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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Nate Taylor of The New York Times: Many Knicks looked up at scoreboard inside the Amway Center on Tuesday night and quickly recognized the anomaly. For the first time this season, they trailed in the fourth quarter, and looked vulnerable against an unlikely opponent, the Orlando Magic, who lost to the Brooklyn Nets by 39 points last week. Jason Kidd, though, reminded his teammates to stay calm. Kidd told Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to be patient, and the Knicks started to resemble the N.B.A.’s only unbeaten team. In the fourth quarter, they forced seven turnovers, held the Magic to 13 points and escaped with a 99-89 victory. The Knicks’ fifth consecutive win matched their second-best start. They went 5-0 in the 1993-94 season, when they advanced to the N.B.A. finals. “I’ve been through a lot of fourth quarters,” Kidd said. “You can’t panic. You just take your time and try to work for a good shot.” The Knicks, the oldest team in the N.B.A., pointed to their maturity in the fourth quarter.

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Former baseball manager Sparky Anderson once said, "Spoilers are losers," largely because they play under no pressure and with no real aspirations. Ol' Spark probably never lost a guy like Dwight. Whether it is low-hanging fruit or not, the Magic want to have some say this season. They want to matter. They yearn to be noticed regardless of the role they have been relegated to play in this first of several rebuilding seasons. The Magic's paid professionals would cringe at the thought, but upsets over the Heat and Thunder and Lakers will qualify as their bowl games this season, in football parlance. They could pass as highlights. Or you just try to be as tough an out as you can. "We made them earn a win," Vaughn said. Prognosticators have disparaged the Magic and questioned their legitimacy. When the Magic lost Howard, they lost their identity — and their perennial spot in the playoff pool. He single-handedly created the big noise in a small market. They simply are no longer relevant.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: OK, so the Spurs aren’t exactly crushing the opposition. They’ve already had four games come down to the final seconds, and they’ve won all four — an unsustainable rate over the course of a full season. For now, however, things are going their way, and it’s happening at less than full strength. … Twitter’s NBA aficionados were abuzz just before the Spurs’ final possession, wondering what Gregg Popovich would cook up with his team trailing by two. They weren’t disappointed as Danny Green, covered by Kobe Bryant, set a quick screen in the paint on Pau Gasol before running off a pick from Tim Duncan for an open 3 that put the Spurs up two. Parker said afterward that Popovich specifically targeted Bryant’s tendency to linger in the lane. And true to form, he apparently didn’t even congratulate Green on the shot. … Not to be an alarmist, but that’s yet another injury worry for Manu Ginobili, who was questionable with more back issues. He entered the season raving about how great he felt but has yet to look it — particularly last night, when he went 1 for 8 and sat for most of the second half. Ginobili is now shooting 40 percent with 2.8 turnovers per game, the worst figures of his career.

  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: In what might have been their final game in the transition period between old coach and new one, the Lakers lost a nerve-jangling 84-82 decision to the Spurs in front of a sellout crowd of 18,997 at Staples Center. San Antonio's Danny Green swished the go-ahead 3-pointer over Kobe Bryant with 9.3 seconds remaining. Pau Gasol missed a 3-pointer at the other end and the Lakers couldn't control the rebound before the final buzzer sounded. "I think we did a lot of good things," Gasol said after the Lakers held the Spurs to only 38.9 percent shooting (35 of 90), but still fell to 2-1 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff and to 3-5 overall. Putting the ball into Bryant's capable hands on their final possession was not one of them, however. Metta World Peace inbounded the ball to Gasol in the right corner rather than waiting for Bryant to break free on the perimeter. Bryant scored a team-leading 28 points on 12-for-19 shooting and added four rebounds and eight assists. He wasn't happy with World Peace at game's end, talking to him in an animated fashion after the buzzer. "I wasn't frustrated," Bryant later told reporters. "It was a (mistake)."

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Rookie Jeff Taylor isn’t registering much on the box score as a fill-in starter, but coach Mike Dunlap likes what he’s seeing in terms of development. Dunlap says Taylor will eventually be “a lock-down defender, a Bruce Bowen-type, who can make a 3 and be a stopper defensively.’’ I wrote about Ramon Sessions’ closer persona in Tuesday’s Observer. Here was Dunlap’s take post-game on how Sessions’ calm might rub off positively on Kemba Walker: “When he goes in the huddles, he uses a low voice. He has a quarterback’s presence.’’ Rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had another solid game – 15 points off 6-of-11 shooting and eight rebounds. However he’s still a rookie – five fouls and two turnovers. A work-in-progress. After that big game in New Orleans, Bismack Biyombo has seemingly regressed in the last two. He committed two fouls in his first two minutes Tuesday. In 13 minutes he had one rebound, no blocks and no points. Tyrus Thomas showed some life with 10 points, six rebounds, two blocks and taking a baseline charge. The idea of a Bobcats opponent shooting 30 percent for a game would have been preposterous last season.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Feet buried in a bucket of ice, face buried in his hands, reserve forward Martell Webster was stewing as he contemplated how the Washington Wizards could have had such a miserable performance against the Charlotte Bobcats. Laughter emanated from the shower, but Webster made sure it quickly ceased. “We just lost!” Webster shouted. Silence fell back over the visitor’s locker room at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Wizards didn’t just lose 92-76 to the Bobcats on Tuesday to open the season with six consecutive losses for the second year in a row — and second time in franchise history. They lost their way, during a game that Coach Randy Wittman described as “mystifying” and forward Trevor Booker said was “embarrassing.” “You just got to throw this one out. Got to throw it,” point guard A.J. Price said after the Wizards shot an anemic 29.8 percent from the floor, missed 26 of 31 three-point attempts, established a new season low in scoring and trailed by 21 in the fourth quarter.

  • Barbarta Barker of Newsday: It finally happened. Sometime after hitting his third three-pointer in just more than two minutes last night, a hint of a smile finally flickered across Joe Johnson 's face. Yes, Johnson looked as though he was having a good time in a Nets uniform for the first time this season, looked as though this was a place he was going to fit in just fine. Johnson, who struggled in his first five games playing alongside point guard Deron Williams , scored a season-high 25 points to lead the Nets to a 114-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Barclays Center. "I just got some good looks and we got into transition," Johnson said. "I shot a couple of threes in transition, which got me into a little rhythm. Guys were finding me and I was just trying to take my time with my shot." The win was the third straight for the Nets, who were hoping to have one of the most dominating backcourts in the league when they brought in Johnson this offseason to pair with Williams. The two totaled 51 points Tuesday night with Williams scoring 26 points and handing out 10 assists.

  • Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: The fact that Scott left Irving off his list of those playing well defensively was telling. Scouts have been lamenting Irving’s defensive effort since the start of his career. Irving recently conceded in a recent interview his defense last season was lousy, but vowed this year would be different. Told of Scott’s comments, Irving agreed. “I’m probably a C right now,” Irving said. “Maybe I do need to climb on board.” Irving’s 34 points surpassed his previous high of 32, which was also set against the Nets in a losing effort last season. Varejao’s 35 points smashed his previous high of 26 points set four seasons ago against the Chicago Bulls. “I just tried to be really active, tried to be aggressive on offense,” Varejao said. Scott has complained a lot about the Cavs’ defensive effort over most of this trip. Now that they don’t have another game until Saturday, the majority of the focus in practice the next couple of days will be on the defensive end. “We’ve got three more days before our next game,” Scott said. “I can promise you we will work on it a hell of a lot the next three days. A hell of a lot.”

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: A disheartening triple-overtime loss at home Monday night, followed by a 3 a.m. arrival early this morning, not to mention injuries at two key positions and a team running on fumes were all there for the taking. But somehow 1-6 is now 2-6 and Raptors are off the schneid thanks to a 74-72 win. “This has to be huge,” head coach Dwane Casey said when asked about the impact a win like this can have. “It’s like I told them. This has to be the start. We are going to have some more rough (times) but this breaks that schneid. We deserved to win that game.” After a slow start that saw them stuck nine 31/2 minutes into the evening, the Raptors turned it around and took a lead with 4:14 to go in the first and never looked back. Sure there were some very anxious moments, particularly in that fourth quarter when the Raptors couldn’t buy a basket and scored a franchise low five points in the final frame, but the refusal to let this one get away will be what separates this game from all others they’ve played this year.

  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: In a season full of stumbles and hiccups down the stretch, the Pacers completely fell on their faces in their 74-72 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “To win games in the NBA, you have to play a complete game,” Pacers point guard George Hill said. “We jumped out to a great start, the energy was there, then it disappeared after that.” The Pacers didn’t even face a healthy Toronto team. The Raptors were without two starters — Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields — and a rotation player off the bench — Alan Anderson. Hold on, the embarrassment gets worse for the Pacers. The Raptors didn’t have fresh legs, either.

  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian: Of all the answers Terry Stotts gave after the Trail Blazers’ 103-86 victory over Sacramento at Sleep Train Arena on Tuesday, the shortest might have been the most telling. Did the Blazers need this win for their psyche after starting the season 2-5? “Yes,” Stotts said firmly and clearly, punctuating the answer with a big smile. The Blazers beat the struggling Kings behind rookie point guard Damian Lillard, who put on quite a performance for family members from nearby Oakland who were in the stands. Lillard had 22 points and nine assists, and – after going 5 for 18 in a home loss to Atlanta the night before – shot 7 for 10 from the field, including 5 for 6 from three-point range. Lillard said the performance wasn’t about the audience, but rather, what the Blazers badly needed.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: DeMarcus Cousins' appeal to reduce his two-game suspension to one was denied Tuesday, and he missed his second game when the Kings lost to the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena. Cousins was suspended Sunday for two games for confronting San Antonio Spurs broadcaster and former NBA player Sean Elliott after last Friday's game in what the NBA deemed a "hostile" manner. Cousins left the locker room to confront Elliott about comments he'd been told Elliott made about him during the television broadcast. The appeal through the National Basketball Players Association was an attempt to get the penalty reduced on the basis the punishment was too harsh. So the Kings had to move on without Cousins, who is their leading scorer and rebounder.