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First Cup: Monday

3/17/2014
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: The Spurs (50-16) couldn’t quite duplicate Friday’s record-setting conquest of the Lakers on Sunday against another Western Conference bottom feeder. All they did this time out was enjoy their best shooting night in more than three years, hitting 62.8 percent from the floor to crush the Jazz for their 10th straight victory and 13th in 14th dating back to Feb. 12. Indeed, it’s been so long since the Spurs lost — at Phoenix on Feb. 21 — that Tony Parker said he couldn’t remember. The triumph also extended their NBA record for consecutive 50-win seasons to 15 — starting two years before Parker arrived in 2001. Not that he or Gregg Popovich were particularly impressed. Said the coach: “I don’t really care, to be honest with you. It’s better than losing 50, I guess. But we’re thinking of other things.” ... Manu Ginobili won his only Sixth Man of the Year award in 2008. Continue his strong play, and the veteran from Argentina might have a shot at a bookend. Ginobili surpassed 20 off the bench for the third time in five games with 21 on 8-for-11 shooting to pace yet another strong outing for the reserves.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: By the time the upcoming Dallas Mavericks’ home stand ends, their wives, significant others, dogs, cats and pretty much everybody else will be ready to kick them out of their houses. An eight-game home stand in the NBA is pretty much unheard of. “This home stand is an opportunity, but it can also be dangerous,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “It’s the longest home stand I’ve ever had. And sometimes at home you think you can just show up and roll. It’s a good schedule. We play every other day and hopefully we can keep rolling.” The Mavericks do have a unique opportunity. If they can take care of business, take the proverbial one game at a time, and do some damage with six or more wins on this stand, then they might actually be in a position where they don’t have to sweat out making the playoffs in the final week or two of the season. Nowitzki isn’t planning on it. “We’re fighting for our lives to get in and then we can talk about the playoffs when we get in,” he said.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Now that the Heat is back on track with Sunday's win against Houston, let's take a minute to acknowledge something remarkable that has gone somewhat under-the-radar regarding LeBron James and Dwyane Wade: Wade is poised to post the highest shooting percentage by any shooting guard in the past 29 years and the highest of any starting shooting guard since the NBA implemented the three-point shot in 1979-80. Wade is shooting 55.1 percent from the field --– something Michael Jordan never did over a full season. Jordan’s high: 53.9 in 1990-91. And if he stays above 54 percent, it would be the highest by a shooting guard since Atlanta backup Mike Glenn shot 58.8 in 1984-85. The highest field-goal accuracy by a starting shooting guard in the three-point era was Otis Birdsong, at 54.5 percent in 1980-81. What’s more, Wade is on pace to lead all shooting guard in accuracy for the fifth time in the past six seasons. (He was beaten out by Wilson Chandler in 2009-2010). Wade has topped 50 percent only once before – 52.1 last season. Shooting 54 percent, let alone 55, “is something I’ve never done before, so it would be great,” he said. “I take pride in my field-goal percentage, have always cared about it. I was 49.6 percent in college. I wanted to be at 50. I try to take good shots.”

  • Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: The improvement of Blake Griffin is one of the biggest keys to the Clippers this season, and perhaps the most overlooked of his skills has been ballhandling, whether it’s in the halfcourt game or storming down the court on a break. “I think clearly he’s running the floor better and he’s handling the ball more, so he’s improved,” Rivers said. “Just his overall confidence in his game. His shot, his ability to face the basket instead of always just trying to play physical with the bigs, turn your back to a bigger, stronger guy. And he’s still going to keep getting better. I don’t think he’s where he wants to be yet at all.” Rivers has put the ball in Griffin’s hands more, hoping the primary beneficiary will be Paul. “I just think he’s good at it and he takes some pressure off of Chris,” Rivers said. “You don’t want Chris handling the ball every possession, all game. I don’t know how you’d physically go through a game, a year and definitely the playoffs like that. I think it’s important there is more than one facilitator on your team.”

  • Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: Anthony Davis, playing a career-high 48 minutes, scored a career-high 40 points and had a career-high 21 rebounds, marking the first time in franchise history anyone has ever reached that statistical feat. He also had three blocks, making him only the eighth player in NBA history to have at least 40 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks in a game. "When you go for those kind of numbers that's a lot of God given talent," Williams said. And maybe even more important, Davis didn't have any mental lapses down the stretch. In fact, in the closing seconds of the game, Davis had the ball and an open lane to the basket. But instead, he pulled the ball out and passed to Anthony Morrow, who passed to Brian Roberts, as the Celtics tried to foul in an attempt to stop the clock. It was a heady play, and the Pelicans ran out the clock to snap their two-game losing streak. ... Immediately after the final buzzer, Davis looked to Williams and pointed his right index finger at his head, acknowledging to his coach he knew he had made the smart choice.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Ramon Sessions enjoyed being a Charlotte Bobcat in the 1 1/2 seasons before being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks last month. He’d love to be one again, too. Sessions said if the Bobcats were interested in signing him this summer, he’d certainly be receptive to it. Sessions grew up in Myrtle Beach and enjoyed playing in the NBA city closest to his hometown. Gary Neal let it be known he wasn’t happy with his situation as a Milwaukee Bucks. The crowd didn’t take kindly to that, heckling the now-Bobcat whenever he was on the floor. There was a fairly constant chant of “Gaaaaaa-ry…Gaaaaaa-ry.” ... The Bobcats’ 14 road victories this season is a franchise record.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns won two-thirds of their games with Eric Bledsoe before his knee surgery. They won have two of three since he returned. Bledsoe was not the star of Sunday's 121-113 Suns win at Toronto, but his presence has playoff hopes flickering stronger for teammates. "With 'Bled' back, it's given a spark to everybody," power forward Markieff Morris said. "He's playing his role again and starting to roll again." Bledsoe has averaged 15.3 points, 5.7 assists and 5.7 rebounds in his three games back while making 39.4 percent of his shots and 86.4 percent of his free throws. His on-ball defense to hound point guards or get over screens has a ripple effect for a defense that winds up scrambling to help less. "Having Eric in is a whole other dynamic," forward P.J. Tucker said. "He's so good on the ball that the weak side doesn't have to help as much, so it's a lot of one-on-one defense and pull over on pick-and-rolls."

  • Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle: How well the Warriors do depends on how all the players handle the emotional ups and downs, and in that department this team is set up beautifully, maybe the most mature team in the NBA. If you're a nervous fan right now, it might help you to know that these guys feel your anxiety, but they're staying cool, even when the roller coaster drops into a dip. "You're not going to have a perfect NBA season," Bogut said. "Look at the Indiana Pacers. They're riding high for four months, they're the best team in the league, and all the sudden they've lost three straight and everyone's in crisis mode down there." Every game now is a thrill ride for the Warriors, but in the locker room there's no crisis.

  • Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: Jokes flew as the crush of reporters half-circled around Timberwolves rookie Gorgui Dieng -- the surprisingly key player in Sunday's 104-102 win over Sacramento. "Yeah, G, talk to that media!" said teammate Chase Budinger. "I don't speak English," deadpanned Dieng, a native of Senegal. As Dieng spoke with ease and fluency about his first NBA start and his career highs of 12 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, assistant coach Jack Sikma walked by and chimed in, "He's got to listen to me tomorrow, so take it easy." Wolves starter Nikola Pekovic was ruled out before the game and -- with backup Ronny Turiaf also sidelined -- Dieng was slated to match up against Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins. However, Cousins didn't play because of right knee tendinitis and Aaron Gray started opposite Dieng. "We didn't have our big guy playing either, so maybe they were trying to be fair," said Wolves coach Rick Adelman, who also was in a joking mood.