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First Cup: Monday

  • Alan Hahn of Newsday: "With so much firepower on the roster, Mike D'Antoni said offense isn't going to be a problem for the Knicks. But then he saw his team score nine points in the first quarter Sunday. 'There was a fleeting moment,' he said, 'where I was like, 'What the heck?' ' The stunned Knicks (35-34) fell behind 32-9 after a quarter and never caught up in a 100-95 loss to the Bucks at the Bradley Center. The defeat was the fifth in the last six games for the Knicks, who fell to 7-8 since the trade for Carmelo Anthony. It was fitting that former Knick Latrell Sprewell was in attendance. The Milwaukee resident went through a very similar experience when he arrived in 1999 and the team struggled to find itself during the lockout-shortened regular season. But once they did that, the Knicks became the first eighth seed to reach the NBA Finals."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "It's such a cliché to label certain late-season games as 'must-win' contests. But, having said that, these remaining home games are must-win affairs for the Milwaukee Bucks if they are to overtake Charlotte and Indiana for the final playoff spot the National Basketball Association's Eastern Conference. That's why the Bucks' 100-95 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday at the Bradley Center was so important. The Bucks raced to a 32-9 lead after one quarter and then withstood several Knicks charges to win a game that left the Bucks tied with Charlotte and nipping on the Pacers' heels for the final playoff spot in the East. 'It was our energy and intensity (in the first quarter),' said Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. 'We knew how important this game was to us ... pushing for that eight spot. We needed to win this game and I think everyone understood that.' "

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "Ask anyone in the NBA and they will tell you this is a players' league, where games are decided by the players, not coaches. But as the Trail Blazers head down the stretch of this NBA season, and probably into the playoffs, coach Nate McMillan figures to play as central of a role as anycoach in the Western Conference playoff race. As we have seen in the past month, McMillan now has a long list of options in starting and closing games with the addition of Gerald Wallace and the return of Brandon Roy and Marcus Camby. I would argue that no other playoff-contending coach has to think as much, and coach on feel as much, as McMillan. For one, he has a diverse roster of options, with some players as noted defenders (Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews), some as specialty shooters (Rudy Fernandez and Matthews), some as cold-blooded closers (Roy), and some as proven commodities (Andre Miller, Camby and Wallace). In addition, the Blazers continue to be a difficult bunch to count on. Some nights, Roy has his mojo; other nights he is stiff and ineffective. Some nights, Miller looks like a crafty veteran; other nights he looks like he's past his prime. And it has become futile to rely on any Blazers outside shooter to be consistently on target this season, leading McMillan to coach on "feel" not only on a nightly basis, but a quarter-by-quarter basis."

  • Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "There was other Lakers news to cover, though none that would lead to parades being planned or helium balloons being released amid applause. The Lakers clinched a playoff spot with Utah's loss to Houston. They also clinched the Pacific Division title, their 22nd since 1971. Kobe Bryant was ecstatic to hear it. 'No, not really,' he said in a monotone voice. Who would debate him? The Lakers (50-20) don't care about division titles. They improved to 12-1 since the All-Star break, stayed a game ahead of Dallas for second in the Western Conference and pulled into a virtual tie with Boston and Chicago for the league's second-best record."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "For the first time, Suns coach Alvin Gentry told Channing Frye that he didn't need to score to be great Sunday. Frye missed all four first-half shots but defended Blake Griffin superbly. The Suns talk about forcing Griffin to make 'basketball plays' each time they see him because of his superb athleticism and power. Frye was key in Griffin shooting 6 for 18 from the field, but he also helped keep him to a career-low three rebounds."

  • Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times: "If Blake Griffin delivers one of his best dunks of the season, and you hear him fouling out, does it still make a sound? Well, yes … and no. The sound was Griffin loudly protesting referee Steve Javie's charging call on him — which got the rookie a technical near the end of the Suns' 108-99 win against the Clippers on Sunday. Griffin grabbed the ball after the call and sprinted with it down the court, throwing his head back in disbelief, and leaned over in gut-wrenching dismay. All that was missing was Griffin, who fouled out on the play, screaming: Why, Steve, why? His flying one-handed dunk over the Suns' Marcin Gortat was virtually Mozgov-ian. And, for the record, Phoenix Coach Alvin Gentry thought the Griffin dunk was even better than his signature posterizing of Timofey Mozgov, who was then with the New York Knicks, earlier in the season. 'That was one hell of a dunk,' said Gentry, unprompted. 'I don't care if it was a charge. That might be as impressive of a dunk as I've seen in the NBA in 23 years. I think that was the best dunk he's had since he was in the league.' That information was passed along to Griffin in the Clippers' locker room and it managed to even draw a small smile from the frustrated power forward, who has fouled out of two of the last three games. 'Well, it doesn't count, so, I don't think Steve Javie thinks that,' Griffin said."

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Dirk Nowitzki said he'll probably go home and play for Germany this summer if the NBA has an extended lockout. A lockout is not what Nowitzki wants. However, if it happens the Dallas Mavericks' all-star forward said he will likely play for his native Germany and try to help them qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London. 'We have that this summer if we're locked out,' Nowitzki said of Germany trying to qualify for the Olympics. 'I know if it's going to be a little longer (lockout) and I don't have anything going anyway, so I might as well stay in shape and play. But that all depends on how this season plays out. If we have a long run until June, I might not. I might talk to (Mavs owner Mark) Cuban and see what's up, see what his thoughts are on it, so we'll just have to wait and see.' The current NBA collective bargaining agreement expires July 1, with the two sides miles apart on a new deal. For Nowitzki, it's a pure case of been there, done that."

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "The players bring along a piece of equipment that they consider just as critical to survival on the road: the iPad or the iPad 2. The popular Apple tablet has become a must-have gadget when the Magic are away from home. The contraption connects them to the rest of the world through apps, e-mail and social media, and it also alleviates some of the monotony of the NBA's marathon regular season. ... Guard Gilbert Arenas plays the game Angry Birds on his iPad. Arenas, a huge fan of the TV show 24, watches episodes of Jack Bauer's exploits. ... After wins on the road, center Dwight Howard occasionally has positioned an iPad in his locker and played hip-hop music. The tablet connects the Magic to each other in other ways, too. Power forward Ryan Anderson, Duhon, shooting guard J.J. Redick and Director of Player Development Adonal Foyle have downloaded an app to their individual iPads called Words With Friends. Words With Friends is a knockoff of the board game Scrabble, and it arguably has become the second-most popular competitive outlet among Magic players -- trailing, perhaps, only the sport of basketball itself. On Wednesday, Duhon defeated Redick."

  • Ken Sugiura of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "After receiving a backlash from selling Kobe Bryant T-shirts in the Philips Arena team gear store when the Los Angeles Lakers played in Atlanta on March 8, the Hawks suspended the practice of selling shirts of opposing star players. When the Heat were in town on Friday, there were no LeBron James or Dwyane Wade shirts to be found."

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Frances Pulley was once a fixture at Washington Wizards home games, waiting in the hallways of Verizon Center afterward to greet her son, John Wall. But those visits had become far less frequent as she dealt with migraine headaches and made fewer drives up from Raleigh, N.C. But on Sunday afternoon, Pulley was in attendance for the first time in more than a month to witness her son give one of his most thrilling performances of the season, as Wall scored 26 points -- including back-to-back clutch jumpers in the final 82 seconds -- in leading the Wizards to a dramatic 98-92 comeback victory over the New Jersey Nets. Afterward, Pulley was back in her trusty spot in front of the Wizards’ locker room, waiting for her grinning son to pass her by, high-fiving fans and shouting: 'Good win! Good win!' 'Whenever my mom comes, I always try to play good,' said Wall, who added 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals. 'I try to play good, no matter if she’s here or not, but it’s better to see her in the stands and see her jumping up and down.' "

  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: "That was a disgrace. The Timberwolves were dismantled on their home court by the woeful Sacramento Kings on Sunday, 127-95. The lost souls who attended that game should have been given a refund, except that most of them probably got in for free anyway. The Kings' 16-51 record coming into the game was even worse than the Wolves' 17-53 mark. Yet they were so far ahead by the fourth quarter that they were trying between-the-legs bounce passes on the fast break. They were laughing, joking and hoisting up threes just for fun. The Wolves played selfishly and not very hard. They sulked and often glared at each other as if to place blame for the latest lousy play. At one point, Michael Beasley was jawing at an assistant coach after being pulled from the game. The coach was trying to get him to go and sit down. ... Memo to Rambis: Hey Kurt, these aren't the Lakers. You can't just sit stoically on the bench and wait for everything to turn out fine at the end. You need to get up and start hollering. Your charges are screwing up royally on the court. How about correcting stuff on the fly? People often ask me what kind of coach Rambis is. I tell them I don't know. Is he a good coach? I don't know. Is he a smart coach? I don't know. How can anyone tell?"

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "Delonte West missed a total of 57 games this season, including 39 following early-season wrist surgery, and another 10 while serving a suspension at the start of the season. Saturday night’s performance was a long time coming, as far as West was concerned. Others can marvel at his sharpness. As far as he’s concerned, the result is perfectly natural. 'That’s my game,' he said. 'I’m pretty decent at handling the ball and getting us in our sets. It’s coming. It’s tough to balance with all of these guys who can score the basketball. Should I take the shot or pass it? If you see me scoring 25 or 30 points, then I’m doing something miraculous, but I’m going to be out there playing tough defense, and picking up in areas where we’re slacking. That’s my game. I enjoy playing the game of basketball. In my time in Cleveland coming off the bench, I had the opportunity to sit and watch. I was a high-energy player, playing in three- or four-minute spurts. That’s perfect for me. Change the tempo, get another ballhandler on the floor. That’s what I do.' And for this guard with the kamikaze mentality, the physical liabilities are insignificant. 'There’s a few things at work,' he said. 'Me being a left-handed player, I like to spring off my right leg, and I don’t have the same lift off that ankle right now. Running around with the brace on my right arm, it plays a little bit on my morale, and how aggressive you should be. You’re still a little timid down there. ... But I’m just happy to get the opportunity to get out there.' "

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: "Pistons guard Will Bynum sat in front of his locker, watching Washington guard Isaiah Thomas go to work on North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. 'He's good, but they'll probably overlook him, too,' Bynum said. 'They'll say he's too short.' Bynum shares a kinship with Thomas. Bynum is listed as 5-foot-10, Thomas at 5-9. Bynum knows Thomas will struggle finding a place in the NBA. Bynum, after a long and arduous road to get here, still doesn't feel secure in his spot. One game after leading a fourth-quarter comeback against the Knicks on Friday, he didn't play Sunday, his 15th 'DNP-Coaches decision' of the season. 'I feel like I do my job every time. I'm sure the fans and everybody else thinks so, as well,' Bynum said. 'The things I'm not in control over, it doesn't linger in my mind more than that moment.' Keep in mind, he signed his first secure pro contract last summer and expected to be a key component in a turnaround this season."

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: "Christian Eyenga was on the court at the Staples Center before the Clippers game on Saturday when he saw a man wielding a knife. 'Of course, it scared me,' he said. 'I heard one of the cheerleaders say, ‘The guy has a gun.' He might have killed everybody. I just started running.' Eyenga still isn't sure how someone with a knife could have made it to the court. 'I don't know how it could happen,' Eyenga said. 'I've never seen something like that. I hope I don't see it again.' Harris said he was in the locker room watching things unfold on a monitor. 'It was like a movie,' he said. Scott said he'd never experienced something like that. 'That was the first time and, hopefully, the last time,' he said. 'That was wild. I'm glad there was nobody in the arena.' "

  • Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post: "Guess who's returning to the Pepsi Center to watch Nuggets games? You. 'I would say there's definitely a positive trend going,' said Kurt Schwartzkopf, chief marketing officer of the Nuggets and Avalanche. 'I think a lot of fans were waiting to see, and now they see a product they can get behind. I think that's translated into ticket sales, there's no question.' That might have never been more obvious than in the team's sellout of its last home game -- against the lowly Detroit Pistons. It was a game that, this season, might have drawn 15,000 or 16,000, but instead became the team's eighth sellout of the season, and first for the revamped Nuggets. Tickets are available for tonight's game against the Toronto Raptors, but tickets for remaining games are selling at the fastest rate of the season."