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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: With just under four minutes left in the second quarter of the Mavericks’ 119-96 victory over Sacramento, Kings center DeMarcus Cousins delivered what replays showed to be a back-hand, closed-fist punch to O.J. Mayo’s groin. The incident occured while the two were fighting for position. During the next deadball, with 3:25 left, Cousins and Mayo were whistled for a double-technical foul for jawing at one another following the blow. “I told him, ‘Man, play basketball,’ ” Mayo said. “ ’You’ve got a chance to be a good player, but when you do stuff like that, you’re like a garbage player. It’s not a sign of being great.’” Cousins, who was suspended for two games by the NBA earlier this season for starting an altercation with Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliott, described the blow to Mayo’s midsection as “an accident.” “Man, that guy has mental issues,” Mayo said. “He’s a talented player. He has an opportunity to be the face of the organization, but I don’t think he wants it.” Mayo said he asked the referees to review the incident on videotape during halftime. Mayo said he has little doubt it’s a fine-able or suspendable offense.

  • John N. Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: Despite a growing belief among 76ers fans that Andrew Bynum, in the last year of his contract, may never play for the team, Bynum does not see that happening. "No, it never crossed my mind," said Bynum, seated in front of his locker stall Monday before the Sixers faced Detroit. "It is obviously a possibility, but it really depends on what my doctor tells me. If my left knee gets better and starts to feel like my right knee, I'll be playing." Bynum is scheduled to see his personal orthopedist, David W. Altchek, on Dec. 20 as he recovers from bone bruises and weakened cartilage in both knees. The center has not practiced or played for the Sixers since they acquired him in August. For Bynum and the Sixers, the next appointment is crucial. "Worst-case scenario, it's another month," Bynum said. "Best-case scenario, I can ramp it up." For now, Bynum does not feel that playing is worth the risk.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Like a missed shot or an errant pass in the course of a game, the Spurs will move on from the spate of off-court incidents that have embroiled the club in controversy, real and perceived, for the past two weeks. Others may have found the incidents dramatic, butnot Spurs coach Gregg Popovich or his players. “It’s drama to other people, but things happen, and we move on,” Popovich said after his team’s morning shootaround before the Spurs’ 134-126 overtime victory over the Rockets. “We don’t even discuss it. Nobody even talks about it. “We don’t worry about any of it. I don’t bring it up. Players don’t bring it up. It’s like when you’re in a game. You make a mistake, and you move on. You miss a shot, and you move on. Something off the court happens, and you move on.” The latest episode of off-court drama was a weekend Twitter posting by forward Stephen Jackson that elicited a $25,000 fine imposed jointly by the Spurs and the NBA. The fine, announced Sunday night, came on the heels of the $250,000 fine imposed Nov. 30 by Commissioner David Stern for Popovich’s decision to send Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green to San Antonio from Orlando rather than take them to Miami for a nationally televised Nov. 29 game against the Heat.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: With guard James Harden out, the Rockets planned to turn to Jeremy Lin to run more of the offense. But coach Kevin McHale said he would like to get the ball in Lin’s hands more often, regardless of whether his other top playmaker plays. “We have to find a way to get Jeremy playing with the ball more, even playing with James,” McHale said. “We’ve got to make sure he’s able to do some things and have some strong-side, weak-side action where he is involved.” Lin matched a career high with 38 points in Monday’s 134-126 overtime loss to the Spurs. Harden turned his right ankle when he stepped on Elton Brand’s foot Saturday. Harden stayed in the game but has not practiced since and is considered day-to-day. Of all the NBA point guards Jeremy Lin has studied, there are few he emulates quite as much as Spurs guard Tony Parker. The Rockets can only hope he can mimic Parker’s growth as well. Through 83 career games, Lin has made 42.1 percent of his shots, averaging 9.4 points per game, in an average of 22.1 minutes. Through 83 career games, Parker made 42.1 percent of his shots, averaging 10.2 points in an average of 31.7 minutes.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: Warriors point guard Stephen Curry had it going so much that the Charlotte Bobcats put 6-foot-7 small forward Jeff Taylor on him. But Curry used some fancy dribbling to shake free and drilled a pull-up 3-pointer. The sparse crowd collectively gasped while Curry strutted at midcourt. The local boy put on a show. In his only appearance in his hometown this season, Curry led the Warriors to a 104-96 victory Monday. He finished with 27 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. "When I was his age, I would tell you that it didn't mean anything," coach Mark Jackson said, "(but) I was trying to go murder my home team." The Warriors (14-7) have won four straight to start the seven-game trip, ensuring their longest trip of the season is a winning one. Golden State hadn't had a winning trip of seven games or more since the 1970-71 season. The 4-0 start to a trip is the team's first since the 1978-79 season. The Warriors head into Miami seven games over .500, a half-game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the lead in the Pacific Division.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Bad as the Charlotte Bobcats were defensively – the Golden State Warriors hit 13 of their first 16 shots – the bigger concern in this eighth straight loss might have been offense. The Bobcats committed a season-high 18 turnovers. They committed three shot-clock violations. They shot 37 percent from the field. That sums up why they trailed by as much as 21 and lost to the Warriors at home 104-96 Monday night. Those 24-second violations are becoming far too commonplace. The Bobcats (7-13) launched at least eight air balls in the first half. They trailed 20-9 early and had to outscore the Warriors 22-11 in the fourth quarter to make the final margin respectable. “As you lose, the value of a shot sometimes appears to be 10, instead of two,” said Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap, whose team is on the NBA’s longest active losing streak. Point guard Kemba Walker (24 points) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (17) were the only efficient scorers for the Bobcats. Walker took this one hard, blaming himself for the dysfunctional offense early on.

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: A deep thigh bruise is the type of injury that might cause the average player to miss a game or two. But not Pistons point guard Brandon Knight, who injured his left thigh Dec. 1 at Dallas and hasn't missed a game. In fact, he has averaged 34 minutes per game over the last six, including Monday night's game against the Sixers, when he had 22 points and four assists in 38 minutes. And though the jury is still out on whether Knight, 21, will ever become a top-level point guard, you can't doubt his toughness. "It's part of his make-up," coach Lawrence Frank said after the team's shoot-around at the Wells Fargo Center. "One of his talents is the guy loves to play. He loves to be out there, and he doesn't make any excuses when he is out there. He just loves to work. He's a workaholic, and like I've said, availability is talent No. 1."

  • Tom Couzens of The Sacramento Bee: When the Kings selected Thomas Robinson with the No. 5 pick in June, the Kansas power forward was thought to be one of the most pro-ready players in the draft, someone who could contribute immediately. That certainly hasn't been the case. As The Bee's Jason Jones reported Monday, the Kings never planned to rush Robinson into a starting role. But shouldn't the 6-foot-10 Robinson be putting up bigger numbers than 15.8 minutes, 4.6 points and 3.9 rebounds (entering Monday's game) for a mediocre team? The two players picked just after Robinson – Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard and Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes – are off to solid starts. … So did the Kings make the right pick? Only time will tell.

  • Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune: No NBA team has ever shot the 3-pointer as poorly as the Trail Blazers did Monday night at the Rose Garden. Portland set a league record for futility by missing all 20 attempts from beyond the arc — and still won going away 92-74 against a Toronto team that ought to at least be a bit ashamed. “I know — we broke the record,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said after the Blazers (9-12) handed the Raptors (4-18) their 11th consecutive road loss and their 11th in 12 games overall. “For that record to be broken in a win is even more impressive.” Or, at least, head-scratching. The previous record for most missed 3-point shots in a game without a make was 18 by New York against New Jersey in 2010. “I didn’t notice what was going on until the fourth quarter,” said Portland’s Luke Babbitt, who contributed five misses to the record performance. “What’s amazing about it is we could have a decisive victory like that even with it. That’s actually a good sign.” Many of the Blazers were oblivious to their march to history Monday night.

  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: An 0-5 road trip ended in the worst possible way as the Raptors closed out this forgettable trip west with another loss, another two injuries and one of those NBA moments that will stay with Amir Johnson for the remainder of his career whether he deserves it or not. None of it was particularly pretty, but the Amir Johnson ejection, if nothing else, was different as the Raps fell 92-74. … But easily the most bizarre moment of the night came in the third quarter when Johnson, normally a very mild-mannered sort, lost it completely. Johnson, as he has done hundreds of times, went to rebound a missed free throw and rub the ball up a little before handing the ball back to the official. It’s a habit of his and one that has never been a problem before. Only this time referee David Jones had his hands on it and didn’t appear to want to let it go. The two seemed to wrestle over it momentarily. Whatever happened between the two individuals at that point is unclear, but Jones issued a technical and an ejection right after it. Johnson then took a step towards Jones, who was on his way to the scorer’s table and was held back by teammate Mickael Pietrus. Johnson then threw his mouthpiece at Jones hitting the official in the back of the head as he spoke to Casey. The league will likely be addressing that but based on past transgressions with officials, the thinking is Johnson will be looking at a multi-game suspension.

  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: The bounce was back, and after Dwyane Wade pulled up in transition to drill a jumper over elite leaper and trash talker Josh Smith, the smile was, too. It only widened as Wade backpedaled, bobbed his head and spit out words, with a victory secured and some notice served. “He didn’t think I was going to make it,” Wade said after the 101-92 victory. “So I had to let him know.” Smith hasn’t been the only one to doubt Wade of late, but Monday night’s matchup against Atlanta provided more evidence that he may be finding his form. It was too soon to suggest so after he connected on 9 of 12 shots against undermanned New Orleans, but this was much more significant, against a surging Hawks squad that figured to test his quickness. Instead, he was even more efficient, his 11-of-13 accuracy coming from all over the floor. What does it mean going forward? Well, just ask LeBron James. “It means Charles Barkley needs to shut up,” James said, drawing laughter. “The man’s shooting like 80 percent from the floor the last couple of games. Come on, man. That’s like crazy, right? Seriously. I mean, that’s why he is who he is. That’s unbelievable.”

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks had a chance to overtake the first-place Heat. They are still looking up at the defending NBA champions. LeBron James was the biggest reason. James scored a game-high 27 points as the Heat defeated the Hawks 101-92 Monday night at American Airlines Arena. James set a Heat regular-season record with his 24th consecutive 20-point game. The Heat (14-5) used a 14-2 third-quarter run to break open a close game en route to the victory over the Hawks (12-6) in a battle for the Southeast Division lead. The Heat, winners of both games against the Hawks this season, now hold a 1.5 game lead in the division. The Heat also prevented the Hawks from taking over second place in the Eastern Conference. “We just didn’t play aggressively in the second half,” guard Jeff Teague said.