First Cup: Wednesday

  • Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star: It doesn't take an NBA All-Star to recognize one, but Paul George believes there's one dressing two lockers over at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. David West has been one of the league's best players all season, but the Indiana Pacers' power forward has elevated his play since the All-Star reserves were named Jan. 24. Since then, only three Eastern Conference players have averaged more points: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony. Heavy company, to be sure. All three are All-Stars. "David had big games even before All-Star selection; he's really carried us in so many games," George said before Tuesday's game with Atlanta. "He's been our most consistent (player)." West is averaging 22.8 points in the five games since not being named to the All-Star team. He scored 30 and 29 points, respectively, in key wins over Miami and Chicago in recent days.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Pacers (30-19) snapped a four-game losing streak to the Hawks. They have won four straight games in climbing to the top of the Central Division standings. It was also their 15th straight home victory this season. A key play came with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter with the Pacers leading by eight points. D.J. Augustin drove to the basket with Horford defending. Augustin clearly created contact with an elbow that hit Horford in the groin. Horford’s arms hit Augustin in the head as each fell to the floor. After a lengthy discussion, then a video review, then another lengthy discussion, the officials called a technical foul on Augustin and a flagrant foul on Horford. The Hawks made their free throw and the Pacers made their two and got the ball. “I went up to contest the shot and I think that he purposely threw an elbow at me knowing that I was coming,” Horford said. “He hit me in the groin area. It was very painful. He hit me and it as a natural instinct as I was going for the block to put me hands down and I guess I hit him in the head. It was a very dirty play by him. I’m obviously upset about the call. I understand that they are at home. The crowd is against the refs and they have peer pressure on them so they couldn’t let it slide. I am hoping that the NBA looks at the play and realizes that it was not an intentional hit and I should not have had a flagrant foul.”

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: Lance Blanks and Lindsey Hunter were not old friends and were never teammates. It just seems that way. Since Blanks chose Hunter as the Suns interim head coach, the general manager has been far more engaged than in his 2/1 seasons with Alvin Gentry. Blanksand Hunter meet regularly and have blunt conversations like old relatives or friends, even though Blanks first got to know Hunter upon hiring him as a scout 14 months ago with encouragement from their common friend, Detroit Pistons President Joe Dumars. “It’s the way I grew up in the business,” said Blanks, who previously worked in the front offices of Cleveland and San Antonio. “The environments that I’ve been in, especially the successful ones, the front office and the coaching staff were very much so in synch. Even in my last home, Cleveland, we were literally like brothers. Nobody did something without someone else knowing. It was the highest level of trust. Lindsey and I have been able to form that kind of relationship in a short amount of time. “It wasn’t a friendship that turned into a business relationship. It’s a business relationship that has evolved into a great friendship.” Blanks said he and Hunter share core values about work ethic, winning desire and how to treat people. He said they see themselves as parents to the players because they will bring a consistent message even if their opinions differ because they have the same end goal.

  • Geoff Calkins of The Commercial-Appeal: Explaining the loss, Lionel Hollins twice pointed out that when Gasol got in foul trouble, he couldn't put in another big to match up with Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat. "One of the issues that I have is that neither Darrell or Ed (Davis) are fives. We don't have another big guy. We weren't able to play big and have two bigger people across the board because we don't have a bigger guy to put in the game." In other words, Hollins no longer had Mo Speights or Hamed Haddadi because they were traded away. Did Hollins mean it as a shot? It almost doesn't matter, honestly. When the head coach spends part of his press conference lamenting what he no longer has on his roster, that's not a good sign. … This is exactly what the new management risked when it decided not to wait until the end of the season to remake the roster. The skeptics will be out in force today. In the end, the Grizzlies will have to do what they have always done under Hollins. Put aside the excuses and focus on the task at hand. This is a team that survived the loss of Gay and Randolph in successive seasons, after all. Will it let itself be done in by a pair of trades?

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: Kevin Garnett is everything the Nuggets need. Heck, his scowl alone is more intimidating in the post than all 21 feet of center on Denver's roster. So what's the problem with pushing the idea of a blockbuster trade between Denver and Boston? Wielding the hammer of a no-trade clause, K.G. wants nothing to do with the Nuggets. And, in a nutshell, that represents the big issue for franchise executive Masai Ujiri in building a championship contender: The Nuggets are stuck in the middle. Clowns to the left of them. Jokers to the right. NBA stars view Colorado as a flyover state. It's not as remote as Alaska. Denver, however, lacks the bright-lights lure of New York, Miami and Los Angeles. Worse, the Nuggets are stuck in the middle of the standings. … Long the laughingstock of the league, the Clippers are now viewed as a hot destination because of the beach and point guard Chris Paul, though not necessarily in that order. What's more, injured L.A. veteran Chauncey Billups and Garnett have been close since both were prep phenoms. So what I'm trying to say is: Maybe the Nuggets' best shot at a title is if Andre Miller has a BFF who's also a disgruntled NBA superstar.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: It was a nasty fall to be sure. Bucks center Larry Sanders tried to stand in the way of onrushing Kenneth Faried, a dunking machine they call the "Manimal" in Denver. Sanders picked up a foul and stayed flat on the floor before being helped to the locker room by two teammates. Initial X-rays of Sanders' right hip area did not show any damage but the 6-foot-11 player was to undergo additional evaluations on Wednesday. Sanders was at his locker after the Bucks' 112-104 loss to Denver and traveled with the team to Salt Lake City, where Milwaukee will play Utah on Wednesday night. Concerned teammates congregated around Sanders near the foul line after he fell to the floor with 4 minutes 41 seconds remaining and the Bucks leading, 100-97. He already had added to his league-leading blocks total with five more rejections against the Nuggets. "I landed more to the right side, on the back of the hip bone," Sanders said. "They did a couple X-rays. Nothing too severe. That's great news. It's pretty painful. I'll just get a couple more X-rays and take care of it so I can get back as fast as I can."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: With every 3-pointer bringing the Rockets closer to the NBA record, the Toyota Center crowd grew hungrier for more. “One more 3. One more 3.” Chandler Parsons had made his corner 3s and had long since taken a seat. James Harden had knocked down 3s at the top of the circle. Jeremy Lin had fired in five treys, more than he had ever made in a game. “One more 3. One more 3.” The Rockets hit more 3s in the first quarter (seven) than they had in a quarter all season, then hit seven more in the second quarter. They had their franchise record (18) with the fourth quarter yet to play. They matched the NBA record with 23 3-pointers with 3:41 remaining, with the chorus from the crowd growing louder with every possession. “One more 3. One more 3.” Finally, Golden State had enough. The Rockets scored more points than any team ever has in Toyota Center. The benches had long been emptied with the Rockets on their way to a 140-109 blowout Tuesday night. But the Warriors finished the game doing whatever was necessary to stop the rain of 3-pointers, fouling intentionally and often, until the 3-pointer the Rockets could not take was nearly as notable as the 23 they made. “No more 3s. No more 3s.”

  • Marcus Thompson II The Oakland Tribune: If the Warriors can take any consolation from the 140-109 thrashing they took from the Rockets on Tuesday, it was that history was not made on their watch. Golden State saw its four-game win streak snapped in embarrassing fashion. But at least the Warriors didn't give up an NBA record for most 3-pointers in a game. They certainly did everything they could to prevent the Rockets from draining that 24th 3-pointer. They recklessly contested all threes. They committed hard fouls on anyone who dared hoist from deep. In the final minute, with the game out of reach, they twice committed intentional fouls, prompting boos from the remaining fans at the Toyota Center. "I'm an old-school basketball player and an old-school coach," Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "If you can't appreciate that, that's on you. We're not going to lay down. If you're going to try to get the record, we're going to stop it." The Warriors, however, couldn't stop the Rockets from tying the NBA record for most threes in a game, set by Orlando in January 2009. The 23 3-pointers Houston made, on 40 attempts, was more than enough damage to dispense of the Warriors.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: The frustration wore on Dwight Howard and Mike D'Antoni. Howard looked serious and sounded somber when he conceded uncertainty on when he'll return after sitting out of the Lakers' 93-82 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday at Barclays Center. It marked the third consecutive game he's missed because of an aggravated labrum in his right shoulder. It's possible Howard will sit out when the Lakers play Thursday in Boston. "I'm not in any rush," Howard said. "I want to make sure it heals up." D'Antoni looked annoyed and sounded combative about a published report that indicated he and the coaching staff believe Howard needs to simply toughen up and return from injury. "He's got the pain," said D'Antoni, the Lakers coach. "I don't have the pain. I wish he could play." But Howard maintains that won't happen until he's completely healthy. He had a non-invasive platelet rich plasma procedure Saturday that entailed blood being taken and isolating the components in hopes of accelerating the healing process and relieving pain. It might take another week before Howard feels the effects, if at all.

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: The Nets (28-20) could only grit their teeth, pay their respects to one of the game’s greats and move on to Detroit, where they play the Pistons on Wednesday night. They have lost four of their last six games, their worst stretch since P. J. Carlesimo was installed as the head coach. This was a game the Nets were expected to win, for all sorts of reasons, but mostly because the Lakers (23-26) were missing their two best defenders: Dwight Howard (injury) and Metta World Peace (suspension). They failed to take advantage, settling for jump shots and stagnant offense, shooting 34.8 percent from the field and turning the ball over 17 times. “I’m not encouraged by anything I saw tonight,” Carlesimo said. … For the first time in many weeks — since the last time the Knicks visited — the Nets did not have a full-throated home-court advantage. Lakers fans were abundant and loud. Gold No. 24 jerseys dotted the stands. Bryant heard as many cheers as boos during introductions, and brief chants of “M-V-P” (which were drowned out by boos) when he went to the foul line. A brief chant of “Let’s go, Lakers!” was followed quickly by chants of “Beat L.A.!” If the stage seemed to suit Bryant, it made sense. Only two other arenas feature the stage lighting used at Barclays Center: Staples Center, where the Lakers play, and Madison Square Garden, where Bryant has long thrived.