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First Cup: Thursday

3/27/2014
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Heat players felt Wednesday's game in Indiana was one that got away for far more than that. They had a late lead and couldn't hold it. Through all that might have gone wrong, they still felt they had it. And then they couldn't close. And that's something a championship team has to be able to do. That's why LeBron and Bosh were so sullen afterward. There simply won't be many opportunities for quality statement games the remainder of the season, save, perhaps for the game in Memphis and the visit by Indiana. This was moment they allowed to get away.

  • Cathal Kelly of the Toronto Star: “We don’t believe in that, taking days off, taking games off,” said DeRozan. “We’re going to finish it off strong.” That’s what you want a player (especially a 24-year-old player) to say, but it’s a terrible idea. Now that they’re finally back in the post-season, the Raptors will realistically finish anywhere from third to sixth in the East. There’s home court and momentum to consider, but the most crucial thing for this team right now is health. They need Lowry as close to fully fit as he can be after five months of basketball. They need DeRozan not just ready, but roaring. They need injured catalyst Patrick Patterson back to do CPR on the second unit. Ensuring that happens may be a little painful to watch, but for the first time in a long time, this team isn’t thinking about meaningful basketball in March. It must turn all of its thoughts to April.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: Knicks president Phil Jackson didn’t waste time before ruffling feathers. In remarks that were unZen-like, Jackson made no bones about his dislike for the roster, or in his belief this playoff push will have a happy ending. “We’re in a talent hunt,” Jacksonsaid to a New York Times reporter on his way out of Staples Center after the Knicks were humiliated by the Lakers 127-96. “We have to bring in talent." It was unclear if Jackson was referring to better players or talent evaluators, considering the question related to hiring new front-office personnel. But the message was exact. Jackson called the Knicks’ roster “clumsy" before the 2012-13 season, and it appears nothing has changed in his mind. The remark seemed ill-timed, certainly not a motivating remark as the Knicks still try to make a push for the playoffs as they faced the Kings Wednesday. Before the Knicks’ 107-99 bounce-back win over the Kings, coach Mike Woodson defended his team, but did not rip Jackson. Woodson said he’s aware Jackson is here to revamp after the season but also has said repeatedly he felt he had enough talent with which to win.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Mike Brown became the third coach in Cavaliers history to reach 300 victories. Whether he’ll be around long enough to become the all-time franchise leader remains to be seen. The Cavs’ victory against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night marked the milestone, although Brown didn’t have any idea until he called home before boarding the plane for the short flight to Detroit for Wednesday’s game against the Pistons. His son, Cameron, told him about the achievement. “I had no clue. You just kind of go out there and coach and work,” said Brown, who thanked owner Dan Gilbert for the opportunity and the Cleveland community for “putting up with me for this long.” “Longevity in this business isn’t a word that is used a lot,” Brown said. “To be able to have an opportunity to get something like that is special.” Brown’s all-time record with the Cavs entering Wednesday was 300-182 and 342-211 overall. He trails only Bill Fitch (304) and Lenny Wilkens (316) on the Cavs’ all-time list. Brown is only in the first season of a five-year contract, but given the upheaval already this season and the uncertain summer ahead, there are no assurances Brown will return beyond this season.

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: When Washington came downcourt, it looked like five-on-13 and it must have felt like it too amid a Suns scoring tsunami that continued when Bledsoe stole Trevor Ariza's pass and raced upcourt to give college buddy John Wall a ball-fake pass and fabulous, full-speed fastbreak reverse. The wave continued in the middle of the third quarter for a 25-point lead, the Suns' largest since the Dec.30 game in which Bledsoe hurt his knee. That bulk was appreciated later. After rallying from 20-plus deficits for three road wins this season, the Suns found the other end to be more advantageous when their lead disintegrated to three and they held on for a 99-93 victory at Verizon Center. ... As great as John Wall's 29 points and six assists were at times, especially during the Wizards' rally, the Suns' backcourt was twice as nice. Dragic finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Bledsoe tallied 23 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. The Suns are 19-7 when they start together this season, including a 7-1 mark since Bledsoe returned to the starting lineup on March 14. "It's much easier for me to play with him," Dragic said.

  • Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: Somewhere near and far, New Orleans Pelicans guards Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts sat and watched Wednesday's game unfold, recovering from their individual ailments. Somehow, the Pelicans made due without their services. With just two backcourt players available and the surging Los Angeles Clippers in town, the Pelicans pieced together a backcourt and scratched and clawed their way to their second major upset in five days. After beating the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on Saturday, the Pelicans knocked off the Clippers on Wednesday, winning 98-96 before 16,363 fans at the Smoothie King Center. "We've got a great group of guys who continue to compete at a high level with a number of things against us," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "No Eric, no Austin, no B-Rob, Tyreke (Evans) steps up and plays point guard for the majority of the game."

  • Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press: It has seemed for some time that the chances of Rick Adelman, 67, returning to coach the Wolves after three playoff-less seasons are remote, despite a $20 million, four-year contract. The deal includes opt-out clauses for both parties, and Adelman's wife, Mary Kay, has had health issues that caused the future hall of fame coach to miss 11 games. Depending on how Michigan State does in the NCAA tournament, it wouldn't be surprising if coach Tom Izzo were to consider a new challenge with an offer from the Wolves. Insiders say Izzo, 59, could have had the Wolves' job six years ago that ended up going to Kurt Rambis. Iowa State is coached by Fred Hoiberg, 41, the popular former Wolves' shooting guard and front office player personnel executive. Saunders is close to Izzo and Hoiberg. Wolves owner Glen Taylor admires both. Then there's Saunders, 59, who was a head coach in the NBA for 16 years and has a 638-526 career record. Just as he wouldn't address Adelman's status this week, neither would Saunders say whether he would consider returning to the bench.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Leave it to Gregg Popovich to sum up the reason for Patty Mills’ breakout season in crystal-clear terms. Or more specifically, why Mills struggled to secure a consistent role during his first four NBA seasons: “He was a little fat ass. He had too much junk in the trunk. His decision making wasn’t great, and he wasn’t in great shape. He changed his entire body. He came back svelte and cut and understood you have to make better decisions, point-guard type decisions. He did all those things better and he earned it. He’s been real important to us, obviously.” The difference in Mills’ physique was immediately noticeable at training camp. Mills has put his new-found abs and endurance to good use, averaging 9.8 points in a career-high 18.5 minutes. Coming on 40.8-percent accuracy, Mills has more than doubled his previous career high for 3-pointers to 111. For the stat geeks, his 18.4 Player Efficiency Rating — 15.0 is average — is also a career-high, while his plus 3.2 Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus ranks 21st in the entire NBA. Not surprisingly, Mills’ career season is coming as his contract is set to expire this summer, setting himself up for a nice little payday.

  • Richard Walker of the Gaston Gazette: The Charlotte Bobcats got the expected – and the unexpected – in edging Brooklyn 116-111 in overtime Wednesday night at a frenzied Time Warner Cable Arena. And while Al Jefferson (35 points) and Kemba Walker (20) did much of the damage for the Bobcats (35-37), it was a crazy bounce and long-range jumper from reserve Chris Douglas-Roberts that wrapped up the victory. Douglas-Roberts, a December signee from the D-League, hit a long two-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded with 43 seconds left in overtime after Brooklyn's Mason Plumlee blocked Josh McRoberts’ drive to the basket. “Let’s face it, it was a lucky shot,” said Douglas-Roberts, who scored five of his 16 points in overtime. ... Charlotte remains in seventh place in the Eastern Conference but Clifford said the continued improvement has pleased him. “We’re definitely playing better,” Clifford said. “We’re not that far away. Tonight, we played low-turnover, inside-out basketball. I feel like we’re making progress."

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies began a five-game road trip a bit wobbly. But they found their bearings late and earned a 91-87 comeback victory over the Utah Jazz Wednesday night in EnergySolutions Arena. The Western Conference worst Jazz were in control most of the night and looked as if they would upset a quality opponent at home for the first time since beating the Miami Heat on Feb. 8. The Griz wouldn’t hear of it. Down by as many as 16 points in the second half, the Griz closed with a strong defensive effort while Jazz crumbled down the stretch. Mike Miller tied the score at 84 with a corner 3-pointer with 2:58 left in the game. Miller later converted a technical free throw that gave the Grizzlies their first lead since 11:10 remained in the first quarter. Zach Randolph and Mike Conley added clutch baskets as the Griz finished the game on a 14-3 run after trailing by five with four minutes left.