Thursday, February 13, 2014
First Cup: Thursday
By Nick Borges
- Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: With the Heat trailing by two points, James eyed the basket from above the left break and let time drip down to nothing. Then he stepped back, elevated over Warriors defender Andre Iguodala and won the game. James’ 27-footer went down with one-tenth of a second remaining on the clock and the three-pointer gave the Heat a 111-110 victory against Golden State at always-ear-popping Oracle Arena. “I made a tough shot,” James said. That’s one way to put it. Heat forward Shane Battier, who majored in theology at Duke University, wasn’t so understated. “He just wanted to let it be known that there is a god,” Battier said. “That’s what that was. There is proof in the existence of a god. That guy over there is not by mistake — not by some cosmic mistake. That is part of a grand design somewhere. “That’s my small religious theory for the evening.”
- Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times: Wednesday night's game, the last for the Clippers before the All-Star break, had playoff intensity. The Trail Blazers entered with a 36-16 record, the Clippers at 36-18. Both teams shot lights out. Both teams will play well into the postseason. The game was a “wow.” Many Clippers games are. The final nail in the Portland coffin was a Matt Barnes alley-oop pass to Jordan. The basket shook and rattled. The sellout crowd rolled. The final score was 122-117. If you weren't entertained, you aren't alive. A colleague of mine once got carried away with some UCLA football success and wrote that L.A. was now a Bruins town. Nope. Nor has this stopped being a Lakers town. But right now, it is Clippers time.
- Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Wednesday marked the last game for the Nets in the friendly confines of Barclays Center for nearly a month, thanks to their eight-game circus trip that begins Thursday night in Chicago and continues after the All-Star break. But when asked whether or not that will be the toughest part of the schedule, Shaun Livingston had another stretch of the calendar in mind. “I think the travel was worse the first month,” Livingston said before Wednesday’s 105-89 win over the Bobcats. “The first month was crazy. It was a game here, two weeks away, back-to-back, back-to-back. “It was just non-stop grueling.” Livingston said the team’s slow start in November and December, in addition to the various injuries picked up along the way, could be attributed in part to the hectic travel schedule, including four isolated road games and a three-games-in-four-nights West Coast swing in the opening three weeks.
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Upon further review. Some backward thinkers pondered early on Wednesday that perhaps this might be a good game to sit Dirk Nowitzki. Tough back-to-back against the team with the best record in basketball. Nowitzki nursing a sore left ankle. All-Star weekend coming up, meaning it would be an extra day of rest. There were lots of reasons why it made sense. All that us backward thinkers can say now is … never mind. Clearly, the coach knew what he was doing riding Nowitzki hard toward the break. Nowitzki had 18 points and won the matchup with David West, which is never an easy thing. Let this be a lesson to all of us that we should leave the big decisions to the guy who makes the big bucks.
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal:Memphis’ 86-81 victory over the Orlando Magic in Amway Center required a strong defensive effort and the mental toughness to overcome the adversity brought on by injury. Griz center Marc Gasol left the game midway through the third quarter after aggravating a left MCL injury that cost him 23 games earlier this season. Gasol returned to the locker room after he banged knees with Magic point guard Jameer Nelson. The 7-foot Spaniard didn’t return for the Grizzlies’ second straight victory heading into the NBA’s All-Star break. Gasol downplayed the situation after the game. He will, however, have an MRI test during the break to determine the seriousness of his injury. There is swelling and Gasol walked with a limp. “It’s scary when it happens, but I think we’re going to be OK,” Gasol said. “We’re going to get it checked to make sure everything is OK. But it feels a lot better than it did the first time.” Gasol said he’s “pretty confident and positive” this time, more than when he originally suffered a sprained MCL in November.
- Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: DeMar DeRozan had 20 of his 31 points in the final two quarters, Kyle Lowry added seven assists and the Raptors did enough to put away a disinterested Atlanta team. “This is the toughest time of year, a couple of weeks before the all-star break,” said Casey, repeating a well-worn NBA mantra. “It’s always difficult in my 20-plus years in the league it’s always been that way. “I commend our guys for coming out and focusing in the second half and getting defence into the game, getting physicality into the game and making sure we had attention to detail on the defensive end. “The first half, the first quarter, we didn’t have it, neither team had it and we had to get into the game.” The one point Casey needed to make is that all-star break or no all-star break, there are going to be more tough games than easy ones the rest of the way. The NBA has a tendency to get much more serious after the break with teams jostling for playoff position and it’s grind time rather than a time for flashy play. Poised to make a run at their first playoff berth in six seasons, the Raptors had better get used to having to fight through tough games.
- Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said the decision to give Tony Parker a one-game head start on his All-Star break was not a difficult one. “He's not himself mentally or physically,” Popovich said before Wednesday's 104-92 win over the Celtics at TD Garden. “He'll do more good at home resting than he will playing with us.” Parker traveled with the team to Boston after Monday's loss in Detroit but was shipped back to San Antonio on Tuesday morning. Battling a host of physical maladies, the All-Star point guard had not played a full game since the 103-95 win in New Orleans to open the trip on Feb. 2. ... Despite his nagging injuries, Parker is still expected to participate in Sunday's All-Star Game in New Orleans as a Western Conference reserve.
- Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets center Dwight Howard set a goal before the season to shoot at least 70 percent from the free throw line. In the last five games leading up to Wednesday night’s, he was shooting 73.5 percent from the line. In the five prior to that, he averaged 47.5 percent from the foul line. Howard said the improvement has been mental. “I’ve just been trying not to think so much at the line,” Howard said. “Sometimes when I do get up there I think too much about the outcome before I shoot it instead of getting up there and letting it go.” He said that in light of his recent shooting success, he is going to keep up with his routine. “I am just going to stick with what I have been doing,” he said. “It is working.”
- Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: Pepsi Max released a new 30-second teaser video Wednesday in advance of this weekend’s All-Star Game in New Orleans. The video depicts Kyrie Irving in his popular Uncle Drew character driving to New Orleans to pick up his big man. But Irving was playing coy about the video. "I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Irving said. “See you in New Orleans.” But Irving was adamant there won’t be a new Uncle Drew video released in New Orleans. “I can tell you that for sure, no,” he said.
- Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: The All-Star break that begins today for the Kings won’t be an extended respite for coach Michael Malone. With the Kings near the bottom of the Western Conference most of the season, Malone plans to mix in plenty of film study while spending time with his wife and two daughters. Malone will look for ways to maximize the final 29 games. “We still have an opportunity to establish the identity we want to have moving forward,” he said. “That’s my whole challenge moving forward after the break is keep this team together, stay positive, continue to teach, and pound that rock that defense is going to be our calling card and has to be.” The Kings’ 18-35 record forces Malone to think big picture.
- John Reid of The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson said he is scheduled to get another medical evaluation for his herniated disc later this month and will also seek a second opinion from another doctor. Anderson has been sidelined since Jan. 3 when he collided with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace. Anderson never lost feeling in any of his extremities but had excruciating pain shooting from his elbow to the tip of his fingers. He remained at a Boston hospital for three days before returning to New Orleans. ... Though Anderson wasn’t initially cleared to fly, he gained clearance from doctors three weeks ago, he said. Anderson traveled with the team for their three-game road trip that ends on Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Anderson, however, is still expected to be out until March and could likely miss the remainder of the season.
- Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: The Wolves' No. 2 problem, behind the poor interior defense, is a bench filled with plodders. J.J. Barea can supply a bit of energy, but, really, there isn't anyone that can make an impact upon entering a game. Many of the subs can join the flow and not make too many mistakes. But there's no burst, no immediate results. They are just killing time until the starters catch their collective breath. Meanwhile, the trade deadline is Feb. 20. What do you do with this team? I'd say ... nothing. There's no playoff berth at stake here. Might as well just wait until the offseason and see what develops. Maybe there will be another Shabazz Muhammad available in the draft, or another Luc Mbah a Moute accessible via the trade market.
- Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: So how much might Hayward stand to make? Former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy told 1280 AM this week he thinks it will be more than Hayward is worth. "There are a lot of people out there that seemed to think this guy was going to go for near max money," Van Gundy told the Salt Lake City radio station. "I don’t see that, myself. I think he’s a very good player, very athletic, can do a lot of things. But I think the way the game is going, a perimeter guy who is not a good shooter, not a real good shooter, I think that limits his value in today’s game." Hayward is averaging 16 points, five rebounds and five assists a game, but is shooting just 40 percent from the floor. Van Gundy said he believes Hayward is worth "a little bit above the mid-level exception," or about $6.5 million to $7 million. "But from what I’ve heard, he’s going to get a lot more than that interest-wise," Van Gundy said.