First Cup: Monday

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: There are fast starts ... and then there was what the Hawks did to the Pacers. The Hawks held the Pacers to a record-low 23 first-half points. The Pacers shot a meager 20 percent (7 of 35) through two quarters, including 0 of 7 from 3-point range. The Hawks had more assists (11) and as many 3-pointers (7) as the Pacers had field goals. “I wouldn’t say surprised,” Paul Millsap said of the Hawks’ start. “It was something that we needed to do. Come out aggressive. I feel like we were the more aggressive team. We played our style. We forced them to play our style of basketball. That’s what really helped us get up.” The Hawks scored 33 points in the first quarter alone. They shot 66.7 percent from the field (14 of 21) in the first quarter. The Pacers managed just 11 points in the first quarter and 12 in the second. “It was our activity,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We came in with a good focus. I think we caught them on an off night. They had a tough travel schedule and a tough day. They are a very, very good team. As many games as we play sometimes you just have a half like that. I think we participated in it some but I think we caught them on a rough night.”

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: By the time the Rockets noticed that Denver was blowing them off the floor, the mystery was not how the Nuggets did it. The Nuggets were playing harder, much harder. The question was how the Rockets managed not to pick up on that before there were just three minutes left and they had sleep-walked their way from a 17-point halftime lead to a 14-point second-half hole. Sure, the Rockets were asleep to start the game, too. But they were terrific in the second quarter, hitting the boards, forcing turnovers, scoring more than they have in the second quarter in franchise history and seemed to have called it a night. Finally, when the Rockets got around to playing with energy and desperation for the final three minutes, they rallied all the way back through a suddenly frantic comeback to force overtime, and then surged past the Nuggets, 130-125.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Before leaving Sunday's game against the Grizzlies during the first quarter, Tony Parker appeared to be on his way to one of his best games of the season. Monday morning the All-Star point guard will be on his way to get an MRI exam after back spasms forced him to miss most of the Spurs' 112-92 home victory. Parker has missed 12 games this season, including five because of coach Gregg Popovich-mandated rest to allow various nagging injuries to heal. Parker made all four shots he attempted and scored 10 points before departing. “Hopefully, we get Tony back going as soon as possible, 100 percent,” said Cory Joseph, who started the second half in Parker's place. “If I do have to step in I'll be ready. I'll be focused.” Joseph, the third-year guard from Texas, has started 18 games this season, including the games that Parker has missed, with Patty Mills sticking to his off-the-bench role. “He did a great job defensively,” Popovich said of Joseph. "He put a lot of pressure on and took some time off the clock for them (the Grizzlies) to run an offense. That's what he does. He does that really well and he was good for us."

  • Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: Lacob told me in February that he was generally happy with Jackson's performance but that he was disappointed by some of the home losses. I also believe that Lacob would view a first-round loss as a sign that the team isn't moving forward, which is death in the venture-capitalist universe. "That's not my call," Jackson said when I asked him if a first-round loss this season should be considered a step backward. Jackson then pointed to the depth of the Western Conference and said that there will be many good teams with good coaches who won't make it past the first round this year. Meanwhile, team sources salute the locker-room attitude, but they point to some problems with Jackson's game management. There is also some concern that Jackson and his staff haven't been able to halt Harrison Barnes' struggles this season. But really, it will all be answered by the results in April and May, and everybody knows it. By the way, Jackson said he feels no tension with Warriors management. "There is no friction at all," Jackson said. "If it's friction, maybe it's friction when I leave the body and I'm departed and other stuff is being said. I humbly submit to you, if you've got a problem with me as a person, then it's your problem. I'm low-maintenance."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Suns guard Goran Dragic is a music video star. Klemen Slakonja, a Slovenian television star and comedian, made a music video in which he raps a song about Dragic to celebrate the Suns star's basketball achievements and Slovenian roots. "It's fun," Dragic said of the song, "Dragon, Dragone," a bilingual title for his nickname. "It's about my career and how I became the player I am now and how the fans back home love me. He's even in a suit like when I was a rookie singing on stage." Dragic had to sing "The Greatest American Hero" at a charity event as a rookie. This video, with more than 150,000 views on YouTube, has quite a bit more production value with shots around their hometown, including at the Dragon Bridge. Slakonja's provided translation said the last line means, "We feel pity for your opponents."

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: The Trail Blazers received a well-earned ovation Sunday after clinching a playoff spot with a 100-94 victory over New Orleans, the team’s 50th win this season with four more games left to play. But nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be found, was the man who perhaps deserves the biggest ovation: general manager Neil Olshey. They should start bubble wrapping the Executive of the Year trophy and addressing the box to One Center Court, because nobody in the NBA did more with less last summer than Olshey. Robin Lopez. Mo Williams. Dorell Wright. Thomas Robinson. It’s not Buck Williams for Sam Bowie, which still stands as the greatest offseason move in franchise history, but the haul in the Summer of 2013 will long be remembered as one of the most influential offseasons around these parts. The beauty of it all is, few if any, saw it while it was happening.

  • Robert Morales of the Los Angeles Daily News: Clippers coach Doc Rivers shudders at the thought of guard Jamal Crawford not playing again until the playoffs begin. It just doesn’t bode well for a player to miss so many games down the stretch of the regular season, then expect him to be all he has been with a flip of a switch. “I don’t know, I hope not. But, yeah, it’s looking like that,” Rivers said ahead of Sunday’s game against the Lakers. “I would hate that, personally. I think it’s hard to go into a playoff series and haven’t played in three weeks or whatever.” Rivers conceded there is nothing he can do about it. “I’m hoping that’s not the case,” he said. Crawford had played in 66 games and recently missed eight of nine games with a strained left calf. He came back and played in five games, but had missed the past three before Sunday. Rivers believes Crawford not playing much near the end of the regular season should not affect him being voted Sixth Man of the Year. He is averaging 18.6 points.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Vince Carter passed one of the NBA’s greats on the all-time scoring list Sunday evening. That it came after one of Carter’s worst NBA performances was poetic. The Dallas Mavericks owed Carter big time after he canned a couple of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of their 93-91 victory at Sacramento. The second of those triples put the Mavericks ahead 81-79, a lead they never surrendered. Carter, after shooting 0-for-8 against the Los Angeles Lakers Friday, knocked down 4-of-9 3-pointers and had 17 points. Carter’s point total pushed him past Elgin Baylor for 26th on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. “He’s a legend, Carter said of Baylor. “He could do it all. It’s a great feeling.” Carter was actually more happy to just be on the floor again after the awful Friday in LA. “I had a game off against the Lakers,” Carter said. “That was a rough one. I was just happy to come back and play.” Asked if he’s learned over the years to have amnesia after a game like that, he said: “I’ve learned it. But I’m not good at it.”

  • Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: By grabbing three offensive rebounds, forward Udonis Haslem came closer to making history. He now has 1,505 offensive rebounds, tying him for most in franchise history with Alonzo Mourning. Haslem finished the game with a team-high 11 rebounds. "It's an amazing accomplishment," Haslem said. "I'm just so thankful to have the opportunity to play with a guy like Zo. I'm not sitting here today, doing the things I'm doing if I didn't learn things early from Alonzo about professionalism and what it takes to have a long career in this league."