First Cup: Tuesday
November, 12, 2013
By Nick Borges
- Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: The Indiana Pacers kept the streak alive with their eighth straight win to start the season. But Monday was all about Lance Stephenson. And what a night it was, a spectacular night that ended with Stephenson hopping on the cell phone belonging to David Benner, the team’s Director of Media Relations, to conduct a live interview with ESPN. Oh, where to start? Stephenson picked up his first technical of the season while attempting a poor Michael Jordan imitation. He made three of five 3-pointers continuing his shooting touch that’s proving to be more than just a phase. And oh, yes, Stephenson earned his first career triple-double in the NBA of 13 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Stephenson carries this Rucker Park bravado everywhere he goes – after knocking down back-to-back triples EARLY in the second quarter, he dropped his arms and walked back on defense in a celebration fitting for much later in the game – so it may seem surprising that he could play so well within the confines of a structured half-court offense and pick up assists. But coach Frank Vogel isn’t nearly as shocked as you might think.
- Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: This may change over time, but for now there is no such thing as a minor Derrick Rose injury. Rose got the best of Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving, and the Bulls used a late surge to finish off a 96-81 victory over the Cavaliers on Monday night at the United Center. But it was tough to ignore that moment with 3:15 remaining in the contest when coach Tom Thibodeau called timeout specifically to get Rose off the floor. The reason was a hamstring injury that all parties insisted was minor. It seemed to happen when Rose exploded through the Cleveland defense for a fastbreak bucket with 3:39 left. The Cavs called timeout, and when play resumed, the Bulls decided Rose shouldn't be on the floor. ... "I should be (playing in Toronto)," Rose said. "It's nothing big at all. I'm still able to walk around, move around the way I want to. It's just a little sore." Thibodeau agreed with Rose's worry-free assessment.
- Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: Jordan Crawford can’t hide it. Even when he’s placed at point guard, handed the keys to the Celtics offense and asked to color within the lines, he can’t hide it. Jordan Crawford can’t keep his “steez” — the word he uses to describe his style, his “steelo” — holstered for too long. After his 10 assists in last night’s 120-105 C’s win over Orlando, the man renowned more in other NBA stops for his willingness to shoot from angles unknown even to Pythagoras was asked about his court vision. “Y’all just now noticing that, huh?” replied Crawford, the steez dripping from each syllable. "I was blessed with court vision. When a teammate’s open, you find him.” He’ll tell you he’s just a basketball player, but he’ll say it in ways far cooler than we could. He’ll tell you that people who’ve criticized his game just don’t look past his manner to see the real Jordan Crawford. ... Brad Stevens seems to get him. Instead of reining in Crawford and using him as a potentially explosive scoring weapon off the bench, the new coach has made the hyperactive kid the hall monitor. Stevens has empowered Crawford, making him the starting point guard four games ago. ... Confidence? Yeah, Crawford has that. Asked if he likes playing the point, he said, “I feel that I’m a point guard. That’s other people that listed me at shooting guard.”
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs were off on another one of their patented tears early in Monday's 109-85 victory at Philadelphia. Tony Parker was going all Cuisinart on the 76ers' young defense, slicing and dicing his way to the basket. Danny Green was knocking down 3-pointers like it was June in Miami. The ball was ping-ponging around the Wells Fargo Center, moving almost audibly, the way it does when the Spurs' offense is humming. Somewhere, Sixers coach Brett Brown had seen all this before. “It's a machine,” said Brown, a Spurs staff member for 11 seasons before taking the Philly job last summer. “That thing just moves along and chugs along, and they'll bang out another 50 (wins) this year and be amongst the NBA's best again.” With still a ways to go to claim their 15th straight 50-victory season, the Spurs took No. 7 on Monday night with the kind of calm, cool efficiency not every team might bring to the second night of a back-to-back against a rebuilding team in a half-empty gym.
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: If one long, weird game is to be believed, this sixth-man thing might just might work out for Rockets guard Jeremy Lin. There was no doubt, after two overtimes and all kinds of odd twists, that it worked for the Rockets on Monday night at Toyota Center and just in time in a 110-104 win over the Toronto Raptors. That part of the Rockets’ early-season experimentation has a long way to go before any conclusion can be reached, though coach Kevin McHale does seem to be cooling on the experiment of playing Dwight Howard and Omer Asik together. But for one game, a game in which few could shoot straight, Lin came off the bench and gave the Rockets just what they needed, saving them from what would have been the worst of their homestand losses. Lin scored 31 points on 10-of-17 shooting, giving the Rockets just enough of an offensive jolt.
- Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: Reserve guard Darren Collison may be scuffling along offensively – he entered Monday’s game shooting 31.6 percent from the field – but Rivers doesn’t mind. Especially when he can be the spearhead in the Clippers’ defensive plans. “He’s not a pure point guard, he’s just a guard that’s small,” Rivers said. “But the thing I love the most about him and he had an impact in the game the other night, he has the ability to put pressure on the ball and get into guys. “He guarded (Houston’s) Patrick Beverley and then he guarded (James) Harden at the top and it was very tough to shake him. It’s nice to have a guy that you can say, ‘Go sic ‘em.’ That’s what we want him to do. “I could care less about the points. He’s going to get the points because he has speed. He’s going to get points because he’s playing with four really good players a lot and the ball will find him and he’ll have a shot. I just want him to be a great defender. His offense will come.”
- Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: Monday night. November. Game No. 7 in a long, grinding 82-game season against the rebuilding Detroit Pistons. It was a combination of yawn-worthy truths that posed exactly the type of trap for a team looking to sneak into the playoffs. But, in an illustration of what is shaping up to be a trait of this maturing team, the Trail Blazers didn’t sleepwalk through a forgettable loss — they strong-armed their way to a solid 109-103 victory over the Pistons before 18,834 at the Moda Center. “We don’t want to look back at the end of the year, in the middle of April, and say, ‘Man, if we would have won this game, we probably would be in (the playoffs), or we probably would have this (playoff) seed,’” backup forward Dorell Wright said. “So we have to approach every game and really focus on one thing and that’s the playoffs. And if we win every game we’re supposed to win — and I feel like this was a game we were supposed to win — we’ll take care of business when it’s all said and done.”
- Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: Any conversation about the Nuggets in the fourth quarter this season was met with rolled eyes and sighs as they explained what, this time, went wrong. Not Monday night. The Nuggets found the fourth-quarter formula and rode it to their second victory of the season, and their first road win, 100-81 over the still-winless Utah Jazz. The postgame locker room was a jovial place. J.J. Hickson's monster dunk was already on repeat on Ty Lawson's iPhone. Andre Miller was crowded by media who wanted his view of why he was so successful in the final period, scoring nine of his 15 points then. The Nuggets, who had found it difficult to score much more than 16 points in most fourth quarters this season, poured in 30 on Monday. They combined potent offense with stifling defense to outscore the Jazz 30-13 in the final 12 minutes. "We actually set a goal before the game to try to hold this team under 80 points," coach Brian Shaw said.
- Carroll Rogers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The return of “Big Al” Jefferson for the Charlotte Bobcats fired up a pretty “big Al” on the other end of the court Monday night as well. Hawks center Al Horford poured in 13 of his 24 points during a key third quarter stretch to help hold off the Bobcats and their new free agent acquisition Al Jefferson, 103-94. ... The Hawks walked off with their first winning streak of the season, after Saturday’s win over the Magic, and a ninth straight win over the Bobcats. Kyle Korver extended a streak of his own, needing only three and a half minutes in the first quarter to extend his 3-point streak to 80 games on his first attempt from behind the arc. He now trails NBA record holder Dana Barros (’94-’96) by nine games. He moved past Michael Adams for sole possession of the second-longest streak of games with a made 3-pointer in NBA history.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Larry Sanders will not be on the court Tuesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks face the defending league champion Miami Heat in south Florida. In fact, Sanders will not be playing for the Bucks for the next six weeks after undergoing surgery Monday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The Bucks confirmed that Sanders sustained the injury off the court during an altercation at a downtown Milwaukee nightclub in the early-morning hours of Nov. 3. No criminal charges were brought against Sanders or anyone else involved in the incident following an investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office. But the incident already has taken a major toll on Sanders' season, likely putting him on the sidelines until late December. The Bucks play 23 games before Christmas Day, more than one-fourth of the season. Sanders was trumpeted as a major piece in the Bucks' rebuilding plans during the summer. He signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension after finishing third in the league's most improved player voting last season. Instead of embracing his role as one of the franchise's young stars, Sanders seemed to go in reverse.