First Cup: Wednesday
March, 19, 2014
By Nick Borges
- Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: Nothing is certain yet, but the Heat is hoping Greg Oden can be permanent fixture in its starting lineup. Oden started for the second game in a row on Tuesday in Cleveland, and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra would like Oden to remain in that position for the team’s push to the playoffs. With Oden playing the first six minutes or so of the first and third quarters, the Heat can theoretically address a number of concerns, including a potential matchup with Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs. “There are a lot of different layers to it, but it cleans up some of the things with our rotation,” Spoelstra said. “It also guarantees we can get those minutes. I really like what he has been doing the last month or so.” Oden played well defensively in his seven minutes in the first quarter and helped create some of the transition situations that led to LeBron James’ big first quarter. James had 25 points in the first 12 minutes of the game. That was a good sign, considering the Heat doesn’t want to disrupt the team’s rhythm by inserting Oden into the starting lineup.
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: LeBron James had two blocks Tuesday before he ever stepped on the court. As expected, James dismissed a question about his future prior to Tuesday’s game against the Cavs, then swatted down thoughts of watching his old Cavs jersey rise up next to Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ one day. James, of course, returned to Quicken Loans Arena recently for Ilgauskas’ ceremony. “It’s not for me to really be concerned about or to even think about,” James said. “It’s something we all as professional athletes dream about is to be able to have your jersey retired in any building with any franchise you played for. That means you were able to be successful both on and off the floor. So we’ll see.” James remains the Cavs’ all-time scoring leader and provided the franchise with its best seasons in team history, but his exit strategy four years ago has left open the question when — or if — the team will one day retire his jersey. As for his intentions this summer, James was asked directly if he wants to play for the Cavs again. “For right now, it’s too hard for me to think about,” he said. “There’s 20 or less games until we gear up for no-sleep two months, hopefully. For me to try to take my mind somewhere else when I know what’s on the way is almost impossible.”
- Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Mark Jackson said before the game, which opened a five-game homestand at Oracle Arena, that Iguodala would miss a minimum of three games with right knee tendinitis. Bogut could return sooner after tweaking his surgically repaired left ankle, but that seems like folly as the Warriors have five days off between Saturday's game against San Antonio and a March 28 game against Memphis. It's reminiscent of Popovich, who regularly rests San Antonio's starters, to the NBA's dismay. "It's crazy, because we probably looked at the schedule when it was handed out and said, 'Why in the world would we have a five-day break at the end of the year?' You look now, and it's much-needed," Jackson said. "We're a no-excuse team, but we've got guys who have been beaten up. We've been trying to mix and match, create lineups, play guys extended minutes, go longer with different groups. There's a method to the madness, but now I think it's important for us to do whatever we can to continue to win and get to that extended break where we can recover."
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: If Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris ever needs inspiration, he never has to look outside his own family. His 90-year-old grandfather, Lt. Col. John Mulzac, is a role model. In 1942, when the armed forces were segregated, Mulzac joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He became one of America's first black military pilots, a group known as the Tuskegee Airmen. "He always told us as kids that we could do anything in this world if we put our mind to it," Harris said, a smile on his face. "He's been definitely an inspiration to me, and I love him to death." On Wednesday night, Mulzac plans to turn on his TV in the Brooklyn, N.Y., home he shares with his wife of 67 years and watch the Magic face the Phoenix Suns in Phoenix. Two of John and Beatrice Mulzac's grandsons will play in the game: Harris and Suns power forward Channing Frye. "The most important things that I do have is my wife, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and all my family," Mulzac told the British Broadcasting Corporation several years ago.
- Erik Gundersen of The Columbian: Although Dorell Wright's small-ball power forward play has made the Blazers move a little faster, nobody gets the Blazers going fast like Mo Williams. Without Aldridge, Williams has been been key to the Blazers' scoring success. "Especially with LaMarcus being out and playing the style of ball that we're playing, Mo thrives in those situations," Stotts said. "Uptempo and driving and I think it helps us with our offense." In the six games that Williams has played without Aldridge, he's averaging 15.5 points a game and he's doing so more efficiently than he has most of the season. In addition to a six-point bump in his per game scoring, Williams is shooting 50 percent from the field, up from 40 percent and he's shooting 47 percent from the 3-point line.
- Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova has struggled with a right ankle injury since October. Bucks coach Larry Drew said Tuesday that the power forward would not play on back-to-back nights the rest of the season. Ilyasova returned to the starting lineup Tuesday as the Bucks opened their four-game western road trip. The Bucks have three sets of back-to-back games remaining, meaning Ilyasova will sit out at least three more games the rest of the way. The next games on back-to-back nights are Sunday and Monday as the Bucks play at Sacramento and in Los Angeles against the Clippers. "This thing has been all year," Drew said of Ilyasova's struggles with the ankle. "Whatever he has to do to get it at 100%, whatever he has to do over the summer to get his ankle ready, he's got to do it."
- Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The aggressive Jeff Teague was on full display Tuesday night. The Hawks point guard scored a career- and game-high 34 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, and Paul Millsap had a triple-double in a 118-113 overtime victory over the Raptors at Philips Arena. DeMarre Carroll scored on a back-door cut to give the Hawks a 111-109 lead after Pero Antic and John Salmons traded 3-pointers to start the extra period. Kyle Korver hit a free throw after an off-the-ball foul with 14.6 seconds and Teague hit two free throws with 14.1 seconds left to ice it. He added two more free throws in between Raptors baskets. Teague scored nine straight fourth-quarter points before Korver hit a 3-pointer with 1:26 left to give the Hawks a 106-104 lead. The score remained until Kyle Lowry drove for a layup to tie the game with 8.1 seconds left. Millsap missed an isolation play at the end of regulation to force overtime. The Hawks (31-35, 20-11 home) won their season-high fifth straight game. They hadn’t won five straight since the first month on last season. They won six in a row Nov. 16-28 as part of a 20-10 run to start the 2012-13 campaign.
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: Speed killed the Raptors for the second time in three days. On Sunday it was the tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Tuesday it was all Jeff Teague who scored 34 in a series of blurry drives past and through Raptor defenders. When he wasn’t laying one in after a daring dash through the paint, he was cashing in freebies from the free thrown line. The combination of Teague’s aggressive attacks on the basket and the versatility of Paul Millsap, who enjoyed the first triple-double of his career, helped the Atlanta Hawks stave off a desperate and undermanned Raptors squad for a 118-113 overtime win. “He lived in the paint tonight,” Kyle Lowry said of Teague. “He got layups and free throws. You have a quick guy like that, it’s hard for the bigs to try and help me and it’s hard for me to try to figure out where he’s going. We tried to change our coverage a little and it worked (to a degree) but he lived in the paint too much tonight. It’s my fault."
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Michael Malone said he might consider giving point guard Isaiah Thomas more rest over the final month of the season, similarly to how he rested DeMarcus Cousins against Minnesota on Sunday. Cousins, who was back in the Kings’ lineup against the Wizards, had been nursing a sore knee and “could’ve played (at Minnesota), but I didn’t see why he should,” Malone said. “He’d been ... giving us all he had, and I think his body needed a little bit of rest.” Thomas leads the Kings in minutes this season (he’d played 2,333 before Tuesday), and has been playing through an injury to his left wrist. Malone said he believes the wrist is “bothering (Thomas) a lot more than I think he’ll ever admit, because that’s the kind of kid he is. He’s a warrior.” “We have to continue to see (guards) Ray (McCallum) and Ben (McLemore) play a lot more, so there may be some nights where maybe we should start Ray,” Malone said. “We’ll kind of address that as we move forward."
- Michael Lee of The Washington Post: An 82 percent free throw shooter entering the game, Wall casually stepped to the line and missed the first, then the second — and after Kings forward Rudy Gay made a baseline floater over Trevor Ariza, the Wizards were suddenly, stunningly, heading to overtime against a lottery-bound team that was energized by a raucous crowd at Sleep Train Arena. In the extra frame, the Wizards continued to crumble as Gay heard chants of “Rudy! Rudy!” and the Kings pulled out a 117-111 victory. “Every game means a lot to us,” a dejected Wall said afterward, “and those free throws, I feel like cost us the game.” A four-game road trip that Wall said would “define our season” got off to a rough start as the Wizards squandered a five-point lead with 24 seconds remaining and lost in Sacramento for the fourth straight time. Wall had a miserable night, scoring just four points outside of a 10-point second quarter and missing four free throws overall. He had to watch the final seconds from the bench after fouling out.