First Cup: Monday

  • K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: The Bulls took their recent spate of slow starts to a new low Sunday afternoon, missing 11 of their first 12 shots, committing seven first-quarter turnovers and trailing 27-6 at one point. "It's a big concern," coach Tom Thibodeau said. Thibodeau preaches about readiness to play ad nauseam, which is why he fielded a question about if he has new plans to address an old problem. "We'll see," he said. Thibodeau burned two timeouts before 4 minutes elapsed, but the Knicks kept the pressure on, finishing with 18 first-quarter points in the paint. "We have to play with more urgency," Derrick Rose said. The Bulls also dropped to 2-6 in afternoon games. "I'd prefer to play a few of them at home," Thibodeau said. The Bulls are 1-1 in home matinees, losing to the lowly Nets on Feb. 18.

  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Carmelo Anthony was hopping around and screaming "This is my house!" after burying the shot that capped his best performance of the season and greatest moment as a Knick. Anthony has been booed at the Garden this season, but he had everyone standing and cheering Sunday after his three-pointer gave the Knicks a 100-99 overtime win over the Bulls. Anthony scored a season-high 43 points, shooting 16-for-31. He sent the game to overtime by drilling a three-pointer with 11.2 seconds left and erased a two-point deficit with 8.2 seconds to play in overtime against a team the Knicks will face again Tuesday in Chicago and could play in the first round of the playoffs. Bulls All-Star Derrick Rose , who returned after missing 12 games with a groin injury, had some costly missed free throws and eight turnovers and was outdueled by Anthony in his house. "It was mine today," Anthony said. "They were talking some trash out there a little bit. In the moment, it's fun times."

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: Can they count on the officials letting Shumpert play Rose as physically as he did Sunday? Can they expect the Bulls to choke at the line? Are the odds with the Knicks when they must live or die with Anthony unloading the wayJohnson did long ago and far away? Yes, there are parallels to be drawn to the season in which Latrell Sprewell and Marcus Camby joined Johnson, Patrick Ewing and friends in New York — although it was the general manager, Ernie Grunfeld, who was fired that time in an attempt to light a fire under the embattled coach Jeff Van Gundy’s team. ... Teams at the bottom of the conference playoff seeding usually are, and an overwhelming percentage do not survive the first round. So give Anthony and the Knicks credit for accepting Chicago’s generosity at the free-throw line and turning Sunday’s instant Easter classic into a much-needed victory. But if there was a statement to make afterward, it should have been more about the division race than the conference. Trust me, Chicago and Miami are the last places the Knicks want to be when April gives way to May.

  • Scott Souza of the MetroWest Daily News: Ray Allen has accepted his reserve role with the Celtics. That doesn’t mean he’s content with it. Shortly before coming off the bench for the third game in a row — and the seventh time in his 16-year NBA career — the 36-year-old guard said that while he is willing to do whatever Celtics coach Doc Rivers asks of him to help the team, he is not yet comfortable coming off the bench, and is not necessarily looking for that to be his role for whatever remains of his career. “I think my challenge is to be able to compete at a high level every year coming into the season and that means competing for a starting job every opportunity I get,” he said before last night’s game against the 76ers at TD Garden. “That’s my focus. That’s my goal. “If I felt as though I wasn’t playing up to that level, and those standards, then I think there’s going to be a point where I’d have to say it’s time for me to move on."

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: On a day when many Christians around the world observed a resurrection, the 76ers' offense remained lifeless. And their playoff hopes are nearing life-support condition. For the 10th time in 14 games, the Sixers lost, this time to the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Celtics, 103-79. Boston has a three-game lead on the Sixers and any hopes of winning the division seemed to get thrown into the nearby Boston Harbor. Holding onto a playoff spot is also close to getting washed away as the New York Knicks, with their win Sunday over the Chicago Bulls, pulled into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and dropped the Sixers to eighth. Though both teams have the same record at 29-27, the Knicks own the tiebreaker as they took two of three from the Sixers this season. The Sixers are only one game ahead of the ninth-place Milwaukee Bucks. For now, though, playoff talk should be the furthest thing to come out of anyone's mouth concerning this team. Approaching the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the Sixers appeared to be submerging just as quickly.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: With 10 games left in the regular season, Thunder coach Scott Brooks has no plans on resting any of his players in an attempt to enter the postseason rested and working with a clean bill of health. But if the Thunder plays like it did Sunday night, rest won't be a problem. The Thunder trounced Toronto, 91-75, inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, snapping a three-game skid by using a 24-0 run to turn what was a ho-hum game for 21/2 quarters into borderline humiliation for the Raptors. Thabo Sefolosha was the only Thunder starter who logged any minutes in the fourth quarter, as OKC built its lead to as many as 27 before turning the page to Milwaukee on Monday night. “If we keep winning like this, I'll get a rest,” said Russell Westbrook, who played just 27 minutes. Brooks has never subscribed to sitting players. He has likened the strategy to “cheating the game” and the fans. And on Sunday, he confessed that his team's youth plays a part as well. “If we had a bunch of veteran guys in their 30s, there's no question things would be different,” Brooks said. “But our guys, if you take out some of the guys, they'll think I'm benching them twice a game. They want to play every minute. They love to play and they want to keep playing. It's like pulling teeth to get five or six minutes out of them per half.”

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: The Raptors, who lost Andrea Bargnani for the second half due to a flare-up of his calf injury, battled the Thunder starters tooth and nail early, forcing all kinds of turnovers, but things changed once Harden, the NBA’s premier reserve and the rest of the bench entered in the first half. Even more noticeably, Harden imposed his will during the aforementioned run late in the third, which began with the Thunder up only three points. Then the visitors collapsed, giving up 24 straight — one shy of the team record set twice, most recently, back in 2000 against the Charlotte Hornets. That spoiled all the good work from earlier in the game by the visitors. “Like being hit by a train going from Oklahoma City to Dallas,” Casey said of the run. “We can play them 10 out of 10 times and the results probably wouldn’t be different. But like I told the guys, I’m looking for 10 guys to compete, to fight, to scratch, to claw going down. “I didn’t feel like we were competing. That’s what we’re looking for these last few games.”

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Beginning the final three weeks of the NBA’s compressed schedule with back-to-back games against the Utah Jazz, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich went with another lineup wrinkle designed to manage the minutes of key players. After starting DeJuan Blair at center for the first 53 games, Popovich went with newcomer Boris Diaw in the middle for Sunday’s game at the AT&T Center. Blair didn’t play at all, and neither did forward Stephen Jackson. Both were healthy and in uniform, but Popovich had told both players before tipoff to not plan on seeing any court time. The coach would not reveal his plans for tonight’s rematch in Utah. Might some players even remain at home when the team’s charter flight takes off for Salt Lake City? “It’s a fair question,” Popovich said, “(but) it’s none of your business. Absolutely a fair question, and a good one. It’s something I need to think about.” Jackson offered a hint as he exited the locker room to head to San Antonio International Airport. “See you when we get back,” he called to guard Manu Ginobili, who scored 23 points in little more than 28 minutes in Sunday’s 114-104 win. Ginobili insisted he had received no instructions to remain behind but also could not say for certain he would be on the plane.

  • Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune: The Jazz will return home hobbled. More beaten up than they’ve been at any point this season. Possibly down to 10 active players, two of whom are rookies, four of whom are 22 or younger. Needing every ounce of strength and willpower that’s kept them fighting thus far. Utah lost two key athletes Sunday during a 114-104 defeat to the Spurs, and the Jazz’s playoff hopes took another hit. Starting shooting guard C.J. Miles (strained left calf) and backup point guard Earl Watson (sore right knee) left the game during the second quarter and didn’t return. Miles wore a protective boot afterward, Watson was on crutches, and both will undergo MRI exams Monday. "I can’t even walk," said Watson, who initially was placed in a wheelchair. Meanwhile, a Jazz (29-28) team that’s dropped six of nine fell back into 10th place in the Western Conference. Utah’s a half-game behind ninth-place Phoenix — which holds a tiebreaker — and 11/2 games behind eighth-place Denver with just nine contests left in the 2011-12 season. With starters Josh Howard and Raja Bell already out of action, the Jazz exited the AT&T Center knowing their options are increasingly becoming limited.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: Kyle Lowry returned less than two weeks after he said he did not know if he would play again this season, just 10 days after he was cleared to begin any activity. He went through one practice and a light walk-through before convincing coach Kevin McHale he was ready. Eager to return “I wanted to play the last game,” Lowry said after the Rockets’ third straight win on the road. “Coach said no. Tonight, he let me go out there. I said I wanted to play. After the day I practiced (Thursday), I felt great. Coach didn’t want me to play the Lakers game. Tonight, was an opportunity to play, so he let me.” Lowry said that if he had been told March 29 when the antibiotics catheter was removed from his arm that he would be playing against the Kings on Sunday, “I wouldn’t have believed you. Things happened really fast. The training staff did a great job. I committed to getting back sooner than later.” After missing 15 games — with the Rockets going 9-6 — Lowry did not ease his way back. He played 18 minutes off the bench, including the entire fourth quarter. He missed his three shots, but he had seven assists without a turnover or a complaint. “I’m not as fast as I want to be, but I’m going to get back there,” Lowry said. “

  • Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee: Marcus Thornton missed his fourth consecutive game Sunday evening with a bruised left calf, though Kings coach Keith Smart suggested the guard could return Tuesday against the Mavericks in Dallas. ... Thornton has not played since last Monday, when he left in the first quarter of the Kings' win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Forward John Salmons, missing his eighth consecutive game with a sore right hip, and swingman Francisco Garcia (concussion) also were out against the Rockets. After staying fairly healthy through the first half of the season, the Kings have seemed more susceptible to injuries since the All-Star break. As of Feb. 29, three Kings had missed a total of 19 games because of injury and illness, the third-lowest total in the NBA at that time, according to information compiled earlier this season by the Philadelphia 76ers. That number had increased to 46 entering Sunday. Thornton and Salmons each have missed a team-high 11 games because of injury or illness.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: If San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich were filling out Sunday's lineup card, there is a reasonable chance the notation next to Dwyane Wade's name in the box score would have been "DNP-Detroit Pistons." Instead, because Erik Spoelstra would never do what Popovich did last month, listing Tim Duncan as "DNP-old," the Miami Heat merely listed Wade as missing the 98-75 thrashing of the Pistons at AmericanAirlines Arena due to a sore right ankle. OK, whatever. Just as Wade was given the night off last week with a "bruised knee" against the Philadelphia 76ers to be there when needed in the next night's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Wade this time got a bit of R&R in advance of Eastern Conference showdowns this week on Tuesday night against the visiting Boston Celtics and Thursday night on the road against the Chicago Bulls. As it was, the Heat completed their regular-season sweep of the 76ers without Wade and Sunday did the same against the Pistons, getting more than enough from LeBron James and Chris Bosh. "Right now it's coming into form," Spoelstra said. "Hopefully we can maintain that."

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: There wasn't much time for Pistons rookie Vernon Macklin to re-familiarize himself with his teammates on his return from the D-League but they were waiting on him. Teammates Austin Daye and Ben Wallace led the playful chiding chant of "swag, swag, swag" as he was being interviewed by media Sunday, hours after he landed in Miami from Fort Wayne, where the Pistons' D-League affiliate is located. Macklin, a second-round pick in last June's draft, acquitted himself well in his 10-game stint, averaging 14.3 points and 14.5 rebounds, earning rave reviews from front office personnel and the coaching staff. Pistons coach Lawrence Frank was impressed with Macklin's approach. "A lot of guys look at it as a punishment or demotion," Frank said. "He had a great attitude and positive spirit. The people at Fort Wayne were very complimentary of him. (Spoke well) Not just for himself but for the organization."

  • Andy Vasquez of The Record: Through Sunday night’s win over Cleveland, the Nets have lost 211 man games to injury/personal reasons this season. They’ve also used 22 starting lineups in 57 games. In 82 games last season, they used 24 starting lineups. Six players who have dressed for the Nets this season have been ruled out for the remainder of the year; Brook Lopez (right foot surgery), Damion James (right foot surgery) and Jordan Farmar (right groin injury) still are on the roster. Keith Bogans (left ankle surgery) was released after suffering a season-ending injury, and Mehmet Okur (back) and Shawne Williams (left foot surgery) were traded to Portland as part of the Gerald Wallace deal.

  • Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer: Lester Hudson arrived in Cleveland on March 30 as a 27-year-old journeyman trying to keep his career alive in the NBA's Development League. Ten days later, he is the second-best offensive threat on the depleted Cavaliers. He is scoring points in bunches, making the type of fourth-quarter plays Kyrie Irving often delivers and prompting the team owner to tweet: "Lesanity!" in reference to the phenomenon created by another D-Leaguer who captivated NBA fans about 10 miles from here on the other side of the Hudson River. On Sunday night, as his 10-day contract and the game clock were expiring, Hudson hit a fadeaway 3-pointer to force overtime against the New Jersey Nets in the Prudential Center. The fact the Cavaliers lost, 122-117, is almost immaterial given their place in the standings. The fearless combo guard, a member of the Austin Toros two weeks ago, is at worst making the last few weeks of the season palatable for a fan base growing increasingly more interested in mock drafts. Hudson scored a career-high 26 points two days after he tallied 23 in a win over Toronto. That's 49 points in two games coming off coach Byron Scott's bench. He nearly made it 52, but his 3-point attempt in the final seconds of overtime rimmed out and the Nets salted away victory at the foul line. "I think we're going to sign him to another 10-day [deal], that's for sure," Scott said with a grin. "I'll get a good chance to talk to [General Manager Chris Grant] tomorrow and I'm pretty sure Lester will be in a Cavaliers uniform for the rest of the year."