First Cup: Monday
December, 30, 2013
By Nick Borges
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks recent domination of the Magic is clearly over. After winning 11 straight games in the series, the Hawks have dropped two straight. The latest came in a 109-102 loss Sunday night at the Amway Center. The Hawks fell behind by as many as 12 points, fought their way back to take a brief fourth-quarter lead, before the Magic got away from them late. The Magic snapped the lengthy losing streak to the Hawks with a 109-92 win in Atlanta on Nov. 26. The Hawks did play without two starters as Al Horford (torn right pectoral muscle) and DeMarre Carroll (sprained right thumb) remained in Atlanta.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Arron Afflalo is playing like an All-Star. But you wouldn't know it by looking at the most recent voting totals for the 2014 All-Star Game. Afflalo didn't crack the top 10 of Eastern Conference backcourt players in the latest balloting results, which had Miami's Dwyane Wade leading at guard. Afflalo, who has never been selected to the All-Star Game, knows fan voting tends to reward the most popular and well-known players. Not that he's complaining. Even if he's not elected an Eastern Conference starter — and all indications are that he won't be voted in — he has a chance to be selected to the All-Star team as a reserve. ... "It's obvious that I'm not one for pushing for fan votes," Afflalo said when asked about the voting totals. "For me, it's about team play, it's about winning and it's about the growth of my game. And if I can get the respect from the coaches, from that angle, then it's something that I would definitely appreciate. But I'm not trying to out-vote D-Wade and these guys who are constantly in the limelight."
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Andrew Bynum’s removal from the Cavaliers clears two spots in Mike Brown’s rotation. One will go to Tyler Zeller, the other to Anthony Bennett. The top pick in the draft has played sparingly to this point, but no longer. The Cavs are committing significant minutes to Bennett moving forward, which is why Mike Brown acknowledged Sunday that he needs to give Bennett time to play through inevitable mistakes. “I have to continue trying to have patience with him,” Brown said. “This is an opportunity for him to go out and play some minutes and show what he’s capable of doing.” After saying that, he only played Bennett 11 minutes in the 108-104 overtime loss Sunday to the Golden State Warriors after playing him 19 minutes in the loss to the Boston Celtics on Saturday. Bennett had five points, five rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal against the Celtics, but he missed all four of his shots Sunday and grabbed two rebounds. Bennett has looked overwhelmed at times, and Brown said he needs to slow down on offense when he gets the ball. But first the game has to slow down for him, and that hasn’t happened yet. “I’m still clueless about this whole thing,” Bennett said. “I’m still trying to learn a lot. I can still learn from my teammates, from the coaching staff, watching film. I just feel like this whole league is all about learning, just going out and playing.”
- Jimmy Durkin of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors rediscovered their defensive identity in the second half to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-104 in overtime Sunday, avoiding what could have been a frustrating misstep in the opener of a seven-game trip. Stephen Curry had 29 points and finished one rebound shy of a second straight triple-double. Draymond Green was a standout off the bench as the Warriors won a season-best fifth straight game before 19,385 at Quicken Loans Arena. The Warriors overcame a 17-point second-quarter deficit. Green had only five points, but both of his baskets gave the Warriors the lead, and he also had career highs of 12 rebounds and four blocks. "The energy and effort was contagious," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "Draymond was spectacular."
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: It was big night for the trio of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas. They combined for 80 points, but the rest of the team managed 24 points in their 112-104 loss to the San Antonio Spurs Sunday at AT&T Center. Jason Thompson had seven points and 11 rebounds. Ben McLemore had five points, but no rebounds, assists or steals. The Kings only had 12 points from the bench. That’s skewed in the case of Derrick Williams because he only played 13 minutes, 19 seconds. He had three points and four rebounds. Marcus Thornton played the most of the reserves (17:16) and had five points, four rebounds and two assists. Regardless, the Kings need more from the rest of the team. The bench was key in the win over Miami. San Antonio’s bench scored 53 points, led by Manu Ginobili’s 28 points. “Those guys have to find their opportunities because those guys are going to get the bulk of the shots but then I’ve got to try to get some guys some looks,” said Kings coach Michael Malone.
- Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News: Tony Parker to the New York Knicks? Unlikely, but Parker wouldn’t rule it out. In fact, he wouldn’t rule out going anywhere if certain circumstances aren’t in place. A report last week by ESPN.com said the Knicks hope to target the All-Star point guard in 2015, when Parker is set to become a free agent. Told of the report, Parker smiled and said he hadn’t seen it, but is keeping all his options open. Parker made it clear though, his first choice it to remain in San Antonio as long as he could. “If I can yeah”, Parker told the San Antonio Express-News. “The history here, they always take care of the guys. They did it with [Tim Duncan] and Manu [Ginobili], so hopefully they take care of me. At the end of this year they have to guarantee my year after, so, technically, maybe, I’ll be a free agent this summer.” Actually, the chances of Parker becoming a free agent this summer are slim. The 31-year-old Parker, who is averaging 17.8 points and 6.0 assists this season, signed a four-year, $50 million extension in 2010. He is owed $25 million in the last two years of his contract, but the final year is partially guaranteed for $3.5 million if he is waived by June 30, 2014 and fully guaranteed for $12.5 million after that. Said Parker: “I just don’t want a guarantee, I want an extension, too.” Even if Parker remains in San Antonio for the final year, his decision to stay beyond 2014-15 will depend on his coach and teammates. Who knows when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will hang it up, though it may not be too far away, and Duncan has a $10 million player option next season, which is the final year of his deal. Will he be around beyond that?
- Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: If Durant (33 points) replaced “me” with “anything” no one would have argued, but even that would not have captured how completely the Thunder pounded the Rockets in a 117-86 start-to-finish blowout. On the long list of things the Rockets could not do, defending the Thunder took a place of honor. But it might not have been at the top of the charts. The Rockets dragged themselves into Oklahoma City for the fourth game in five nights and seemed spent from the opening tip. The Thunder scored the game’s first 13 points while the Rockets missed their first 11 shots in six stunning scoreless minutes. Yet, for whatever role fatigue might have played after three last-minute finishes in the four previous nights, the Rockets’ issues were not a one-game aberration. “We held the ball way too much,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “Any time you hold the ball against a team, they’ll look good. They’re a good defensive team, but you still have to attack them. We couldn’t find anything tonight. We couldn’t find the spark. We were just bad from start to finish.”
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: Perry Jones III hadn’t been in the game 90 seconds. But Kevin Durant didn’t like what he was seeing. And so the Thunder star called over his second-year teammate, pulling him off the lane during a free-throw attempt despite OKC owning a 15-point lead. “Wake your (blankety blank) up,” Durant barked at Jones near the scorer’s table. No one needed to give Durant a wake-up call. Facing its first conference contender without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder sent a message with a wire-to-wire 117-86 win over Houston on Sunday night inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. ... Durant scored 33 points with 13 rebounds, both game highs, and added five assists, a steal and a blocked shot. He made 11 of 17 shots in 38 minutes. But it wasn’t just the numbers that defined Durant’s night. It was the pep in his step, the look in his eyes and the fire and intensity with which he played. He took his game to a higher level Sunday in a showdown he knows could turn into a playoff rematch this spring. From chewing out an up-and-coming teammate to a second-quarter stare down of old nemesis Francisco Garcia when things got too physical on the low block, Durant was dialed in the whole way.
- Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: You couldn't help but get the feel that back in Philadelphia last night's game between the 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers made all the noise of a tree falling in the woods with no one around. But yes, there was another game involving one of Philadelphia's professional teams and while this one didn't have nearly the significance of the Eagles and Cowboys, it was on the schedule and it had to be played. And when you've lost 13-straight away from home, it means a lot to try and snap that streak. That's just what the Sixers did at the Staples Center in front of a very quiet crowd, pinning a 111-104 loss on the Lakers and gaining just their second road win of the season in 15 attempts. The defense, particularly in transition, finally put forth the type of performance coach Brett Brown has been looking for as they gave up just eight fast-break points on the night.
- Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: In another twist to an ever-worsening season, the Lakers are losing games and healthy bodies at almost identical rates. Versatile reserve Xavier Henry was the latest to go down, sustaining a strained right knee Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers and scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Monday. In a semi-related note, the Lakers lost, 111-104, dropping their fifth straight game and completing it with only five healthy reserves at Staples Center. Make that 41/2. Chris Kaman played only 10 minutes because of a sprained left ankle that stiffened up during the game. The 76ers, by the way, were 8-21 and a horrendous 1-13 on the road before Sunday. ... Henry becomes the fifth Lakers point guard to be injured, joining Blake, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and emergency fourth-stringer Bryant. "That seems to be an area that's not good," D'Antoni said.