First Cup: Thursday

  • Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe: "Glen Davis had no idea what happened. He did what he normally does when he sees Kevin Garnett finish a dunk — he sprinted back on defense. But when he looked up, Garnett was still at the other end of the floor. 'I turned around, and he was limping,’' Davis said. 'I'm like, 'Oh, [expletive].'' Of all the injuries the Celtics have been able to withstand this season, this would be one they can’t afford. The sequence was innocuous enough, coming in the first quarter of the Celtics’ 104-92 loss to the Pistons last night. Off a pass from Ray Allen, Garnett cut hard to the basket, thinking dunk. He planted with two feet, but as he went up, it was clear that his right leg was hurt. He slammed the ball through with two hands but hung on the rim longer than normal, his right leg almost dangling. Garnett came down gingerly, grimacing as he limped to halfcourt. The first thing that flashed through Paul Pierce’s head was Utah, 2009, when Garnett came down from a dunk limping the same way and he wound up missing most of the rest of the season. 'You start thinking about it,' Pierce said.'He jumped, dunked the ball, and it was something, when he came down, kind of similar.'"

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Kevin Garnett was trying to encourage Jermaine O’Neal when he had a talk with him the night before last. He didn't know then how prophetic he'd look 24 hours later. 'Kevin was just talking to me (Tuesday) night in Indiana about patience and how we’re going to need everybody to win it all,' said O’Neal after Garnett went down with a right leg injury last night. 'We have to be able to do what he’s been doing for a lot of us who've been out. He's been picking up the slack and making sure the team has stayed afloat. I'm sure that when guys go home and think about where we're at and figure out what the situation is with Kevin, I'm sure that (tomorrow) guys will be ready to rock.'"

  • Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press: "Call it the showdown that didn't go down. Or maybe the Palace Bawl. Whatever you call Wednesday night's game between the Pistons and Celtics, it's safe to say Charlie Villanueva won by technical knockout.What was expected to be a bad-blood rematch between Charlie Villanueva and Kevin Garnett instead became an anticlimactic undercard to the main event: a 104-92 beatdown the Pistons put on Boston at the Palace. The victory snapped a two-game losing streak, a three-game losing streak to Boston and avenged the 109-86 thrashing the Celtics delivered on Nov. 2. And it was during that last loss that all the acrimony began between Villanueva and Garnett. But it all ended prematurely when Garnett left the game nearly in tears with a lower right leg injury late in the first quarter. Villanueva got two quick fouls and rode the bench for most of the first quarter. All told, Villanueva and Garnett spent only the first 2 minutes, 57 seconds of the game on the floor together. Garnett scored two points in nine minutes. Villanueva had 14 points in 28 minutes."

  • Gene Wang of the Washington Post: "The Washington Wizards have grown accustomed to playing with a personnel deficit this season, weathering injuries that at times have relegated prized rookie point guard John Wall and leading scorer Andray Blatche, among others, to the bench as spectators. On Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers, they had to withstand the absence of yet another principal component, but this time, the concern was far more affecting than simply when a teammate would be back in the lineup. The Wizards' thoughts instead were with Coach Flip Saunders, who missed the game to attend to a family emergency involving his mother, and the team responded with a 104-90 victory before an announced 16,108 at Verizon Center thanks to an authoritative burst to open the fourth quarter with defense to match the rest of the way. 'I talked to Flip and told him this was for he and his mother,' said Wizards top assistant Randy Wittman, who filled in for Saunders and will do so again on Friday if necessary. 'Those are tough times. You know like I said before the game, your family is your number one priority. Nothing else matters in this thing, and he's got to be back there and keep his mind where it should be.'"

  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: "A little freedom is a dangerous thing, particularly if you're trying to guard Stephen Jackson or D.J. Augustin the last two games. What new Charlotte Bobcats coach Paul Silas has done is a lot more about psychology than tactics. Silas has empowered Jackson and Augustin to make decision: Don't be so wedded to a scripted play that you turn your back on an open shot. They both got the message. Jackson and Augustin combined for 66 points Wednesday on 21-of-38 shooting. Let freedom reign: The Bobcats are 2-0 since Larry Brown was replaced as coach, following a 101-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brown is an exceptional teacher, but it's hard to miss how refreshed this team is since Silas took over. 'He wants us to make plays and use our brains,'' Jackson said, after scoring a season-high 38 points and reaching the foul line 15 times. 'We're not like robots anymore.'"

  • Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post: "The term 'big win' is usually reserved for late-season games against top-notch competition with something significant to play for. A late December game against an eight-win team pretty much never qualifies. And yet, on Wednesday night, closing out the 2010 portion of the schedule against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Nuggets' 119-113 win at the Target Center absolutely qualified. Big, big win. Nuggets coach George Karl explained why. 'It was a big victory because it makes your team confident and together,' he said. 'People don't understand, beating Minnesota is going to be a big part of who wins the division championship. If there's a tie, it's going to be the division won-loss record. Winning here was important. Any win in our division on the road is going to have more importance to it. And coming back and playing after Portland last night showed some guts, showed some pride and some courage.' And the Nuggets did so without four of their biggest stars."

  • Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman: "A five-second, end-to-end streak by Russell Westbrook just before the first-half buzzer highlighted the Thunder's humiliation of New Jersey on Wednesday night. After Nets guard Devin Harris scored a layup with 6.8 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Westbrook took an inbounds pass and blew by four New Jersey defenders before throwing down an emphatic one-handed dunk with 1.8 seconds reading on the game clock. The play changed the game, capping a second quarter in which the Thunder outscored the Nets by 11 before cruising to a 114-93 victory at Oklahoma City Arena. 'He was so quick,' said Thunder forward Kevin Durant. 'It looked like it was two or three dribbles, and he was down court. That breaks a team's back, especially at the end of a half.'"

  • Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald: "Quite literally, the Houston Rockets took their best swing at red-hot Dwyane Wade and the Heat. Wade went down. Wade got up. Wade went off. The Heat defeated the Rockets 125-119 on Wednesday night at Toyota Center to set an NBA record for the most consecutive road victories in one month with 10. Wade finished with 45 points -- his second consecutive night with 40 or more points. He had 40 against the Knicks on Tuesday in Miami. It was a right cross by scrappy Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks that buckled Wade's knees with 10 minutes left in the game and sent him to the floor. Wade finished the game with a bandage on his upper lip and finished off the Rockets with eight consecutive points following the flagrant foul. Wade made 17 of 24 shots and finished with seven rebounds and an assist. 'I just got a little aggressive,' Wade said. 'My teammates know me, so they know at times like that that I focus a little better, so I decided to get a little bit aggressive at that moment.'"

  • Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle: "Games like these give Rockets fans hope. They probably shouldn't. A game like this one, a 125-119 loss to the Miami Heat, might be exciting and entertaining, but a game like this, in which you allow an opponent — an opponent playing the second half of a back-to-back situation — to shoot 58.1 percent from the floor and score 66 points in the second half on your home court, tells you something about your team. The Rockets, who slipped to 15-16 on the season, can barely make a case for being a playoff contender. Not as long as the defense rests. Not that we didn’t already know it, but Wednesday’s up-close look at the Miami Heat triumvirate of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who combined to score 86 points, provided more evidence that the Rockets, as constructed, are almost good enough to be good. If you're going to be a starless team in a league driven by stars, at least be a tough, battling team. The Rockets are almost that. Hence the hope. They will battle you offensively. Defensively? Not so much."

  • Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic: "It has been a given for more than six years that the Suns were better than most NBA teams. That no longer is the case after they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday and dropped a season-worst fourth consecutive game Wednesday by falling 123-110 to the Philadelphia 76ers at US Airways Center. It is the Suns' longest losing streak since January, but it is hard to see another 30-10 season finish following like it did then. The Suns (13-17) are so bad defensively that they allowed the 76ers to score 27 more than their season average. The 76ers were a 4-13 road team that had not won in the 11 previous times it allowed 100 points. The 76ers shot 61 percent in the first half and put six scorers in double figures even though they did not have their star, Andre Iguodala, who sat out because right Achilles' tendinitis, and Jason Kapono. That came after the Suns had worked on defense for two days in practice. Instead, Iguodala's replacement, Andres Nocioni, posted a double-double with season highs for points (22) and rebounds (12). 76ers rookie Evan Turner added a season-high 23 points. He made nine of 12 shots even though he entered the game shooting 38 percent and averaging 6.8 points. The Suns lost for the eight time in the past 10 games. 'I came from a team where everybody's competing and trying, doing the stuff that Coach is saying,' said Suns center Marcin Gortat, who came from Orlando in a six-player trade Dec. 18. 'We just totally are changing our rotations. We're not playing hard enough. There is a lot of work in front of us. The positive thing is it can't be worse.'"

  • Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee: "It's not uncommon for a few of the Kings to take turns attempting halfcourt shots after practice with nothing more than pride or perhaps a few dollars on the line. Rarely, if ever, is that halfcourt practice expected to come in handy in a game. The Kings learned Wednesday night that practice – even practicing the unlikely – can pay off in a game that counts. Tyreke Evans made a shot from beyond halfcourt – about 50 feet from the hoop – to give the Kings a 100-98 win at the buzzer over the Memphis Grizzlies at Arco Arena. Evans jumped onto the scorers' table to celebrate. Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof knelt behind officials reviewing the play and celebrated when the shot was confirmed to have beaten the buzzer. 'I've won a couple dollars off that shot,' Evans said. 'We practice it after shootaround in the morning sometimes and I'm glad we do that.'"

  • Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune: "Gordon Hayward found the light. And a Jazz team that has spent the first half of its season constantly overcoming adversity and coming back from near-certain defeat added another dimension to its resilience Wednesday night, pulling off a short-handed 103-95 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. Playing without two key forwards and two of the team’s top five scorers — an injured Andrei Kirilenko and an ill C.J. Miles — the Jazz handed Hayward his fifth career start, and then asked everyone from veteran reserve centers Mehmet Okur and Kyrylo Fesenko to rookie Jeremy Evans to suddenly play much larger roles. To a man, each player bought in and performed. 'We stepped up in all angles,' Utah forward Paul Millsap said. 'Rookies stepped up; guys playing out of position. With a big deficit on the road, we came out to win. That showed a lot of toughness, concentration and focus.' He added: 'We're learning how to win in different ways. I think that's what is good about our team. The wins we've had, they're different wins.'"

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "It's amazing what ball movement can do for a team's psyche. Not to mention defense, rebounding and a lineup change that surprises just about everybody. The Lakers opted to play team basketball and ended their three-game skid with fewer one-on-one moments than any of their games over the last …week? Two weeks? Month? They pummeled the New Orleans Hornets, 103-88, Wednesday at New Orleans Arena and — what's this? — improved to 3-5 against teams with winning records after foundering badly against Miami and San Antonio. Please excuse the confusion, but it was hard to acknowledge these were the Lakers (22-10) after one of their worst weeks in the regular season in years. Fifteen assists and 68% shooting in the first half? A 24-point lead in the third quarter? Sixteen of 20 from the free-throw line? Impossible."