First Cup: Friday

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: It was a game for the aged. The Lakers and the Boston Celtics, similarly described as old and slow, took their time settling things Thursday night at TD Garden. They needed 48 minutes of regulation play plus every nanosecond of a five-minute overtime, too. It wasn't until Pau Gasol reached up and swatted away Ray Allen's putback attempt as the buzzer sounded that the Lakers could claim an 88-87 victory over the Celtics as many in a sellout crowd of 18,624 groaned in disappointment. Paul Pierce's shot from the wing missed the mark, but Allen arrived from nowhere to hoist what could have been the winning basket. Suddenly, remarkably, the 31-year-old Gasol denied the 36-year-old Allen at the moment of truth. ... Rest assured, the Lakers' fourth consecutive regular-season victory over the Celtics in Boston had meaning. After the buzzer, as the Lakers celebrated in front of their bench, coach Mike Brown planted a kiss on Bynum's forehead. "I was excited for him and was excited for the moment, so I laid one on him," Brown said, laughing. "I've done that before to my guys. Ask Anderson Varejao (who played for Brown when he coached the Cleveland Cavaliers)."

  • Mike Bresnahan and Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: Jerry West is plenty busy these days as a consultant for the Golden State Warriors and executive director of the Northern Trust Open, which tees off next Thursday at Riviera Country Club. But he has also kept an eye on the Lakers, the franchise for which he became a Hall of Fame player and, later, general manager. West conceded that many of the Lakers' performances had been "spotty" and "looked like exhibition games," but insisted there were better days ahead. "The Lakers will be very dangerous in the playoffs," he said in a phone interview Thursday with The Times. "They need rest between games. The way they're playing now on the road, they haven't had the kind of success they need. But they're still very capable." West was noncommittal when asked whether the Lakers should make a trade before the March 15 deadline.

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: The Lakers are now the ones looking to slug it out and pound you in the paint. And if the Celtics [team stats] haven’t gone completely Showtime, well, they’d certainly rather run than fight. Somewhere Larry Bird’s head was shaking and Kurt Rambis’ neck was feeling better asthe Lakers went for 24 second-chance points and got the Celts to throw up a series of long jump shots with the game on the line. Clearly this isn’t your father’s Celtics-Lakers. “That’s right,” Kobe Bryant said after Los Angeles’ 88-87 overtime victory. “We couldn’t beat a turtle in a race, you know? But, yeah, it’s the reverse. A lot of that’s Rajon (Rondo), though. Rajon, he’s a one-man fast break and he makes so many plays for guys in transition — off of makes and misses. There’s not too many guys walking around the league that can do that.” But when Rondo got just one assist in the fourth quarter and overtime, it was plain to see the weather vane had changed directions on this one. ... There was a time when the Celtics would have been overjoyed to take the air out of the ball, but now they want to run and fire. The Lakers were more than happy to pull the curtain on that show. Somewhere last evening, Jack Nicholson flexed his 74-year-old biceps.

  • Bob Ryan of The Boston Globe: This box score ought to be preserved for historical purposes. You won’t see too many modern NBA games in which the winning team goes 1 for 15 on threes. You won’t see too many modern NBA games with just 22 turnovers, combined (more on that later). You won’t see too many modern NBA games in which one team’s substitute attempts more free throws than the other team does, or many NBA games in which a team is out-free throw attempted, 20-5, especially when the 20 belongs to the visiting team and the 5 belongs to the home team. So in that sense, the game was oddly interesting. ... And people did seem to enjoy the game, even if, as Doc suggested, it wasn’t quite up to the old Celtics-Lakers standards. “Listen,’’ he said, “both teams shot 39 percent. Someone had to win. You can save all the jokes. Two old teams. Jurassic Park.’’ Hey, he said it, not me.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: The Nuggets were once 14-5. Now, with injuries and losses piling up, they're is 15-12. Denver has lost five games in a row (for the first time since 2006-07) and five consecutive home games (first time since 2002-03). "Of course there's frustration, nobody wants to lose," said Denver post player Kenneth Faried, who started for the injured Timofey Mozgov. "But we're going to keep pushing each other to get better. With limited practices, it's going to be hard, but we're still going to try to focus on objectives." As Arron Afflalo softly said after the game, the offense isn't the issue. Heck, the Nuggets tallied 28 assists Thursday. The issue was the defense, or lack thereof. On Twitter during the game, a fan with the handle @johnpblee tweeted: "Enver Nuggets!" For the night, the Warriors shot 52 percent from 3-point range (13-for-25) and 51.9 percent overall. One fellow, Stephen Curry, scored 36 points. And in the pivotal third quarter, the Warriors (9-14) shot a startling 70 percent from the field, including five 3-pointers. "It was horrible," Afflalo said of Denver's third-quarter defense. "You've got to give the Warriors credit. But on our home floor, that was horrible." That's the scary thing. The Nuggets are floundering where they normally flourish. Consider that the Nuggets are 7-7 at home this season. Last season, in 82 total games, the Nuggets were 33-8 at home.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Warriors coach Mark Jackson was about as mad as the Bay Area media had seen him when he was informed this week that rookie swingman Klay Thompson was not selected to participate in All-Star weekend. "What rookies made it? Can you show me nine rookies playing better than Klay Thompson?" Jackson said. "I'm very disappointed on that. I'm very disappointed on that." And that was before Thompson hit 8 of 11 shots for a career-high 19 points in Thursday's win over Denver. "This is a guy who's going to be special and who has played very well for us," Jackson said. "The guy is more than deserving of the opportunity." Thompson ranks 10th among rookies with 7.3 points per game and is first in three-point field goal percentage (.477) despite standing 18th in average minutes (16.4). Thompson hit 3 of 4 three-pointers Thursday and has converted on 8 of his last 10 to improve to fifth overall in the NBA overall. Jackson mostly seemed disappointed that the No. 11 pick won't be in Orlando for the festivities.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets guard Goran Dragic was happy but not surprised to hear that former Suns teammate Steve Nash earned his eighth All-Star spot. Nash becomes the fourth player 38 or older to be made an All-Star, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone. Dragic was appreciative of the lessons he learned during nearly two seasons as a backup to Nash in Phoenix. “In my first two years, every day you’re playing against Steve Nash,” Dragic said. “You can see how he’s reading all the situations — the pick-and-rolls and this kind of stuff. He’s just so nice of a person, he helps you a lot. My first two seasons he helped me a lot because that transition for me to the NBA was really hard."

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Charles Barkley might not have picked Steve Nash, but Suns rookie Markieff Morris hopes Barkley picks him. Barkley and another former Suns player, Shaquille O'Neal, will draft from the pool of rookies and second-year players in the Rising Stars Challenge to form the teams in the new format. Morris is partial to Barkley for how he favored Kansas last year during the NCAA Tournament and because he had a chance to talk to him. "I'm excited, and I'm happy that they chose me," Morris said of being one of nine rookies selected. "This is something that I did want to do. I'm happy for us as a team and for me and my family I just wanted to come in and have an impact. This is a secondary goal that I had."

  • Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Thursday he's optimistic the city is on course to have an arena financing plan together before a March deadline – or will be close enough to prove to the NBA the city should keep its basketball team. "I feel like the city can do its part, and then the negotiations will be between the (Kings team owners) Maloofs, the NBA and (arena operator) AEG." Johnson said he was not concerned by the closeness of the most recent City Council vote on the issue Tuesday. A bare 5-4 council majority stopped an effort by several council members to put part of the still-evolving financing plan on the June ballot for voter approval. Supporters of the ballot idea said voters should decide whether to turn downtown garage operations over to private companies in exchange for cash. Arena supporters argued a June vote would cause a delay that could kill Sacramento's chances of building an arena. "Getting a favorable vote, whether you get it 9-0 or 5-4, it doesn't really matter," Johnson said. "It has said to the NBA that this council and this community are serious about keeping this team here."

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: The Sacramento Kings closed out the game with a 19-6 scoring spurt to post a 106-101 victory before a sellout crowd of 17,317 at Power Balance Pavilion. The scrappy Kings were the opponent, but OKC's primary foe once again was turnovers. The Thunder committed 23 turnovers, which Sacramento transformed into 28 points, which is 18 more points than OKC got off the Kings' 12 turnovers. "It's unbelievable," said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, shaking his head at his team's gargantuan turnover total that now stands at 441 through 26 games for an average of 17.0 per – easily the worst clip in the NBA. Unlike it frequently has done all season, OKC was unable to overcome its biggest shortcoming against Sacramento. The flawed Thunder failed close this one out, blowing a 95-87 lead in the final five minutes. "I thought we had things under control at that point," said Daequan Cook, whose 3-pointer had given OKC the eight-point advantage. "I thought we had set the tone, but we didn't keep fighting. We had a couple of lapses on defense." The loss dropped OKC to 20-6 on the season and lifted the Kings to 10-16 while playing for their second coach in Keith Smart.

  • Mike Wise of The Washington Post: Jeremy Lin spoke Wednesday in front of maybe three dozen, tightly bunched reporters, 15 of whom were from Asian media outlets that had requested credentials just that night. ESPN is having a viewing party Friday night when the Knicks take on the Lakers. Replete with hundreds of fans, dancers and highlight packages, and did we mention this was happening in Taiwan, where TVBS is replaying his first two games in New York? Wednesday’s game in Washington was broadcast live back to his parents’ homeland. Since he was summoned from the Knicks bench on Feb. 2 to Thursday, Lin has gained 60,000 followers on Sina (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter). This is Linsanity. This is the world Jeremy Lin has created for himself in 111 minutes of scintillating floor time. Look, when a faith-based underdog enraptures a disgruntled fan base in less than three games and lights up his opponents almost as much as he lights up Twitter, only one other can identify with such stratospheric, instantaneous celebrity: Really, who does Tim Tebow think he is, the Caucasian Jeremy Lin? ... Lin doesn’t know it yet, but some of his friends have already begun referring to him as “the Asian Tebow” or “Tebow 2.0.” Which is catchy and all, but lumping him in with the overachieving Denver Broncos’ quarterback doesn’t quite encapsulate the unusualness of Lin’s journey.

  • Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle: He has flair, he's a rising star, he's the talk of the NBA and, yes, he was a Warrior. But it's time to cancel all regrets about Jeremy Lin. Better to celebrate the young man's remarkably good fortune. For one thing, if the Warriors or their fans are suddenly all ticked off about a backup point guard, they've lost all sense of reason. The Warriors' top three needs, in no particular order, are known as big, nasty and intimidating. When Stephen Curry hits the bench, they have a perfectly fine, explosive backup in Nate Robinson. Just as Robinson views Curry and Monta Ellis as penthouse-level talents, Lin wasn't ever going to shine on the Warriors' practice court. Chance of him starting: zero. And if the Warriors ever traded one of their starters, elevating Lin into the spotlight, the pressure would be excruciating. What the 23-year-old Lin needed was a wild card, something crazy, a no-risk proposition. The Knicks had been floundering with three ridiculous options at the point - Mike Bibby, Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert - before turning to Lin, whose court vision and creativity make him a natural at the position.