Monday, December 23, 2013
First Cup: Monday
By Nick Borges
- Jordan Heck of The Indianapolis Star: Lance Stephenson recorded his third triple-double of the season on Sunday night as he finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. When Stephenson recorded his first triple-double this season, and first of his career, he celebrated the milestone by marking his shoes. He posted this picture on his Instagram account following the game. ... On Sunday, he continued the tradition and posted this picture. ... Stephenson's big game was the only the latest milestone this season. He has career highs in PPG, RPG and APG as he continues to play well. His performance on the court has teammates saying he should be an All-Star.
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: He has scrimmaged twice, one in a post-practice pickup game with teammates. Little wonder Rajon Rondo doesn’t think he’s close to a return. Maybe late January. Probably later. “It might be the end of January, late February,” Rondo said after watching the Celtics suffer through one of their worst performances with last night’s 106-79 loss to the Indiana Pacers. “I’m going to come back when I get my stamina." Asked if January, the nebulous time pegged by Celtics management, was a realistic goal, Rondo said, “No. I’ve had one practice — a pickup game, and that’s about it. My endurance is key. I don’t want to come back and not be 100 percent. It’s me being in shape as well. The worst thing is coming back and not being in shape, because you can risk injury. I want to be in basketball-condition shape. You can run all the sprints you want and get on a bike and do that conditioning, but after 10 or 11 months of not playing the game of basketball, it’s not easy to get back in shape just doing those things. You have to play basketball." That was Rondo’s motivation Friday, when he asked teammates to stay after practice for a 5-on-5 pickup game. His timing was clearly off.
- Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: Recently, the talk of the Clippers’ defense has started with the almost fanatical way DeAndre Jordan has embraced his role as the defensive captain. “It starts with our bigs. DJ and Blake (Griffin) have been amazing,” Rivers said. “DJ’s leadership defensively – It’s funny, he’s mad the most on defense now, which I love because he takes it so personal when anybody scores. Earlier in the year I thought he took it personally when his guy scored. Now he’s taking it personal if a guy’s making a 3 on the opposite side of the floor. That’s what you need to take scoring personal and I think our guys are starting to do that." Rivers was asked if the Clippers were the type of the team that could get under the skin of the other team on the court. “I noticed that last year. We probably talk,” Rivers said, “I don’t know what the hell’s going on out there. I really don’t. We’ve just got to keep playing. I hate when we get distracted by it. I think we’re getting better but that’s an area we still have to improve in. We’re getting better also at leaving the officials alone and playing. We still have to get better there.” As if to prove that point, less than two minutes into the second quarter Jordan picked up his third foul. And a technical foul. Less than five minutes later, Rivers picked up a technical of his own.
- Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Timberwolves veteran forward Corey Brewer shot 13 percent from the field in three games last week, and he’s not exactly sure offense has been the worst part of a slump he says he needs to snap out of, and soon. ... Brewer dismissed the idea that playing starter’s minutes against the opponent’s best perimeter player is taking its toll after he came off the bench last season for 57-victory Denver. He did say he is adjusting to not being asked to score, like he was so asked with the Nuggets. ... Wolves coach Rick Adelman said he hasn’t considered replacing Brewer in the starting lineup with either defensive specialist Luc Mbah a Moute or Chase Budinger when he returns soon from a season-starting knee injury. “I haven’t even thought about that,” Adelman said. “We’ll figure that out when we see Chase get on the floor. But right now we’re better off just staying where we are."
- Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: Hot on the heels of a gutsy win on the road over a Dallas team that has owned its home court, the Raptors took it up another notch knocking off the Thunder to become the first team this year to do so at Chesapeake Energy Arena in a 104-98 win. The Thunder had gone 13 consecutive home games without tasting defeat until the Raptors came calling. The Raps got 22 from Kyle Lowry, and 17 each from DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson to run this improbable road trip to a 2-0 with the San Antonio Spurs waiting at home for the third and final game of the trip. But after the game it was the play of 12-year vet John Salmons that was the first topic of conversation from every member of the Raps. “Guys buckled down,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “I thought John Salmons did a tremendous job. Amir Johnson did a tremendous job. You don’t hold a guy like Kevin Durant down like they did many times. He had a quiet 24. He had to work for each one of them. I thought those guys did a magnificent job sticking to the game plan and making him work for his shots. The only thing you want to do is slow a guy down and I thought that was the huge difference in the game.”
- Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: You could chalk this up as a schedule loss if you want. The Thunder was playing for the third time in four nights and after a great win at San Antonio, a place where it previously hadn’t won in six tries. But that seems like much more of a pass than what took place here. “You can use that excuse,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “I think every team can use that excuse. It’s so many times that you play back-to-backs. But we don’t use that as an excuse.” The primary reason the schedule loss logic doesn’t apply here is because the Thunder held an 11-point lead with three minutes and change to play in the third quarter. OKC entered the final period ahead by nine. While the first 36 minutes might have been far from the prettiest ball the Thunder has played this season, the game was in hand in the late stages. With that said, teams on the second night of a back-to-back generally fall apart in the final frame. And by the time the fourth quarter started, maybe the Thunder legs did feel a little heavy. ... I am starting to wonder if Reggie Jackson is getting too confident. The degree of difficulty of some of the shots he’s taking are insane. But after his first two seasons, I’d much rather see him confidently take those shots than revert to the passive player who was unsure of himself a short while ago. Got to hope he doesn’t get carried away, though.