First Cup: Tuesday

  • Richard Walker of the Gaston Gazette: In the NBA, defending your home court means an awful lot. For much of the Charlotte Bobcats’ history, that’s been a hope instead of reality. Not lately. In fact, on Monday, the Bobcats downed Denver 105-98 for their seventh straight home victory in front of 14,312 at Time Warner Cable Arena. The seven-game winning streak is tied for second-longest in franchise history and only two shy of the team record set from Dec. 2009 to Jan. 2010. “It’s certainly been great since I’ve been here,” said Gary Neal, a Feb. 20 trade acquisition along with Luke Ridnour who has seen only victories in his five Bobcats home games. “It’s important to protect your home court, especially with the standings the way they are.” Charlotte (30-34) remained in seventh place of the Eastern Conference. The Bobcats are three games behind Brooklyn (32-30) and 3 1-2 games behind Washington (33-30). Charlotte visits Washington in its next game on Wednesday.

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Dwyane Wade played in both games of a back-to-back for the first time since Jan. 4 and 5. The guard said the fact Miami had lost three games in a row played no part in his decision-making process; he just felt healthy enough to play Monday. “I played a lot of minutes [in Sunday’s loss to the Bulls],” Wade said before the game. “I came in [Monday], got a good workout in, and felt good enough to give it a shot. We’ll see how the game goes and see how I progress.” Wade played 40 minutes during the overtime loss to Chicago, the most he’s played all season. He scored 25 points and added four assists and five rebounds. On Monday, Wade played 33 minutes 27 seconds and scored 22 points in the Heat’s 99-90 victory over the Wizards. Coach Erik Spoelstra said Wade passed all the protocols before being allowed to play. “He has to go through a series of things with his routine,” the Heat coach said. “Once he is able to do that, he is able to play and each day is different.” Center Greg Oden sat out Monday night’s game to rest his knees after playing nine minutes in the loss to the Bulls Sunday afternoon

  • Scott Cacciola of The New York Times: The specter of Phil Jackson — iconic coach, spiritual guru and the latest boldface name to draw the attention of the owner James L. Dolan — loomed over the proceedings as the Knicks escaped with a 123-110 victory to boost their push for a playoff spot. The Knicks (25-40) overcame a sloppy start to win their fourth in a row. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 28 points, Amar’e Stoudemire added 23, and Carmelo Anthony and J. R. Smith each finished with 22. “Guys were sharing tonight and trusting one another,” Anthony said. The Knicks are in no position to be picky about their wins. They all count the same, even when they come against the Sixers, a ragtag collection of prospects, fringe players and Development League call-ups that has lost 17 straight. “We’re fighting,” Knicks Coach Mike Woodson said. “That’s a good sign from a coaching standpoint. I’m happy as hell." Still, the game felt a bit like background noise as Jackson continued to weigh an offer to join, or even head, the Knicks’ front office. The team’s pursuit of Jackson, 68, has become an extended process, rife with intrigue.

  • Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post: He staggered the final few steps to the free-throw line, looking like Jimmy Brown from back in the day after four or five Giants piled on him. He had the black support tape on his aching shoulder, he had a look on his face that said: I’m too old for this ... And here is where the crowd at Barclays Center perked up. “PAUL PIERCE!” “PAUL PIERCE!” He made the first shot which is all he had to do, nudging the Nets out to a 101-97 lead over Toronto, the Raptors out of timeouts. They were going to win, and they were going to slice a game off the lead in the Atlantic, and even that didn’t matter as much as this: The Nets were going to close out a statement game. And Paul Pierce was going to get them there. He would do this knowing he’d probably need a whole pile of Advil to sleep afterward, knowing he’s not 25 anymore, knowing he’d been given the option to take the night off. Knowing he’d said: No, thank you. “We have 20 games to go,” he would say later. “Every game is big for us, moving up the standings.”

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: With Jamal Crawford out again because of a strained left calf and J.J. Redick still out because of a bulging disk in his lower back, the Clippers are missing a big part of their offense. Crawford is the reserve shooting guard who became the starter when Redick went down. Redick is the starting shooting guard when he's healthy. Together, they average a combined 34.4 points per game for the Clippers. Crawford, considered one of the leading candidates for the NBA's sixth-man-of-the-year award, is second on the team in scoring, averaging 18.7 points. Redick is fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 15.7 points. He is shooting 45.9% from the field, 39.6% from three-point range and 91.4% from the free-throw line. "I think missing him [Crawford] and J.J. [is big]," Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. "It's funny. We're still scoring points, but you feel like scoring is much harder. And I really feel like down the stretch of games, scoring becomes really hard for us because [opponents] are taking stuff away because they know guys aren't there. So, it's not something I want to get used to."

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Remember us? The Hawks needed an 8-0 run – with the points coming from former Jazz players Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll – to pull out a 112-110 victory Monday night. Fellow ex-Jazz Paul Millsap added 23 points in his return to EnergySolutions Arena. It was a victory – but it sure didn’t come easily. The Hawks lost a 17-point first half lead before a rally in the final three minutes. The Hawks (27-35, 10-24 road) snapped a six-game losing streak and won for only the second time in the past 16 games. It was their sixth straight win over the lowly Jazz. The Hawks finished 1-4 on their western road trip. Korver finished with a game-high 26 points, including three 3-pointers. Millsap also had eight rebounds in his first game in Utah after season seasons. Carroll chipped in with 11 points.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Right now Nate Wolters is the opening act and Ramon Sessions is in the closer role. Bucks coach Larry Drew has stuck with Wolters in the starting lineup and is bringing Sessions off the bench and using him in the fourth quarter. Sessions was part of a small-ball lineup that brought the Bucks back in the fourth quarter Monday as they defeated the Orlando Magic, 105-98, at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. The 6-foot-3 Sessions actually is averaging a bit more playing time (about 24 minutes a game) with Milwaukee than he was in Charlotte, where he was the primary backup at point guard to Kemba Walker. "I really didn't know what my role was going to be when I got here," said Sessions, acquired at the trade deadline in a deal with the Bobcats.

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Whether it’s a lack of playing time in the fourth quarter or the reality that his contract could be amnestied this summer, there seems to be a disconnect lately between Carlos Boozer and the media. Case in point: Asked to talk to awaiting reporters after a recent practice, Boozer declined and said loudly, “I don’t give a damn.’’ Tom Thibodeau was asked on Monday if he thought Boozer was less engaged because of his diminished role. The Bulls coach defended his power forward but also made it obvious who is calling the shots on minutes in crunch time.“We’re at the time of the year where we need everyone at their best,’’ Thibodeau said. “We have to put maximum work into it. Everyone has a job to do. You have to put the team first. … If you play well, you’re going to play.’’