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First Cup: Friday

  • Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun: The Raptors had every excuse to lay down and die and at times the team did snooze a bit on Thursday night. But DeMar DeRozan woke up in the fourth quarter and nailed a buzzer-beating fadeaway jumper from the left corner, sending the Raptors to a 97-95 road victory. DeRozan scored 14 points in the quarter, including the make with 0.6 ticks on the clock, shaking off what had been a poor outing. He led the club with 22 points, while Amir Johnson scored 21 in an impressive game of his own as Toronto completed a four-game sweep of Orlando this season. “DeMar had a big bounce-back. He’s been struggling the past couple of weeks. I was really proud and happy for him because we were going to him and going to him, trying to get him going,” said a relieved Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. DeRozan said he could not remember his previous buzzer-beater at any level and the shot was the first for the Raptors since T.J. Ford did the trick back in late 2006. “They just put the ball in my hands and it was up to me to make something happen,” DeRozan said in an elated locker room.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: The Orlando Magic have struggled on defense lately, even since Glen Davis, their most rugged, most effective low-post defender, returned from a dislocated left shoulder Jan. 14. In his pregame availability with the media before tonight’s game, Jacque Vaughn offered his clearest assessment yet on why the Magic’s defense continues to stumble. “It’s amazing how your mind works,” Vaughn said when asked about the problems on defense. “I think that’s the most powerful tool that you have. Early on, when we were playing defense at an extremely great rate, we weren’t scoring the ball. So now that we’re scoring it at a decent clip, you have to convince yourself that there’s a job to be done on the other end as well and that if my shots don’t go in, that doesn’t affect my approach on the other end. And it’s really that simple.” He was then asked if there is a letdown in concentration on the defensive end. “I’d say in doing it over and over and over again, which takes a heightened concentration,” Vaughn said.

  • Nate Taylor of The New York Times: He was booed during the introduction of the Knicks’ starting lineup. He was booed when he touched the ball on the Knicks’ first possession. While the sellout crowd at TD Garden was generally restrained (by Boston standards) in its treatment of Carmelo Anthony, he would enjoy the last laugh. Anthony scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed a team-high 9 rebounds to lead the Knicks to an 89-86 victory over the Boston Celtics, ending their 11-game losing streak here. There was little interaction between Anthony and Kevin Garnett, no trash-talking exchange, no spit-flying altercation. “For me it was just a matter of blocking everything out,” Anthony said. “The whole night was kind of satisfying for me to win in this building.” Anthony made two distinct adjustments from the game the two teams played three weeks ago, a 102-96 Celtics win: He did not let Garnett rattle him to the point where he lost his composure and he shot less in the fourth quarter.

  • Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News: The other big MVP candidates this season are LeBron, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan. You see them hanging around the other team’s bus? This has a chance to be the shining moment of Anthony’s pro career. So far this season, he has vindicated Dolan’s decision to pay whatever he had to pay to get him out of Denver. But he’s not allowed to act out the way he did with Garnett, or the next player to call him names. Carmelo Anthony wasn’t defending his wife’s honor with Kevin Garnett the night he got suspended. Just his own. In Boston, he decided to just shut up and play. Good. You know what they say about payback. It’s also something that rhymes with rich.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: On a night when the Celtics finally came out with the kind of passion a frustrated Doc Rivers found lacking during the first four games of the losing streak, even a rekindled fire wasn’t enough. Instead, they played tight in the closing minutes. Turnovers by Paul Pierce and Jason Terry sealed what, with 2:58 left, had been a promising night when Rajon Rondo hit two free throws to cut the Knicks’ lead to 86-84. Anthony, who needed his customary 28 shots to score 28 points, heated up late. But for a change the Celtics were within range at an acceptably ugly pace that would leave them shooting 40.8 percent to New York’s 38.6. Rondo, who later called the feat worthless, put together his fourth triple-double of the season, and the 27th of his career, with 23 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. But the misses are starting to drive this team to distraction. Terry, who finally hit his last shot after missing his first five, declined comment as he hurried out of the locker room.

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Marv Albert, who has called more games in the old and new Garden than just about anyone outside Boston, let last night’s TNT audience in on a suspicion he has about the building’s game night sound. Based on what Albert has heard, he believes Celtics management pumps in extra noise. “It seems that way, but they say no,” Albert said after the Celtics’ 89-86 loss to the Knicks. “There’s times when it seems like there is suddenly a bump in the sound. But I really don’t want to make a big deal out of it.” The Celtics responded to Albert’s claim with the following tweet: “Regarding comments on tonight’s (broadcast), the Celtics have never used artificial crowd noise.”

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Much had changed since the Suns last suited up for a game at US Airways Center, a loss to the Bucks on Jan. 17. Coach Alvin Gentry departed in what was billed as a mutual agreement. His top two assistants, Elston Turner and Dan Majerle were passed up for the interim job, which was handed to Hunter. Both left the club. Owner Robert Sarver, president of basketball operations Lon Babby and general manager Lance Blanks were roundly blasted. But they’ve been resilient, if nothing else, and it only gets tougher. The Suns visit the Spurs and Mavericks on back-to-back nights in Texas Saturday and Sunday before returning to face another dysfunctional bunch, the Los Angeles Lakers. Forward Luis Scola, who scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth quarter stand, wasn’t ready to declare all of the Suns problems fixed. … The Suns won in Sacramento Wednesday night because Michael Beasley came up big in the fourth quarter. He barely came up at all Thursday night, scoring eight points on four-of-12 shooting. The Suns have won two in a row and are feeling good. That won’t continue if Beasley doesn’t find some consistency in his game.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: The Clippers suffered one of those bad losses, by a 93-88 score, to a Phoenix Suns team that just fired its coach and has the second-worst record in the Western Conference. On a Thursday night at US Airways Center when the Clippers made just 40.2% of their shots, they also saw another of their All-Stars get injured. Blake Griffin (12 points) tweaked his left ankle in the first quarter when he tripped over Goran Dragic going after an offensive rebounds. Griffin wasn't quite the same after that, limping the rest of the way. “I really did it two days ago against Golden State,” Griffin said of his injured ankle. “It got better, but I kind of re-tweaked it. But it's not terrible.” The Clippers were already missing Chris Paul, who sat out for the fifth game this season because of a bruised right kneecap. But beyond that, the Clippers just couldn't make shots.

  • Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: Jamal Crawford usually doesn't hesitate to speak his mind, like when he told reporters he wanted to play in the All-Star Game. He also he wasn't sure how he'd feel if he didn't make the team. The answer, it turns out, is "disappointed." Crawford declined to answer questions about being left off the Western Conference, but his teammates had plenty to say about the omission. "I feel like he definitely got snubbed," Clippers guard Willie Green said. "Obviously, I'm a little biased because he's my teammate, but I see the work he puts in. I feel like, he scores, but he does other things so well." Chauncey Billups said Crawford is an underrated playmaker for the Clippers.