavaliers claimed Shaun Livingston off waivers from the Washington Wizards on Christmas Day, Livingston’s first game as a member of the Cavs was against the Wizards. Now that Livingston is the starting point guard for the foreseeable future given Kyrie Irving’s injury, it only makes sense that Livingston’s first start also came against the Wizards on Tuesday. … It’s clear Livingston didn’t enjoy his time in Washington. He had been there once before, but when the Rockets released him at the end of training camp, the Wizards again inquired early in the season. With few other options available, Livingston agreed to return to the Wizards. “Probably one of the worst spots I’ve been in my career,” Livingston said of his time in Washington. “At the same time, it’s been a godsend here.” Livingston said he’s a cerebral player who didn’t have the right pieces around him in Washington, and the lack of structure within the Wizards didn’t help him. It’s why he never thought his career was over after the Wizards released him in December.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Tony Allen lunged for a steal and missed as momentum took him toward midcourt and out of the play. His Grizzlies teammates then began to scramble to cover the potential gaps in their defense. And they did just that until Allen recovered, flew toward the basket and recorded a block on a would-be layup. Whenever the Portland Trail Blazers thought there was daylight on offense Tuesday night, the Grizzlies pulled a shade before leaving the Rose Garden with a 102-97 victory. Hardly anything was rosy for the Blazers against a Grizzlies’ defense that didn’t seem to relax on many possessions. Just ask the Blazers and their incredibly shrinking shooting percentages from quarter to quarter. Portland began the night shooting 45 percent in the opening period. The Blazers made 39 percent of their shots in the second and only connected on 22 percent in the third.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Center Chris Kaman started Tuesday night, but was pulled from the game after just 2:14 had elapsed off the clock. Coach Rick Carlisle took blame for putting Kaman in that situation, but it didn’t make it any easier for Kaman to understand. He was clearly not happy to get yanked that quickly. He never re-entered the game. … Carlisle said he realized quickly this game was not going to be one in which Kaman could prosper. … Carlisle said he had talked with Kaman about the situation immediately after the game. With a bigger set of centers and power forwards looming in San Antonio on Thursday, it would seem logical that Kaman would be back to his normal minutes against the Spurs.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: The Melodrama continues. The most important d-word tonight wasn’t about Denver but drainage. Carmelo Anthony said he expects to play tomorrow in his first homecoming in Denver but admitted his sore right knee is not getting better and if this continues, he may have the fluid in his knee drained. Mike Woodson listed him as “probably probable’’ and Melo indicated he would play and then possibly reevaluate after the contest. So tomorrow’s showdown game vs. the Nuggets could conceivably be his last of the West Coast trip. “We’re talking about it,’’ Anthony said after practicing on the Nuggets practice court at Pepsi Center. “The doctors will sit down and talk about it and see my options. I think that’s the last option - to get the knee drained. I have to weigh all the options - how much time I’d have to take off.’’