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First Cup: Thursday

  • Andre C. Fernandez of The Miami Herald: The Heat continued to climb the ladder on the list of the NBA’s all-time best winning streaks with Wednesday’s victory. Miami tied seven other teams that have strung 16 victories together, including three that went on to win the championship (1964-65 Celtics, 1970-71 Bucks and 1999-2000 Lakers). But the Heat still has a long way to go to get even near the NBA record of 33 in a row set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers. “It’s not really in the back of my head or anything like what number we’d like to hit,” LeBron James said. “If it hit a league record, I mean that’s crazy if we did at some point. We don’t want to lose, but we’re going to play each and every game and not worry about it.” Among some of the notable teams the Heat could catch soon on the all-time list include the record-setting 1995-96 Bulls who won 18 in a row during a 72-10 regular season, and 1999-2000 Lakers who had a 19-game winning streak that season. The 2007-08 Rockets have the second-longest streak — 22 in a row.

  • Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News: In a season in which they dug so much to climb back into playoff contention, it seemed appropriate the Lakers operated in the same fashion in a game that could largely dictate those fortunes. The Lakers' 108-102 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets didn't just mark a game in which they overcame a 25-point deficit against a sub.-500 opponent. This didn't just mark the first time the Lakers overcame such a large gap since overcoming a 30-point deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in 2002. The Lakers' latest win gave them renewed confidence they can overcome any obstacle. "Games like this really strengthen the bond between us players," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. "That's really what the playoffs are all about. You have adversity. It's about who's going to stick together and who's not going to break." It helps that the win improves the bottom line results, too. With the Utah Jazz losing Tuesday to Cleveland, the Lakers (31-32) trail Utah (32-28) by only 1 games for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Basketball Hall of Fame forward Dennis Rodman took a lot of heat recently when he flew to North Korea and met with controversial North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban saw no problem with the two meeting. “Actually I think it’ll help,” Cuban said before Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets. “When you’ve got somebody talking about something other than global nuclear destruction, that’s a step in the right direction because you know there’s a topic you can have a conversation about that isn’t thinking about something else. Just like any argument, when you calm it down by switching subjects, that’s a good thing.” Cuban isn’t sure if anything of substance will come from the meeting between Rodman and Kim. But the fact that Kim is a huge basketball fan apparently says that he can at least relate to Rodman. “Who knows if it has any staying power, but it’s certainly not a negative,” Cuban said. “When I think of world peace I think of Rodman.” … In a recent interview with Charlie Rose for 60 Minutes, NBA commissioner David Stern characterized Rodman’s visit with Kim as “ridiculous.”

  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: On a play usually reserved for Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green attempted the final shot Wednesday night and he helped seal perhaps the Celtics’ biggest win of the season. Green has emerged as a primary offensive weapon in the past two months, but with the Celtics having possession with 23.6 seconds left and the game tied at 81 against the Pacers, the forward usually would have expected Pierce or Garnett to take the final shot. Instead, Garnett decoyed off the pick-and-roll and found Green with a high pass that he gathered in. Green scored with 0.5 seconds left for Boston’s 83-81 win. Not only did Green flourish in a critical time, but having his name called was a sign of confidence from coach Doc Rivers. “It builds confidence, especially with the playoffs right around the corner,” Green said. “Now at this point in time of the season, that confidence will be [useful]. You know all the attention is going to be focused on Kevin and Paul, but with the confidence that we’ll have going into the playoffs as far as the end of games, I think Doc trusts that we can make plays and help and take some of the pressure off Kevin and Paul.

  • Brian Schmit of the Orlando Sentinel: Former Magic forward Rashard Lewis called Dwight Howard's recent comments about his former Magic teammates "disrespectful" and defended Jameer Nelson, once one of Howard's closest friends. Howard told KCAL-TV in L.A. that "my team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face." Howard, Lewis and Nelson were on the Magic team that defied odds and reached the NBA Finals in 2009. "It's disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was," said Lewis, now a member of the Miami Heat, who faced the Magic on Wednesday night. Lewis wasn't a nobody in the summer of 2007. He was the top free agent, and the Magic signed him to a six-year, $118-million contract to help Howard win. "We made a good run. Hell, look at those (conference and division) banners hanging in the stands. They don't say Dwight Howard on them... I think everybody should get a little piece of the credit. It's not just one guy who did everything." Nelson said after shootaround that he was disappointed in Howard's professionalism. "At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?" Nelson told the Sentinel.

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: And here we have the Clippers, feeling really good about themselves, but what have they really accomplished? Do they belong in the same class as Oklahoma City and San Antonio after getting spanked at home by each recently? Could they beat the Lakers in a No. 3 seed versus No. 6 matchup, the best possible opponent for the Lakers, as Shaq suggested on TNT? "The Clippers are not legitimate" championship contenders, said Barkley, and so I wonder who Barkley would pick if the soft Clippers met the dead Lakers. With nothing else to do but watch the Clippers abuse Milwaukee on Wednesday night, why not put the brakes on this joy ride and agree or disagree with Barkley? Ralph Lawler, the team's long-time broadcaster, said there are things that must go the Clippers' way. "Chauncey Billups has to be Chauncey Billups," said Lawler, and lately Billups has struggled. "Eric Bledsoe has to be the Bledsoe who was so dynamic in the playoffs last year," said Lawler, and lately Bledsoe has been hobbled. Lawler said the Clippers will come on. "But if not, Charles could be just plain right," said Lawler, his sidekick Mike Smith saying nothing and no one seemingly disappointed.

  • Al Iannazzone of Newsday: Mike Woodson said the MRI on Carmelo Anthony's injured right knee showed "some fluid buildup" in there. "That's what's causing the stiffness," Woodson said. "Rest will probably be the best thing for him." Anthony rested Wednesday night, sitting out against the Pistons. Woodson said Anthony would be evaluated again Thursday night and if he feels better, he could play against the Thunder at the Garden. Woodson said it will be Anthony's decision. "I'll do whatever he wants to do," Woodson said. "Trust me. Players know their own body. If he tells me he wants to play I'm going to play him. I'm not going to fight him on that . . . If he says, 'Coach, I need to sit down and rest a game or two,' I'm going to grant that, absolutely." The irony is Woodson said Anthony asked out of Monday's game in Cleveland before he aggravated his knee and the coach didn't listen to him. "He just kind of nodded that his knee wasn't right," Woodson said. "I kind of ignored it somewhat. Maybe I shouldn't have."

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Center Andrew Bogut on Wednesday was part of the Warriors' starting lineup in consecutive games for only the fifth time, and executive board member Jerry West thinks they might need more of the big man to hold on to their playoff spot. "We really need him in the lineup. Oh, my gosh, yeah, we need him in there," West said. "He's crucial for us to be able to close this season out the way we want to close it out." After beating the Kings 87-83 on Wednesday night, the Warriors remain in sixth place in the Western Conference - 5 games back of fifth-place Denver and six games ahead of 10th-place Portland. … "We're not seeing the real Andrew Bogut, with all the (injuries) he's been through," West said. "He just gives us something we do not have, OK? He's got a great mind to play the game. He's physical as heck. He takes up space. He doesn't even really want to shoot the ball. His knowledge of the game is off the charts, and this is the kind of player that makes other players better."

  • Seth Walder of the New York Daily News: Kris Humphries' official divorce from Kim Kardashian is fast approaching, but his divorce from playing time will come much sooner. According to a league source, Humphries was informed by coach P.J. Carlesimo Wednesday morning that he will no longer be part of the Nets' shortened rotation. Carlesimo has said in recent days that he wants to limit the rotation to nine or 10 players as the Nets head into the stretch run before the postseason. The 6'9" forward is averaging 18.4 minutes per game this season, a number that has dwindled substantially since the beginning of the year. He has grabbed 5.9 rebounds per game while scoring 5.5 points per contest. The decision to bench Humphries is curious given how fervently the Nets have worked to keep him. In July, the Nets inked the forward to a two-year, $24 million contract. Two weeks ago, at the trade deadline, the Nets could have traded Humphries to their opponent Wednesday night, Charlotte, in a deal that would have brought back Ben Gordon. And yet, despite their commitment to Humphries financially and the value he could have returned in the trade market, his only spot on the team for the foreseeable future will be on the bench.

  • Ronald Tillery of of The Commercial-Appeal: Darrell Arthur sat on the bench unavailable and trying to get comfortable with a sore neck and back. Zach Randolph, nursing a left ankle sprain, was nowhere in sight. And it appeared the home team missed a lot more than their starting power forward and his understudy most of Wednesday night. However, the Grizzlies finally located their dogged defense, and a late scoring run allowed them to catch and pass the Portland Trail Blazers for a 91-85 victory before 16,214 in FedExForum. The Griz, winners in 10 of their last 11 games, overcame a 17-point, second-half deficit to capture a sixth consecutive win at home. This was the second straight home game in which the Griz had to dig out of a major hole. … “We don’t like being down 17 or 25, but in those situations we find out who we are,” Griz point guard Mike Conley said. “It’s good for us to sometimes win in different ways.”

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Spurs center Tiago Splitter was excited by the news that the NBA has scheduled its first preseason game ever in his native Brazil. The Bulls and Washington Wizards will play Oct. 12 in Rio De Janeiro. “Oh, yes, this is a big step for us,” Splitter said. “We have all the World Cup and Olympic Games, and now we have an NBA game. It’s great for basketball in Brazil, and I’m very happy we’re going to have a game there.” Splitter said he would have been thrilled had the Spurs been selected to play, but understood the choice of the Wizards, who have 10-year Brazilian veteran center Nene. “I don’t know if the Spurs were considered for the choice, but I know that they want to bring Nene,” he said. “Of course, he is a veteran who has played a long time in the NBA.”

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Apparently not intimidated by Manu Ginobili’s previous treatment of its brethren, a bat dared to fly through the AT&T Center during the second half. Spurs trainer Will Sevening comically shook his index finger at Ginobili to prevent another impromptu extermination, but the Argentine needed no warning after his last encounter required a series of rabies shots. “One for one is a great percentage,” he said. “I’m going to retire.”

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: The Hawks took out a great deal of frustration against the 76ers. First, they ended a three-game losing streak. Second, and perhaps more important, they halted a six-game slide against the Sixers. The Hawks led by as many as 21 points en route to a 107-96 victory over the Sixers Wednesday night at Philips Arena. “I wanted to use that as motivation,” coach Larry Drew said of the recent failures against the Sixers. “That is why part of our pre-game talk was the fact that this team, for the last six games, has owned us. We need to step up to the challenge. We need to respond. After getting off to a slow start, we responded very well.” The Hawks (34-26) avoided matching a season-high four-game slide. They avenged a 19-point loss to the Sixers in Philadelphia on Dec. 21.

  • Bob Finnan of The News-Herald: Cavaliers coach Byron Scott has devised a plan to keep the bug that has ravaged his team from being even more contagious. "We'll wear gloves and surgical masks," he joked. Cavs center Tyler Zeller returned to the starting lineup for the Utah game on Wednesday. Zeller and shooting guard Dion Waiters missed Monday's game and spent some time in the hospital over the weekend with flu-like symptoms. They were throwing up and had extreme pain in their stomachs. Guard Daniel Gibson was added to the list on Wednesday. Waiters and Gibson were told to stay home and didn't play vs. the Jazz. Scott said Waiters had a doctor's visit on Wednesday. The 7-foot, 250-pound Zeller returned to practice on Tuesday. "We didn't do a ton as far as practice-wise, but I was exhausted," he said. "I was trying to get my energy back up."

  • Ray Richardson of the Star Tribune: Timberwolves forward Kevin Love has a meeting scheduled in New York on Wednesday, March 13, to meet with the doctor that performed the Jan. 15 surgery on his right hand. Love said the meeting with Dr. Michelle Carson could determine when he might be able to return to the lineup. "We'll pick a game or two that's right for me to come back," Love said before the Wolves' game Wednesday night, March 6, against the Washington Wizards at Target Center. "Until I see what the doctor says, I don't know." Love was projected to miss eight to 10 weeks after refracturing the third and fourth metacarpal bones in his right hand Jan. 3 at Denver. … Love said his recovery is on schedule and that he hopes to play again before the end of the month.

  • Zach Buchanan of The Arizona Republic: The ink is barely dry on the trade that sent guard Sebastian Telfair to the Raptors two weeks ago, and Telfair already was back at US Airways Center facing his old team. Except this time, it felt different than other reunions he’s had. “Going back to Boston, Minnesota and Portland, there were more butterflies,” Telfair said. “I was a little more anxious and amped about it. I’m pumped for this game, but I don’t have the butterflies and I’m a little nervous about that, for whatever reason.” Late in his tenure with the Suns, Telfair had dropped out of the rotation as Phoenix sought to get extended looks at rookies Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett. If Telfair thought the move to Toronto would open more playing time, it hasn’t happened in the six games since. Telfair has received just seven minutes of playing time in that span, recording four fouls and nothing else in a loss to Cleveland on Feb.27, although the 27-year-old said he expected to get extended minutes against his former squad.

  • Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman: Ben Alamar once worked for the Thunder as a analytics consultant. Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns of data. Simply put in sports, analytics is the deep study of statistics. Now Alamar is a professor of management at Menlo College in California, and he has written a book that soon will be available: Sports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers and Other Decision Makers. The book should be a fabulous peek behind the Thunder veil. Sam Presti’s secretive organization is wondrously successful but maddeningly frustrating for followers of the team who want to learn more about how and why decisions are made. Presti seldom speaks in detail, and his lieutenants never speak at all. But last week, Alamar spoke at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, and he sat down for an interview with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, which you can view here. It’s a fascinating look at some inside Thunder decisions.