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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: The only thing rarer than a Pistons road win in the last two months was a road win in Salt Lake City — and a swagger-filled performance from Brandon Jennings. Who knows where the confidentpoint guard has been for the several weeks, but his persona made a cameo appearance Monday night against the Utah Jazz, with an efficient showing in the Pistons’ multiple streak-breaking 114-94 win. The Pistons ended their four-game Western road trip with one win, although they were competitive in each contest, with a chance to win at least two of three prior games. Jennings hit three triples on his way to 15 points and eight assists in 30 minutes, helping the Pistons snap their five-game losing streak, 13-game road losing skid and helped them win in Utah’s building for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: Heat coach Erik Spoelestra said something that was small and quiet but it distilled this thing to its essence Monday night as his slumping, angry, searching champions set out looking for answers and a needed victory. It can be easy to lose sight of what he said. It can be easy to forget the fundamental lesson in it as Miami takes these occasional detours from excellence to fallibility that are the stuff of human nature, but, evidently, thoroughly unacceptable. “We’re not above having to work for it,” Spoelstra reminded. How much presumptuousness and gall does it take to think a third consecutive Heat championship — which would be the stuff of legends, of dynasties, of history — might happen without struggle or sweat? Without questions or doubt? Monday’s 93-91 home victory over the Portland Trail Blazers led by LeBron James’ 32 points didn’t change anything about this ongoing narrative. Neither did the seven losses in 11 previous games that turned up the angst and made Monday seem bigger than it was.

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: Say it with me: M-V-P! M-V-P! On the day that three-time MVP Magic Johnson proclaimed the race over, Durant further stated his case for the top individual honor handed out by the association. He didn’t have a monster night in a 117-96 win against Denver, not by his standards anyway.He didn’t have a triple-double or even a double-double. He had a night that reminded you how effortless he makes everything seem. ... Durant’s 25-plus-point games streak now stands at 35. Five more, and he will tie Michael Jordan’s mark of 40 consecutive games with 25-plus, which is the longest such streak of the past 50 years. These are historic days, amazing days, awe-inspiring days. Now, I’m sure that everyone is going to be giddy for these next couple days about the game-winner that LeBron James hit Monday night. Think ESPN will slobber over it much? ... It’s easy to get lulled by the ease with which Durant does what he does, but don’t be fooled like Darrell Arthur was. It’s not every day you see a player who can change another player’s high tops into roller skates. “I felt good,” Durant said of the play. “I felt like I was back at the park back home.” Right now, he’s making the NBA look like his own personal playground.

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: Jimmy Butler's string of playing 45 minutes or more ended at four games, but not by choice. Early foul trouble dropped Butler to 32 minutes and robbed him of his full commitment in a high-profile matchup against Paul George."I enjoy going against him," George said. "He makes me better." George finished with 21 points after posting his second career triple-double against Butler on Friday in Indianapolis. "He's a great defender," George said. "He's good with his feet, his hands. He knows team defense as well as being a great on-ball defender. He's physical. What makes him tough is he's not a back-down kind of player." Butler drew two fouls in the first 6 minutes, 5 seconds, sat and then picked up his third matched against Evan Turner early in the second quarter. "We dodged a bullet with Jimmy's foul trouble," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Memphis’ 109-92 victory Monday night accounted for its 10th straight in FedExForum, and perhaps sent a message to the teams floating around them in the Western Conference standings. The Grizzlies look like a team that’s moved beyond simply trying to make the playoffs to one seeking to steal a higher seed that didn’t seem possible two months ago. ... The Griz improved to 42-28, ensuring that they will finish with a winning record for a fourth consecutive season. That, however, is something the Griz expect to make a footnote in this campaign. Memphis sits a half game ahead of Phoenix in the seventh spot and remains within striking distance of the fifth and sixth seeds. The Griz are just 2 games back from fifth place. ... The Griz improved to 31-3 when leading after three quarters while the Timberwolves fell to 3-24 when they trail at the start of the fourth. Minnesota entered the game averaging 106.5 points, fourth-most in the NBA. This was the 11th straight game that the Timberwolves allowed their opponent to score 100-plus points.

  • Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: Almost lost in the meteoric rise to the game of New Orleans Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis has been the almost simultaneous surge of swingman Tyreke Evans. Evans couldn't have been overlooked on Monday. Since being inserted into the starting lineup on Feb. 28, Evans has emerged as the Pelicans' second-best player, giving the team a lift with his aggressive and attacking style of play. But he was even better as he helped the Pelicans to a 109-104 overtime victory against the Brooklyn Nets at the Smoothie King Center. Evans scored a season-high 33 points, just two off his career high, and had 10 rebounds and seven assists, helping the Pelicans win for the fourth time in their last five games. ... The performance continued a string of strong games since he was promoted to the starting lineup. Heading into Monday's game, Evans was averaging 21.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.7 assists in his 10 games as a starter. Those statistics dwarf his season averages of 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

  • Robert Morales of the Los Angeles Daily News: Clippers guard Jamal Crawford was all smiles at the Monday morning shoot-around ahead of the night’s game against the Milwuakee Bucks at Staples Center. No one could blame him because on Saturday, he played 32-plus minutes in a victory over the Detroit Pistons after having missed eight of the previous nine games with a strained left calf muscle. Crawford sustained the injury Feb. 26 after playing 16 minutes against the Houston Rockets. He tried to come back March 8 against Atlanta, but he was done after 10 minutes because the injury was not healed. It therefore made one wonder how Crawford’s calf would feel after playing so many minutes Saturday. He proclaimed himself fine and dandy. “Good, good,” he said. “Actually, I think the day of rest (Sunday) was great and I feel good again today, so I’m excited to get back out there.” Crawford admitted he was curious as to how he would respond to so much playing time. “Yeah, for sure,” he said.

  • Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Monday said jersey ads are inevitable in the next couple of years for the league. “Because we have a WNBA and a development league and we have already begun selling jersey ads in our other leagues, I said last week that I believe it is inevitable that it will come to United States major sports leagues,” he said. “It is widespread, and increasingly our marketing partners are always looking for opportunities to get closer to the game.” Silver also spoke about the issue of the minimum age in the NBA. He said the league is always trying to strike a balance between giving young players a chance and getting experienced players into the league. “I have heard from players who have said that a young man should have a right to earn a living at 18 and others who have said we would be a better league if players have more experience, life experience and playing experience before they come into the league, and so I am sensitive to both sides,” Silver said.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: After the losses, Goran Dragic's sides hurt a little more and the exhaustion of nine months of consecutive international and NBA basketball was weighing on his legs a little more. With the Suns enjoying a 6-1 stretch, Dragic's results are back to the norm of his outstanding season by no coincidence. He is shooting 53.8 percent overall and 46.2 percent on 3-pointers over the past seven games with averages of 18.1 points and 4.7 assists. The team success makes him feel emotionally better but the physical wear and tear still exists and makes him consider not playing for his Slovenian national team this September at the World Cup in Spain. "Sometimes, it is too many games," Dragic said. "I still have to sit down with my national team and talk with them about making a decision if I'm going to play or not. I'm thinking more toward not playing and trying to get my body some rest to be fresher for the next season."

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Haunted hotels aren’t exactly uncommon on the NBA circuit. The Skirvin Hilton in Oklahoma City is particularly infamous, with Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries and ESPN’s Bill Simmons all alleging brushes with the ghost of the maid who is said to have jumped to her death from the 10th floor while holding her baby. In Berkely, Calif., the Claremont Resort is supposedly haunted by multiple spirits, including one of a 6-year-old girl who apparently died in the hotel. ... As luck would have it, the Spurs stayed at the Claremont during their recent trip to play Golden State. We’ll let Jeff Ayres and Tim Duncan take it from there ... Ayres: “You get in at whatever time. I took my room key. I could hear stuff in the hallway, like people in their rooms. So I’m thinking people are watching TV or whatever. So I get to my door, and my key doesn’t work, but it sounds like there’s somebody in my room. Like I hear a little baby, not crying but making noise. I’m like, ‘What the heck?’ I keep trying my key and it doesn’t work. So I go downstairs to get a new key, and I tell them (somebody’s in the room). ... Creepy. I really heard voices and a baby in the room, and there wasn’t anybody in there. It was crazy.” ... Duncan: “I heard a baby in his room. There was somebody or something in his room, yeah. I definitely heard something. It wasn’t creepy, because I assumed it was really somebody in the room, and they gave him the wrong room. But when they told me the story the next day about calling up there and no one in the room, it’s at that point you get chills. I totally agreed with him. There was a baby there, absolutely. I heard about the history of the place, and I’d rather not (stay there again).”