First Cup: Tuesday

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: The Pacers didn’t hide their feelings about Monday’s game against the Miami Heat. They didn’t use the standard cliché often heard from athletes, “It’s just another game.” It wasn’t just another game for the Pacers. It was a game they had been looking forward to for more two weeks. They wanted prove they could truly beat the Heat and that their collapse during the final 90 seconds in South Beach wouldn’t happen again if they faced a similar situation. The Pacers made sure they weren’t in the position to choke this time. They led by double digits for all of 1 minute and 25 seconds of the fourth quarter. The Heat really only made two runs on the Pacers and the blue and gold withstood them both to move 10 games over .500. “We needed to get over this hump,” Roy Hibbert said. “We feel like we can play with anybody and when we have intensity like that from start to finish, we can beat anybody. There’s a chance we could see them in the playoffs and we wanted to let them know we weren’t going to roll over and it’s not going to be easy.” The Pacers didn’t have one player carry them. They did it with a complete team effort, which is what it takes to beat the Heat.

  • Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald: It’s a good thing the Heat plays most of its games at home during the final month of the regular season. Miami has been downright awful on the road since the All-Star break. While the Heat has won 13 in a row at AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami has played like a different team entirely away from Biscayne Bay — a much worse team. On Monday, the Heat lost its sixth game on the road since the season’s midway point, losing to the Indiana Pacers 105-90 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. All five of the Pacers’ starters scored in double figures while the Heat’s lineup continued to struggle with its offense for the second night in a row. “It’s that time of year for us to hit a little pothole in the road,” said Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who finished with 24 points, six assists, five rebounds, and four blocks. “We have to make the adjustment before we get back to playing on Thursday.” The Heat is 8-6 since the All-Star break and has lost two in a row. ... The Heat is playing its worst basketball of the season with a month remaining until the playoffs.

  • Jill Painter of the Los Angeles Daily News: Clippers star Blake Griffin was whistled for a flagrant foul against New Orleans forward Trevor Ariza, less than a week after Hornets forward Jason Smith was called for a flagrant foul that sent Griffin sprawling to the court. The difference was the Clippers won this game against New Orleans, 97-85 on Monday atStaples Center. And yet, the Clippers' win got lost in that foul, which less than an hour after the game already was on YouTube. Usually, Griffin's posterizing dunks dominate highlights, and he had some of those as well. Griffin fouled the former Laker and UCLA player with both arms extending over him as he was driving to attempt a layup. Ariza lost his balance and fell on his backside but quickly hopped to his feet to voice his displeasure with the foul. Players started jawing, and Ariza received a technical foul, too. Smith - not here because he was serving a two-game suspension - fouled Griffin so hard he was knocked to the ground, and Smith served a two-game suspension for it. Afterward, Griffin brushed off talk of retaliation and discussed the game plan to not allow layups. Griffin's hands were situated deep in the pockets of his jeans, so perhaps his fingers were crossed. "No, I don't think that was a flagrant foul," he said.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: There’s apparently going to be a certain edginess every time the Hornets and Clippers play now, if Monday night was any indication. The hard-feelings that came out of last Thursday night’s win — Jason Smith’s hard-foul against Blake Griffin that brought about Smith’s two-game suspension — spilled over into the stands and on the floor in the Clippers’ 97-85 victory. One fan was ejected for throwing a peanut at Hornets Coach Monty Williams, and Griffin exacted a bit of revenge with a flagrant 1 foul on Trevor Ariza in the third quarter, which also resulted in a technical on Ariza when he whispered something to Griffin within earshot of an official. Griffin scored 20. The Clippers toyed with the Hornets until Chris Paul put up 15 third-quarter points — he finished with 25 — as the short-handed Hornets, playing without Smith and Chris Kaman (illness), couldn’t stand up to Los Angeles’ punishing inside attack. ... Williams, an old-schooler in his thoughts about how the game is played, said Griffin is just going to have to become accustomed to being pushed around. “He knows; he’s no fool,” Williams said. “He knows he’s making people look crazy, and guys don’t like that. He’s got to expect some of that. It’s just going to happen.”

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: JaVale McGee hasn't done everything right, but he had accomplished being a significant enough presence in his first three games with the Nuggets that he was in the starting lineup Monday at Chicago. McGee is averaging 12.3 points (on 62.2 percent shooting), 8.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots since being traded to the Nuggets. In his time in Denver he has been a more imposing, intimidating, effective presence in the middle than normal starter Timofey Mozgov has been of late. "You've got to experiment," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "He played well in the second half (at Minnesota). There's an energy there. ... JaVale is not the most experienced guy in the world, but I think he has more of a starting mentality to his game. We've got to experiment to see who plays well with who." McGee had his first double-double with the Nuggets on Sunday against the Timberwolves with 13 points and 11 rebounds. On Monday at Chicago he finished with 10 points and eight rebounds in nearly 24 minutes.

  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times: Everything’s good, right? Who needs a 34-year-old who can’t seem to stay healthy? Who needs a guy who wears an invisibility cloak over his uniform? The Bulls do. They need a rickety, sharp-shooting Hamilton, even if their NBA-best 40-11 record would seem to scream down the very idea of it. The reasons the Bulls signed Hamilton in December haven’t gone away. They still need another element to throw at the Heat. They still need somebody with more offensive skills than Keith Bogans gave them last season. This is where the more enthusiastic Bulls fan says, “Have you seen John Lucas III lighting it up lately?’’ Yes, I have. And I also can’t help but think that Lucas will be lucky to get a few minutes a game in the postseason, when coaches rely more heavily on starters. ... If you’re a fan of doing things the right way, you want that to count for something. It should count for something if life were fair. But life isn’t fair. Some teams coast in the regular season and find an extra gear in the playoffs. Not to get too philosophical on you, but what does it all mean? What does all the regular-season success mean for the Bulls? Very little if they come up short of their expectations. Mr. Hamilton? Any time you’re ready.

  • Frank Dell’Apa of The Boston Globe: Mickael Pietrus has not started baseline testing after the concussion be sustained at Philadelphia Friday. “There is no update, nothing, we’re just talking to him on the phone,’’ Rivers said of Pietrus. “Last I heard, they want to try this week. I think you have to start the baseline tests. They haven’t gotten to that. “He’s having too many symptoms. I don’t think we’re going to see him for a while.’’ Former Celtic Brian Scalabrine had a concussion during the 2008-09 season, returned quickly, and sustained another concussion. The Celtics are being more cautious now. “He’s great, he’s back home and he’s talking,’’ Rivers said of Pietrus. “It’s funny, we had it with Scal. You talk to them on the phone, they sound normal. But, obviously, it’s still a factor. “The first thing he said: ‘I’ve got to get back on the floor.’ Take your time.’’

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Bobcats big man Byron Mullens must have big ears. Before Monday’s 102-95 home loss to the Boston Celtics, coach Paul Silas said he sees 7-footer Mullens’ future at power forward because Mullens hasn’t been physical enough at the center spot. As Silas put it, “I just don’t know if you can make a tough guy out of somebody who is not.” Mullens sure looked like a guy making a statement, coming off the bench for 18 points, seven rebounds and two shots blocked. He even traded taunts and the occasional shove with Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett. The Bobcats were down 18 at the end of the first quarter when Mullens revved up. He hit a 3-pointer over Garnett’s outstretched arms, then beat Garnett to the rim to catch and dunk an alley-oop pass from rookie Kemba Walker. Silas liked what he saw. “We did play tough more than early on this season,” Silas said. “I like what Byron did and Derrick Brown (16 points) was tough, too.”

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Bucks guard Monta Ellis has been thrown into the mix without much preparation time. That's what happens when you make a deal at the trade deadline. "He's made some really good plays," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said before the game. "He's made some plays on the pick-and-roll; he's passed the ball well. We're a better-than-average passing team and he's fit right into that. "But there's also moments where we're going to need him to step up and exert his will on the game a little bit and score the ball. It's tricky. You make a trade with not a lot of games left, and a guy deserves a period of time to adjust. “And we deserve a period of time to adjust to him, especially a guy as talented as Monta. At the same time, we’ve got to win the game.” Ellis was 2 for 14 from the field against the Knicks was extremely frustrated. He scored on a tip-in in the first quarter and did not score again until 6:03 remained in the game on a fast-break dish from Brandon Jennings. “It will fall,” Ellis said. “Hopefully it will turn around soon."

  • John Branch of The New York Times: The latest rash of ailments tainted the enthusiasm over the Knicks’ seventh victory in the eight games since Woodson replaced Mike D’Antoni this month. “It just seems like it’s not stopping,” center Tyson Chandler said. “You get that bug and it seems like it transfers from one guy to another.” The game with the Bucks had enough intrigue without the injuries. With about one-quarter of the shortened regular season to play, the Eastern Conference appears to be a nine-team game of musical chairs for eight playoff seats. The victory moved the Knicks, with 16 games to play, two and a half games ahead of the Bucks for the final slot. The slight cushion may come in handy. While nagging injuries to Lin and Anthony are a concern, Stoudemire’s long-range health is by far the most worrisome. The Knicks hope his injury is not a repeat of last season, when Stoudemire pulled a muscle in his back during warm-ups for Game 2 of a playoff series with the Boston Celtics, and the Knicks hobbled meekly to an early vacation. It took Stoudemire about seven months to fully recover.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Orlando Magic have tried to address their turnover troubles by focusing on the problem. Now, Stan Van Gundy will try another remedy. He'll try to let his players play. "We're gonna have to play the game better," Van Gundy said before the Magic faced the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre on Monday night. "We spent a lot of time talking about it. We showed film on it. Now we're gonna go the other way a little bit and just sort of harp on other things and let 'em play a little bit." Orlando had committed at least 19 turnovers in four of their previous five games.

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: The tragic number going in was nine. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey felt his team would at least give themselves a good shot at a win if they could limit the Orlando Magic to eight or fewer three-pointers. The fact that Orlando already had nine, six of them by Ryan Anderson alone, and there was still 1:26 to go in the first half pretty much told the tale. If the pre-game message was “We’re going to chase these guys off that three-point line,” it got lost in translation somewhere as the Magic rolled to a 117-101 win. Casey’s post-game mood was one of abject disappointment. “We came out as flat as a pancake against one of the top teams in the league and it’s disappointing,” Casey said.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Rockets guard Kyle Lowry shoveled a basketball to Goran Dragic with his left hand, unable to use his right because of the antibiotics PICC line in his right arm. The effort was not much greater than passing the peas at dinner, but it was as much as he has been permitted in weeks or is likely to undergo for several more weeks. He laughed when Dragic hit the shot Lowry told him would be his last. He celebrated not just his first morning around the Rockets since he was hospitalized March 8 with a bacterial infection but the understanding that if not for an alert technician and luck his serious condition could have been worse. Lowry, 26, said he might not return this season from his infection and its treatment, but he was happy just to be back at a morning shootaround. “It was very scary for a while,” Lowry said. “I had a temperature of 104 for a couple days. It’s not a good feeling. It’s very scary, but it’s something that you learn from and you have to deal with and do what you have to do to get better. If I waited a little bit longer I could have been (in danger). I could have been in a real bad situation if I waited a day longer to go in. They don’t have a clue how it happened or how this situation came about.”

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Terrence Williams said facing his old team provided no extra motivation. ... The Rockets waived the seldom-used Williams on March 16, and the Kings signed him to a 10-day contract Wednesday. In both of his appearances with Sacramento, he has been on the court at crunch time. "I don't care where we were playing (Monday)," Williams said. "I wasn't going to let the last game happen again. I just tried to be focused and be ready to play basketball." Williams committed a turnover with 15.6 seconds left in the Kings' 111-108 loss at Golden State on Saturday. On Monday, he had 10 points, three rebounds and two steals. Coach Keith Smart said Williams is "moving up the charts" and earning the right to play earlier in games. "He's playing well. He's playing within himself," Smart said. "He's shown he can make some plays and be a playmaker defensively, so he's moving at the right pace for our basketball team." Williams likely will stay for the rest of the season.

  • Colin Stephenson of The Star-Ledger: It has gotten to the point where the Nets lost tonight for the sixth time in seven games — to a team playing its fourth game in five nights, and coming off a four-overtime game the night before — and no one on the team seemed particularly surprised or terribly disappointed. “They’re a good basketball team,” Nets coach Avery Johnson said of the Utah Jazz, who came into the Prudential Center and beat the Nets, 105-84. “This (Utah) is a team that’s vying for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and they have a lot at stake right now. So even if you’re a little tired, you try to dig a little deeper.” The Jazz have been digging deep for the past couple weeks, at least. The win tonight was their seventh in eight games. At 27-23, Utah is in the thick of the playoff race, currently in a three-way tie with Houston and Denver for the final two playoff spots. The Nets (16-35), on the other hand, have lost eight of their last 10. Johnson said the group that finished the game — Sundiata Gaines, MarShon Brooks, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams and Johan Petro — let the game get too far out of hand.

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: This is Deron Williams’ NBA life 13 months after being traded by the Jazz. The former face of Utah’s franchise was part of another professional embarrassment Monday during the Jazz’s 105-84 victory at the Prudential Center. Just 10,310 fans were announced, and the mark was generous. The only time Williams looked like D-Will came during the third and early fourth quarter, when the Nets (16-35) finally started caring, erasing a 17-point halftime deficit to pull within 72-69 after the All-Star point guard sank an 11-foot turnaround jumper with 11:02 to go. It was as close as Utah (27-23) allowed New Jersey to get, and as good as Williams looked. The man who owned Salt Lake City finished with 17 points, a co-game-high 11 assists and four rebounds in 40:18.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: As Jordan Crawford walked through the tunnel, following yet another fourth-quarter collapse, he pulled at the drawstrings on his shorts, lifted his head toward the rafters, shook it and rolled his eyes. It couldn’t have happened again. Not like this. Not at home. Not against the Detroit Pistons. But as Rodney Stuckey and the Pistons giddily hugged and celebrated a 79-77 victory at center court, the Washington Wizards had to deal with completing an improbable home threepeat on Monday night, as they allowed their third straight opponent to rally back from a double-digit second-half deficit to pull out a victory at Verizon Center. “It’s mental. It’s mental for sure. You think about it all the time,” Crawford said after scoring a team-high 20 points. “We’re playing to not lose and that’s why we’re not winning. It’s frustrating. We got to play to win the game.”

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey went through Monday's morning shoot-around and declared himself ready to play against the Wizards on Monday. Stuckey, who admittedly hates missing games because of injuries, said electronic stimulation and treatment he has been receiving have eliminated the swelling, which was the most difficult part of the injury. When he played against the Clippers on March 18, Stuckey was laboring, unable to plant his feet. He missed the last three games with a sore left big toe and had to watch the Pistons muddle through the last two games offensively. The one thing Stuckey isn't concerned about is re-injuring the toe. He was asked if he was worried about making his sore toe worse, and he smiled. "We'll find out if I re-aggravate it," Stuckey said. "If not, I'll be fine."