First Cup: Thursday

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: The ball flew — sometimes from the edge of the arc, sometimes from well beyond it, often with Knicks defenders closing fast — following its own gentle arc toward the net, splashing through 11 times, until Curry, the boyish Golden State Warriors guard, had amassed a career-best 54 points and set the record books ablaze. The performance was unreal — “Remarkable,” Carmelo Anthony said — but the Knicks were just slightly better, holding on for a 109-105 victory. In the aftermath, the Knicks (34-20) expressed more relief than elation, with a healthy dose of admiration for Curry’s splendid shooting: 18 for 28 from the field, 11 for 13 from the arc. “There’s nothing we could have done,” Tyson Chandler said sheepishly. “We threw a lot of different looks at him. He’s a special young player with a very unique talent, the way he shoots the ball.” The Garden had not witnessed a performance this brilliant since LeBron James scored 52 points for Cleveland on Feb. 4, 2009. Curry’s night was in many ways more entertaining and impressive, with his points coming, as they did, so far from the basket.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Monta Ellis never doubted it for a second. And the Milwaukee Bucks guard had less than a second remaining when he tossed up an off-balance 27-foot shot that twirled around and nearly bounced out before settling back in the net, beating the buzzer and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night. Ellis' walk-off winner was just that, although he actually ran off the floor and into the locker room after giving the Bucks a 110-107 victory at the Toyota Center. "I didn't want to go into overtime," Ellis said. "I was kind of winded. The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. There was no need for me to come back out." The referees reviewed the shot through video replay and quickly ruled that it counted. Ellis' dramatic shot capped a productive two days for the Bucks (28-28), who swept Dallas and Houston on their short Texas trip. Milwaukee was able to regroup after losing its previous three games by a total of six points.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Improbable and unforgettable. That is how a Wednesday night in FedExForum at the close of February will be remembered when the Grizzlies look back on this regular season. The Griz tossed aside a 25-point deficit and changed the makings of a lopsidedloss with their defense to earn a dramatic 90-84 victory over the Dallas Mavericks before 16,017 fans who still might be wiping their eyes in disbelief. “Grit, grind, heart, sacrifice I could name 10-15 words (to describe) this,” forward Zach Randolph said after the Grizzlies extended their winning streak to eight games. “It was one of those games.” A game in which: Griz coach Lionel Hollins called time out twice in the first 3 ½ minutes. The starters were benched in the first five. The Mavs racked up 38 points in the opening period and enjoyed a 51-29 lead with 5:25 left in the second quarter. Memphis outscored Dallas 36-4, which included a franchise record 24 unanswered points, during a stretch that bridged the second and third quarters. Dallas looked feeble throughout a five-point third quarter — a Memphis franchise-record low for an opponent in any quarter. “A lot of it was pride,” Griz point guard Mike Conley said. “We felt the grumbling in the stands. We were embarrassed.”

  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: The arrivals of guards Derek Fisher and Ronnie Brewer broke some of the mid-season monotony that often coincides with the dog days of January and February in the NBA. The team's first outing with the new arrivals in uniform was a 119-74 romp over the New Orleans Hornets (20-39), who were incredibly shorthanded without rookie center Anthony Davis (sprained shoulder) and guard Eric Gordon (rest). The 45-point victory matches the Thunder's largest of the season (114-69 over Charlotte on Nov. 26) and marks the first time since 1994 the SuperSonics/Thunder franchise posted back-to-back victories by 30-plus points. OKC (42-15) defeated Chicago 102-72 on Sunday. Brewer started the fourth quarter and finished with five points and two steals. Fisher did not score in 20½ minutes, shot 0 for 4 (all from 3-point range) and has two assists. Asked if the presence of Fisher and Brewer might end up being better than even he anticipated, Thunder coach Scott Brooks said: “I knew what we were getting with Fish, but it's definitely (that way) with Brewer. I still have to understand how he's going to fit in.”

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns had no business boarding a plane with a stunning 105-101 victory Wednesday night at San Antonio. They were playing overtime games on consecutive nights against a team with an 18-game home winning streak. They entered the fourth quarter trailing by 10 after rallying to win twice all season on the road. They were playing the Spurs, having previously gone 2-11 in the second games of back-to-back sets this season. And most improbable of all, Manu Ginobili was shooting a free throw with 3.7 seconds remaining and a Spurs three-point lead with no Suns time outs remaining. That is when Jeramine O’Neal, who posted his first 20-point, 10-rebound effort since before the Suns’ last win in San Antonio, did his best imitation of his favorite quarterback, Troy Aikman. O’Neal grabbed a Ginobili miss and hit Wes Johnson downcourt after Johnson streaked untouched from the free throw lane to the opposite wing. Johnson pivoted as he caught the ball and made the tying 3-pointer at the buzzer. It might not have won a game like he did with a buzzer-beater at Missouri in his first Big 12 game for Iowa State but it was more amazing, considering how he had been buried on the bench, how awful the Suns’ season has been and how it set up the Suns for a second overtime wins in two nights. They are Phoenix’s first consecutive wins since mid-December.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Shooting guard Dion Waiters has scored 25 or more points in his two previous games. He's the only rookie in the league to score at least 25 points in consecutive games this season. In the win over Chicago on Feb. 26, he had a team-high 25 points, two rebounds, one steal and one block in 36 minutes. Prior to Waiters, the most recent rookies to score 25 or more points in a victory over the Bulls in Chicago were Blake Griffin (December 2010), LeBron James (December 2003) and Carmelo Anthony (November 2003). Waiters continues to lead all Eastern Conference rookies in points per game (14.6), assists per game (3.1) and steals per game (1.0). Over the last five games, Waiters is averaging 19.8 points and is shooting 54.1 percent from the field (40 of 74).

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: Brandon Knight's absence could create a convenient excuse if the Pistons wanted one for their porous perimeter defense since the All-Star break. It's been a parade of open shots — almost a virtual layup line all over the place as the Pistons have yielded more than 100 points in three of their four losses since returning from the break. When it was suggested to Pistons coach Lawrence Frank that Knight's defensive awareness was being missed on the perimeter, Frank would have none of it. "It has nothing to do with personnel, nothing to do with who's on the floor," said Frank at the Wednesday morning shoot-around at the Verizon Center, as the Pistons prepared to play the Wizards. "If you wanna write it, say it, but I'm telling you: no. Brandon's a good defender, but regardless of who's on the floor, everyone is capable of getting the job done." Jason Maxiell took the challenge personally in the third quarter of the Pistons' 96-95 victory Wednesday night, blocking four shots in his best activity in weeks.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Patrick Patterson's accurate perimeter shooting is something the Kings hope to take advantage of as he becomes more acclimated to his new teammates in Sacramento. Kings coach Keith Smart said it will take the team's guards time to familiarize themselves with Patterson and where to find him on the floor. Wednesday was Patterson's third game with the Kings since he came to the team last Wednesday from Houston. "He does understand how to get to spacing spots on the floor," Smart said of the third-year power forward. "… He may not be in the area of the floor some of our other (forwards) have been. (Guards) have to keep an eye on him. He understands spacing very, very well." The Kings entered Wednesday's game against the Orlando Magic shooting 43.9 percent, 23rd in the NBA. Patterson's accurate shooting (51.7 percent this season) should aid that and create better scoring chances for his teammates.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: With an impressive victory over the Jazz Wednesday, the Hawks have won three to start a six-game road trip. Suddenly a much-better-than-.500 excursion is a real possibility. The Hawks led by as many as 20 points and held off a late rally en route to a 102-91 victory over the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Al Horford was at the center of the victory as he scored 16 of the Hawks’ 20 fourth-quarter points on the way to a career-high 34 points. “He was big,” coach Larry Drew said. “We were running plays for him. When the shot wasn’t there he was passing the ball. He got everything within our offense. The guys were doing a good job of finding him. He is really playing at a high level right now. I mean an extremely high level.” … The Hawks continue their season-long trip Friday against the Suns. They end the trip against the Lakers Sunday and the Nuggets Monday. “We will not be satisfied,” Drew said. “I will not allow them to be satisfied just getting these first three wins.”

  • Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post: What George Karl does for his seven-figure income rivals the labor required of a mansion sitter, Bingo announcer or Vanna White. Beats working. This is not an angry demand the Nuggets find a better coach than Karl, or at least one who brings more energy than a nightly walk to the locker room and back at halftime. Instead, the peeps should ask: Where on earth can I get a job like that? Five-star hotels. Charter flights. Summer vacations that begin early, immediately after the first round of the NBA playoffs. This team is wrapped in powder blue and coddled by team management like spoiled grandchildren. The Nuggets are not a contender to win the NBA title this year, according to general manager Masai Ujiri. Oh. My. Gosh. Thanks for the breaking news. … There is much to like about Karl. He whipped cancer. Twice. He's a fascinating sports philosopher. Way back, almost a generation ago, he was stuck with Joe Barry Caroll and Ralph Sampson in the same Golden State locker room, yet avoided going insane. Karl has won more than 400 games for the Nuggets. Props to him. But know what might be even more amazing? Karl has won 50 of those games in retirement.

  • John Canzano of The Oregonian: The only difference-maker Portland really needs is Terry Stotts. He's been here all year, and if owner Paul Allen and general manager Neil Olshey get Stotts some depth this summer and add some smart peripheral pieces, I'm convinced he'll be the Blazers coach who finally breaks through. Nate McMillan was at his best in 2009-10, overcoming an absurd run of injuries to finish with the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. But Stotts is staying relevant with a roster that was broken from Game 1, refusing to make excuses or join the rest of us in declaring this season done. Stotts lost again Wednesday, this time, 111-109 to a more dangerous, deeper, better NBA team that ran circles around the Blazers but could never quite get away. Yes, even after a loss, it's clear that Stotts is doing a terrific job. This season isn't headed to the playoffs. Nobody is going to hang a banner commemorating it. But we're witnessing the finest job of Blazers coaching in more than a decade, and Stotts very nearly pulled it off again against the Nuggets. Forget the playoff teams, forget the teams that won more games, and just look at the lineup and teaching that Stotts used to combat the 48-minute relay-race the Nuggets put on.