First Cup: Wednesday

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: Carmelo Anthony appeared disengaged for most of the night, shot poorly (2 for 12) and came up empty when he returned for the final four minutes of the game after the Knicks’ bench got them back in the game. He finished with 6 points. Afterward, Anthony left without speaking to reporters, saying, “Not tonight” as he moved quickly down an arena hallway. He was on the bus for 10 minutes before returning to speak with a handful of reporters, apparently after being summoned. He spoke briefly, and quietly, sounding somewhere between frustrated and deflated. “We lost,” Anthony said, his eyes shaded by tinted glasses. “Losses don’t sit well with me.” After their Jeremy Lin-inspired surge in February, the Knicks have begun to slide again, losing five of their last eight games — a trend that began when Anthony, J. R. Smith and Baron Davis joined the rotation. Their chemistry is again in flux, and Anthony is clearly struggling to find his way in a new, Lin-centric offense. He admitted as much, saying: “I think anytime you go from the early part of the season, just having the ball and me just having the ball and being the distributor, and now just running the wings and waiting for the ball to come to me, that’s quite an adjustment for myself.”

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said he still has no regrets about not re-signing center Tyson Chandler during the off-season. "You got a plan and you stick to it," Cuban said Tuesday. "Tyson's a great player, and it's no reflection on him." Cuban offered J.J. Barea, Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler one-year contracts after they helped the Mavs win last year's NBA title. The reason? The Mavs wanted to have some salary cap flexibility so they can make a run at Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul if they become free agents this summer. "We wish T.C. the best," Cuban said. "We wouldn't be champions without him, and the show goes on." Chandler, who signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the New York Knicks, finally received his championship ring before Tuesday's game. "He was such a big part of it last year. He was great in so many different ways," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Charismatically, on the floor, [he was] the anchor of our defense. "He's done great things with the Knicks. They've become one of the better defensive teams this year in a relatively short period of time."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Sometimes, you get the feeling these Mavericks are never happy unless they are miserable. "I think that's the makeup of this ballclub," said Jason Kidd, who had a season-best 15 points and six assists. "We never do things the easy way. That's what makes this team special. We went ona six-game losing streak last year and nobody thought we were going to make it out of the first round and we ended up winning a championship. "So we definitely don't do things easy. That's OK. If you like building character in tough situations, yes. And if you remember to feed Dirk Nowitzki the ball at crunch time, definitely. Nowitzki pulled the Mavericks out of the fire after New York had scored 15 consecutive points to take a 78-77 lead. The Mavericks responded with 14 consecutive straight points, nine by Nowitzki and five by Kidd, to escape. Nowitzki finished with 28 points, 24 of them after halftime. The Mavericks won for just the second time during their difficult nine-game, 12-day stretch coming out of the All-Star break that continues with three games in three nights starting Thursday in Phoenix.

  • Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News: You might want to rub your eyes at this scene, just to double-check. There was Rodney Stuckey, one arm raised as the crowd roared, as Kobe Bryant yanked off his face mask in frustration. There were the Pistons, competing like it mattered as much as it once did, as much as it should. The Pistons haven't demanded much attention this season, but they commanded it on this night with a stirring old-school performance. At the end of their 88-85 overtime victory over the Lakers on Tuesday night, the Pistons had everyone on their feet, including the large batch of Lakers fans. And as Stuckey capped a superb 34-point performance, it was notable how many people will notice when you start doing something noticeable. That's what the Pistons did in this one, and not just because they beat Bryant and the Lakers. The Pistons are showing legitimate signs of progress after a miserable start, and it's coming from unusual places. This wasn't about their rising youngsters. This was about Stuckey and the veterans and defense, about cherished staples brought out of the Palace's back rooms.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: Lakers coach Mike Brown spent considerable time before the Lakers played the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night explaining why Kobe Bryant, overcoming injuries and applying a brand-new coaching system, deserved votes right now for NBA MVP. Bryant's value was indeed apparent in the Lakers' 88-85 overtime loss, just in a different way. He played poorly, and the Lakers lost. Bryant shot 8 for 26 from the field, his torrid shooting since breaking his nose curtailed during a first-quarter experiment with a new black mask that he said "kept sliding all over the place." He made a 19-footer over Tayshaun Prince at the regulation buzzer to force overtime, but Bryant didn't make a shot in overtime – when all three of his attempts were 3-pointers. The Lakers made just 3 of 22 3-point attempts (13.6 percent), including Bryant's badly rushed tying attempt while expecting to be fouled and Metta World Peace's failed last shot at the end of overtime. The Lakers came into the game 29th in the NBA in 3-point shooting, with only Charlotte worse.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: The "Black Maska" hysteria didn't last long. Kobe Bryant shot 1 for 6 from the field in the first quarter while wearing his new black mask to protect his broken nose. He had the mask knocked off his head by a Stuckey foul and complained another time about being hit on the underside of the mask, which didn't cover as much of his face and featured a much smaller strap that didn't cover Bryant's ears the way his old one did. Bryant talked about the fit of the new mask with Lakers trainer Gary Vitti and physical therapist Judy Seto while on the bench and decided to switch back to his old clear mask . Bryant made his first shot upon re-entering the game with the old mask, sinking a 9-foot fadeaway, but he still finished the first half shooting just 2 for 10 from the field.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: A league source confirmed last night Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce were fined for missing their NBA Day of Service appearances during All-Star weekend in Orlando, Fla. A USA Today report listed the fines — also assessed to Kobe Bryant — at $20,000 apiece, though the source would not confirm the amount. Rondo declined comment, saying, “If I talk about it, they’ll just fine me again.” This is not the first time the Celtics [team stats] have fumbled their Day of Service commitment. Last season in Los Angeles, Pierce, Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen all did not show up for their scheduled public service appearances, much to the chagrin of Doc Rivers, who did honor his commitment and later noted LeBron James drove himself to the work site. (Allen said a sudden schedule change by the NBA led to the four absences.) A sympathetic Rivers pointed out last night that Rondo, a late addition to the All-Star roster, didn’t arrive until late Friday morning for the team meeting, which was followed by the community service schedule. “I think people forget what time we got in, both times,” said Rivers. “We flew east to west last year, which was a brutal time, and this time we flew from Dallas early in the morning. At least they give the money to charity. Think of it that way.”

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: With the end of their losing streak in sight, the Rockets were blinded by the mirage. Victory seemed within certain reach as the Rockets went into the fourth quarter with a five-point advantage and an 18-1 record when leading after three quarters. They thought they could touch it when they led by 10 with 5½ minutes left. The Celtics were at 70 points, and the Rockets carried a 25-game winning streak when holding teams shy of 90. But the Rockets slowed to a pace better suited for a victory lap, and when they did, the win vanished. Boston rallied down the stretch and pulled away in overtime, sending the Rockets to a 97-92 defeat, their fourth consecutive loss and second in a row in overtime. There was no mystery about where the Rockets went wrong. When they held their biggest lead, they began milking the clock. The Celtics would not let them get away with it.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: The only concern coming out was the right ankle Dwyane Wade "tweaked" (the team's word) at the end of the first half, sitting out the final two periods. Chris Bosh certainly looked fine in his return from a three-game absence, scoring 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting in his 24 minutes. And LeBron James was typically efficient, with 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 30 minutes. Heck, even Eddy Curry got an extended run in the fourth quarter, despite playing in a jersey with his name decidedly off-center. Deron Williams? Exactly how much gas did you expect him to have after Sunday's 57-point performance? He scored 16 in 26 minutes. At one point, a fan blurted, "Dwight Howard is never going to play for you bums!" From there, a Nets beat writer quipped that New Jersey was preparing a five-year offer sheet for Dexter Pittman. Yes, a night reserved for comedy.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Though the Heat is eager to see if the Hornets buy out Chris Kaman if they can’t trade him, one competing general manager said they appear unwilling to do that. Beyond checking out Rasheed Wallace, Miami has had periodic contact with the agent for former Jazz center Kyrylo Fesenko. Consider this about the Heat’s natural backup big men: Entering Tuesday, Miami had been outscored by 26 points with Dexter Pittman on the floor (in 131 minutes), by 31 with Eddy Curry (in 40 minutes) and by 44 with Juwan Howard (in 76 minutes).

  • Andy Vasquez of The Record: LeBron James and the Heat got the best of the Nets on Tuesday night with a 108-78 drubbing. But even in defeat, DeShawn Stevenson never seems to pass up the chance to land a shot on the King. This time, Stevenson it came in the form of a not-so-subtle postgame dig, when Stevenson was asked the difference between the Heat of this year and the Heat that lost to Stevenson’s Mavericks in last year’s Finals. “I think we were just a better team than them,” Stevenson said. “And then obviously LeBron didn’t play like he should have played [in the Finals].” Stevenson had a lot to do with that, playing key defense on James and hitting several key shots of his own to help the Mavericks defeat the Heat in six games. James struggled mightily, extending the narrative that has dogged LeBron his entire career: he’s a great regular season player, but when the games matter most, or when the moment is there to be seized, he’s not the same guy. Stevenson, of course, has a tumultuous history with James — including a lot of trash talk between the two when Stevenson was with the Wizards and James was with the Cavs. Jay-Z even made a rap track dissing Stevenson.

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: Speaking to reporters a day after the Nets announced that center Brook Lopez would miss the next three weeks with a sprained right ankle, Nets general manager Billy King said he still intends to be active at the March 15 trade deadline. Lopez, of course, is the centerpiece of King’s efforts to trade for Orlando’s Dwight Howard. “I know the speculation is, ‘What do we do now?’ ’’ King said before the Nets, minus Lopez, were blown out by the Miami Heat, 108-78, last night at American Airlines Arena. “But we’ve got a good young center (in Lopez); we’ve got a great point guard (Deron Williams). There’s other things I’ll look to do. We have flexibility cap-wise,’’ King continued. “But at the end of the day, I want a healthy Brook Lopez and (don’t want to) worry about making trades at this point in regards of moving Brook Lopez. It’s about trying to add to this team.’’ King said he will “look at other things that I was already talking about doing with other teams’’ before the deadline.

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Players were concerned when they realized Stan Van Gundy would not be boarding the team plane leaving Toronto on Monday night. "Obviously, you hear 'chest pains' and you're worry level goes from a 3 to a 10 real quick," SG J.J. Redick said. "I knew he was sick. He was throwing up before the game. I'm glad he's OK and all the tests (to determine whether Van Gundy had a heart attack) came back negative." Magic GM Otis Smith said he was fine with Van Gundy coaching against the Bobcats as long as his heart tests came back clean. "It's not the extroverts who have the heart attacks," Smith said, tongue in cheek. "It's guys like me you should worry about, guys who keep everything inside. I don't worry about Stan. He lets it all out." Magic assistant coach Bob Beyer handled the team's walkthrough at the team hotel in Charlotte on Tuesday morning. "Bob did a terrific job, too," Redick said. Van Gundy was flying in from Toronto after undergoing tests Monday night.

  • Richard Walker of the Gaston Gazette: Entering Tuesday’s home game – played in front of the smallest crowd of the year of 13,110 at Time Warner Cable Arena – the Charlotte Bobcats had lost 17 of the last 18 meetings with the Orlando Magic. That includes the 4-0 first-round playoff series sweep Orlando put on the Bobcats in the eight-year-old franchise’s lone postseason appearance in 2010. Well, on this night, throw out all that history – and even the Bobcats’ coach – in a contest that left the Charlotte fans who did turn out delirious with happiness following a stunning 100-84 victory. “In the second half, we just started making hoops and they started missing,” said Charlotte coach Paul Silas, who was ejected late in the first half. “Everything just fell into place. Hopefully, it can continue because this feels so good.” Silas’ departure, which came for two quick technical fouls protesting a no-call on Corey Maggette’s drive to the basket, actually seemed to spark life in a team that had lost 21 of its previous 22 games. ... Boris Diaw’s consecutive games streak ended at 384 games Tuesday. Diaw has clearly fallen out of favor with Silas this season and his agent has reportedly requested either a trade out of Charlotte or buyout of the rest of the $9 million he’s owed this year in the final year of his contract. Diaw’s streak started March 7, 2007 and included 258 straight games played for the Bobcats after he was acquired from the Phoenix Suns in a Dec. 10, 2008 trade.

  • Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Joe Johnson is still out of the lineup, and Al Horford won’t re-join it until the postseason, if at all. With those two Hawks All-Stars out, that puts a heavy burden on forward Josh Smith. He has proved up to the challenge. Smith’s 27 points powered the short-handed Hawks to a 101-96 victory at Indiana on Tuesday night. The Hawks improved to 12-0 when Smith scores at least 20 points, which he has done in four of the past five games. “I’m playing confident basketball,” Smith said after scoring a game-high 27 points. “My teammates are looking for me. I know they need me to score a little more than I have in the past. They need me, and I feel like I can’t let them down.” Smith scored 13 points in the first 10 minutes Tuesday to help the Hawks build a 16-point lead, and then several Hawks players made key plays to hold off the Pacers. That’s become a winning formula for the Hawks: lots of everything from Smith, and a little bit of something from nearly everyone else.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: March 13. What’s so special about that date? That’s the next time the Pacers will win a game. They’ll head into their game that night against Portland on a four-game losing streak after losing at Miami and Orlando this weekend. There’s a chance they could be the No. 6 seed in the East by then, too. The Pacers needed to beat Atlanta. The Hawks were without two starters – Joe Johnson and Al Horford (both Pacer killers in the past) – but that didn’t stop them from duplicating the same script the Bulls used the night before. ... The Hawks manhandled the Pacers on the glass and Jannero Pargo and Zaza Pachulia played the role of John Lucas from the night before. ... Oh yeah, Josh Smith was the best player on the court the first three quarters of the game before letting Pargo and Pachulia do all the scoring off the same pick-and-roll play that started out front. Those two combined for 17 of Atlanta’s 25 points in the fourth quarter. ... The recent five-game winning streak will likely be a distant memory by the time the Pacers return the fieldhouse on the 13th.