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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: It might sound odd for me to talk defense first on a night when they gave up a season-high 111 points, but no way they win this game without that first half (35 percent shooting and 41 points by the Warriors). They did it without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor and Bismack Biyombo. As in two of their best three wing defenders and their best rim-protector being injured. Against perhaps the most diverse collection of scorers in the NBA. Gerald Henderson played like this was personal for him, and this team can benefit from that attitude. Kemba Walker singled out the seldom-used Anthony Tolliver for how precisely he gave help and got back to his man. And there’s this: Eight days ago someone asked Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to describe the difference in the Bobcats. He said they always played hard, but now they’re organized. Yeah ... Clifford. ... Walker and Henderson keep reminding me they’re sick of losing. Not in a phony slogan way, but as if to codify what they’re thinking internally. Talent is great and all, but these guys care about their teammates in a way that is genuine.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: The Warriors' postgame locker room Monday night told the story of their 115-111 loss, the latest in a disappointing start to what was supposed to be a promising season. After the loss to the Bobcats, barely a voice spoke above a level appropriate for a library. Some players quickly showered and darted. Others sat and stared in disbelief at a stat sheet that showed they had just allowed the NBA's worst offense to score at least 26 points in every quarter. The Warriors' record fell to 12-10. "It's still early in the season, but this one stings pretty much worse than one has stung in a while," said Stephen Curry, who had a season-high 43 points to go with nine assists, six rebounds and two blocked shots.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: After saying earlier Monday the Clippers weren't going to sign "anybody today or probably even" Tuesday, Coach Doc Rivers said later the team was "close" to a deal with free-agent swingman Stephen Jackson. Jackson is expected to join the Clippers in Boston on Tuesday to sign a contract and take a physical. "We need him in a pinch and we need him like now," Rivers said. "And that's a guy that you can bring in and hopefully he can give you something right away with Reggie [Bullock] being out for at least this trip and maybe longer." Bullock is out because of a sprained left ankle. The Clippers are without shooting guard J.J. Redick, who will be out at least six to eight weeks because of a broken right hand. Backup small forward Matt Barnes will be out even longer than expected because he had a second procedure on his left retina last week. He is not expected to join the team on this trip, which has three games left. The signing of Jackson to a non-guaranteed contract for the veteran's minimum of $1.3 million that will be prorated would give the Clippers a full 15-man roster.

  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Injured 76ers point guard Michael Carter-Williams said Monday night that he's not sure exactly when he'll return the court. The rookie missed his third straight game because of soreness and a skin infection on the front of his right knee. Carter-Williams spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at University of Pennsylvania hospital because of the ailment. Carter-Williams said he would play "when everyone says it will be OK for me to come back." The 22-year-old rookie is on antibiotics and is waiting for the soreness to go away before he takes the court. The Sixers hope he'll make the two-game trip to Minnesota on Wednesday and Toronto on Friday. I want to play all the time," he said. "You guys know that. When I was in the hospital, I wish I was out there playing. I do play through a lot of pain. But the smart thing to do is to get the OK from everybody first until I play."

  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: As the Trail Blazers were finishing off their 105-94 victory over Utah at EnergySolutions Arena on Monday, there was a ruckus behind their bench. A heavily-bearded fan, wearing Blazers gear, was being restrained by a security guard as he tried to get closer to Portland’s bench. The chaotic scene included a few other Portland fans chanting, “Let’s go Blazers,” and “M-V-P,” which was directed at power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. A day that started with Aldridge winning the Western Conference Player of the Week award for the second time this season, and fifth time in his career, ended with him receiving NBA’s ultimate chant, on the road. It’s a higher level of respect than the two-time All-Star has ever felt before. “It’s a blessing, and it’s definitely something I feel like I worked for,” Aldridge said. “I’ve never heard MVP chants on the road. That was definitely new.”

  • Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune: But what are we really supposed to think of this team, 23 games into the season? My only concrete conclusion is any outcome makes a sizable number of fans happy. Either the Jazz win, or they improve their NBA draft-lottery odds. As for the theory that fans would eagerly embrace and support this version of the Jazz, regardless? Uh, no. Monday’s crowd was announced as 17,555, but entire rows of lower-bowl seats were empty. Even with a potential sellout Jan. 31 when former coach Jerry Sloan’s honorary banner is unveiled and some visits from elite opponents, the team’s attendance average is sure to be lower than 18,000 for the first time in the building’s 23 seasons. Personally, I should have taken my own preseason advice to just check back in April and see how it all turned out.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger has often expressed dissatisfaction with his team’s lack of energy at the start of games. The Orlando Magic had to wonder what he was talking about. Memphis built an early 23-point lead and then needed every bit of that first-half cushion to hold on for a 94-85 victory Monday night in FedExForum. Even so, the Griz essentially scored a wire-to-wire win because they didn’t trail again after the Magic scored the first basket of the game. “The way we’ve been playing at home we had to get this one,” Griz forward Zach Randolph said. “We have a tough schedule coming up. We’re trying to get some momentum.” The Grizzlies’ next five opponents include Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Minnesota, the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas. Memphis will need the fire that was on display early against Orlando.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Orlando Magic changed their game-day routine as their matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies approached on Monday. In an effort to have his team eliminate some of the mistakes it displayed during Sunday night's loss to the Houston Rockets, coach Jacque Vaughn decided to hold a morning shootaround for the first time this season. It's unclear whether the Magic will have more morning shootarounds in the future, but Vaughn won't rule it out. "I'll always kind of diagnose where we are as a team, what I think is good for us and what I think can make us better," Vaughn said. "I thought this morning watching some film of [the] Houston [game] can hopefully make us better tonight." The Magic had employed a different game-day routine this season. Instead of holding a shootaround in the morning, the team had gathered in the afternoons, both at home and on the road, for a film session and walkthrough. But for one day at least, the Magic scuttled their new routine. It was a significant change.

  • Ailene Voisin, of The Sacramento Bee: At 6-foot-8 and 230 pounds, Gay upgrades the Kings’ talent, length, athleticism and rebounding. The questions – besides that albatross of a contract – pertain to his offensive efficiency and a shooting percentage hovering at a career-worst 38 percent, a by-product in part of his tendency to dominate the ball and over-penetrate. Some NBA types, however, envision Gay flourishing in a system that utilizes his versatility and puts him in position to make plays for himself and for his teammates. The obvious downside to the deal is the departure of Vasquez, a pass-first point guard who missed much of training camp while recovering from ankle surgery. While splitting time with Thomas, he advocated for more pick-and-rolls and a more free-flowing system, one less reliant on Cousins to generate offense out of the low post. The addition of Gay – putting another scorer into a lineup with Cousins, McLemore, Thomas and perhaps Derrick Williams – presents Malone with an interesting challenge. Adding talent is one thing. Adding talent that will mesh is something else. Look in the window. We shall see.

  • Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle suspected this could be a trap game. “We got beaten soundly,” he said. “If you don’t compete at a high enough level, you get beat. And we didn’t. We’ve got to get our edge back. We lost it a little bit after the big win at Portland.” Earlier in the day, the Kings completed a seven-player deal with Toronto. That was a disadvantage for the Mavericks, Carlisle said, because the Kings would play their best players more than usual while waiting for the newcomers to arrive. In that case, that meant a heavy dose of guard Isaiah Thomas and Cousins for the Mavericks. Thomas made four 3-pointers and had 24 points. Cousins stomped the life out of the Mavericks. He had 32 points and 19 rebounds. When the Mavericks took a lead during the second quarter, he responded with a fury by scoring on four consecutive shots. Two were building-shaking. The Mavericks had no answer to Cousins. Their centers were lambs led to slaughter. The Mavericks’ centers — DeJuan Blair, Samuel Dalembert and Bernard James — had nearly as many fouls (11) as rebounds (14). They combined for 14 points.

  • Tom Schad Special for The Denver Post: Brian Shaw has searched for answers to their offensive woes in the first quarters of games. Last week, he walked through the locker room, saw players eating pizza and nachos and believed the poor diet to be the cause. So he picked up all the junk food and threw it in the trash. The Nuggets had fresh salads with chicken breast and cold cut sandwiches before Monday's game. The sluggish result was the same. "We'll keep searching and seeking until we find (it)," Shaw said. "We just talk about the starters needing to start the game for us. Our bench has been tremendous really this whole season. They've bailed us out of a lot of situations." That bench bailed out the Nuggets again Monday, when they outscored Washington's reserves 34-5. Nate Robinson led the way with 16 points off the bench, and Jordan Hamilton had eight. Ty Lawson missed a second straight game with a strained left hamstring, and his absence showed. Wall gashed the Denver defense for 20 points and eight assists. But on the final play, Robinson and the Nuggets made a stop when they needed to. "It was really ugly on both sides," Andre Miller said, "but we came out on the right side."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: John Wall untucked his jersey in disgust, angrily glaring at officials but too upset to voice his displeasure. Wall walked off the floor, believing Denver Nuggets guard Nate Robinson grabbed his forearm as he attempted a potential game-winning jumper and instead watched the ball squirt out of his hands. “Same that was happening all game. I couldn’t get a call,” Wall said after the Washington Wizards’ 75-74 loss to the Nuggets. “Nate Robinson was grabbing my arm every time I went by him. I lost the ball. You lose a tough game that way.” Replays appeared to confirm Wall’s complaint, but the Wizards’ loss was more about shoddy late-game execution than Robinson’s wily gamesmanship or a missed call at the end. Even with starters Nene and Martell Webster both out nursing injuries, a depleted roster down to just 11 healthy players and rookie Glen Rice Jr. forced to get important minutes late in his first career start, the Wizards were granted numerous opportunities to emerge victorious but repeatedly found a way to flub them.