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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Andre C. Fernandez of The Miami Herald: The streak was threatened again. Could have fooled the Heat, which again turned a seemingly precarious situation into a victory in a matter of minutes. Even with Dwyane Wade sidelined for the second game in a row and LeBron James scoring only six points through 2 1/2 quarters, the Heat’s winning streak hit 27 games Monday night with a 108-94 win against the Magic at Amway Center. The Heat used a 13-0 run after finding itself tied at 68 with 2:59 left in the third quarter and scored 20 of the game’s next 22 points to pull away for good and move closer to the 1971-72 Lakers’ NBA-record 33-game winning streak and the Eastern Conference’s top seed. The Heat can clinch the conference’s top record Tuesday if the Knicks lose to the Celtics or by beating the Bulls on Wednesday in Chicago. The Heat also won its 13th consecutive road game, which is one away from matching its franchise record away from home and three away from matching those same Lakers for the longest road-winning streak in league history (16).

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Perhaps no one on the Magic roster wanted to play against the Heat more than Arron Afflalo, one of Orlando's most competitive players. But an injury to his right hamstring prevented him from playing Monday and will keep him out the rest of the season. He suffered the injury during the Magic's loss Friday to the Oklahoma City Thunder. "I don't know if my leg was kind of turned inwards as I kind of reached down for the ball, but whatever movement I made caused me to have a slight tear in my muscle down there," Afflalo said. "Obviously, we didn't have that much time left in the season, so there'd be no way I could even get remotely back ready to play for one or two games." Afflalo is the Magic's leading scorer, averaging 16.5 points per game. He's also the team's leading shot-taker, attempting 14.1 shots per game. The team will treat his injury with rest and physical therapy, and on Monday he walked through Amway Center with a pronounced limp. He hopes that his injury will have a silver lining. He hopes the time off will allow other nagging injuries to heal fully, and he said he hopes to begin training for next season in about six to eight weeks.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: New Orleans Hornets guard Brian Roberts may be the best 27-year rookie in the NBA. Robert played three years in Bamberg, Germany before making an NBA roster as a 26-year-old when he stuck with the Hornets following a nice showing in the Las Vegas Summer League. In only his second NBA start Monday night against the Denver Nuggets, who came into the game on a 15-game winning streak, Roberts exhibited the poise expected of a seasoned veteran, or at least one who has been through the rigors a a professional basketball season in the past. Roberts accumulated a career- and Hornets' season-high 18 assists against the Nuggets, drawing praise from veteran Denver Coach George Karl who said "That little kid played great; he passed as well as any one who has passed against us in a long time." That "little kid" might have earned his way back for a second stint next season based on Monday night's effort in relief of injured starter Greivis Vasquez.

  • Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: It was over, garbage time, time for the no-names to check in -- when one realized the no-names were already in. The rebuilding Hornets, without their two top players, ended the Nuggets' 15-game win streak abruptly and abrasively, 110-86 on Monday, with guys such as Brian Roberts and Darius Miller having huge nights. Denver was disheartening. By halftime, Denver trailed 59-38 -- the 21-point halftime deficit was the Nuggets' largest of the season. … Folks are learning as much about Ty Lawson's importance when he's not playing as when he is. After a scorching couple of months, the point guard missed his third consecutive game with a heel bruise. In the previous two, Denver barely beat two lottery teams. And then the first half in New Orleans was atrociously abysmal (abysmally atrocious?). Fill-in starting point guard Andre Miller was minus-28, seldom getting Denver into a rhythm. It's been six days since Lawson injured the heel at Oklahoma City. Karl said Monday that it looked "tender." Lawson will get treatment and go through a light workout in San Antonio on Tuesday, as he aims for the big matchup against the Spurs on Wednesday. Sure, the streak was going end at some point. But like this?

  • Phillip B. Wilson of The Indianapolis Star: Two more Indiana Pacers were affixed the dreaded “day-to-day” injury tag Monday as the starting backcourt of George Hill and Lance Stephenson sat out against Atlanta at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Hill, the starting point guard, is bothered by a left groin strain. Stephenson has a right hip flexor. The Pacers were also without starting forward David West (back strain) for a fifth consecutive game and 2009 NBA All-Star forward David Granger, who has played just five games as a reserve due to a seasonlong knee problem. “George’s is probably more serious than Lance’s,” Vogel said before the game. “(Hill) still has a good chance of playing on Wednesday, (but) they’re more concerned with his groin than they are Lance’s hip.” The Pacers are about to embark on a four-game trip with the first stop Wednesday at Houston. “David is going to be still day-to-day,” Vogel said. “There’s an outside chance he could play Wednesday, but not 100 percent sure. And Danny as well. Those guys both could see action in Texas.” The Pacers started D.J. Augustin for Hill and Gerald Green for Stephenson. Vogel wanted Orlando Johnson to come off the bench. The plan had Sam Young spelling Paul George and Ben Hansbrough backing up Augustin.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: This one was over early. Or was it? The Pacers were missing four starters. The Hawks were playing to clinch a postseason berth. All signs pointed to a blowout. That is exactly what happened, at least for much of the game, but it certainly didn’t go the way most would expect. It was the Pacers that led by as many as 28 points late in the third quarter. However, they had to hold on for dear life as a group of Hawks reserves nearly erased the entire deficit. In the end, it was a 100-94 Pacers victory Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Hawks (39-32) could have clinched a playoff berth, the team’s sixth straight, with a victory and a 76ers loss at the Jazz later Monday night. The loss dropped the Hawks into a tie with the Bulls, who own the tiebreaker, for sixth in the Eastern Conference. … The Hawks continue a four-game road trip, with a 1-1 mark, at the Raptors Wednesday.

  • Brandon Parker of The Washington Post: As John Wall stepped to the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game against Memphis, his new career high and the Wizards’ sixth straight home win in hand, faint chants of “M-V-P” arose within the Verizon Center. When asked about it later, the third-year guard shrugged off the praise. “Nah, I’m not no MVP, man,” Wall said with a grin. “I’m just glad to finally be able to play good, be healthy, help change things around. Like I said, if this team’s healthy from start to finish, we’d easily be a playoff team. That’s how we feel.” With the way the Wizards have fallen prey to injuries, especially of late, that’s something fans will never know this season (Five players missed Monday’s game with injury or illness). But with the way Wall has played, especially of late, one can’t help but wonder “what if” about this resilient group. After recording a career-high 47 points in Washington’s 107-94 win against playoff-bound Memphis, Wall is now averaging 25 points and 9.3 assists during his past nine games. The Wizards have gone 6-3 during that stint and are now 21-16 since Wall’s return from a leg injury. … Wall has also shown patience with his jumper, steadily working to eliminate the hitch in his shot and add another dimension to a skill set built on speed and flash. By doing so, he also seems to be indirectly addressing the questions surrounding his value as a franchise and max-contract player.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Grizzlies guard Tony Allen exhaled with disappointment several times while standing in front of his station in the visitor’s locker room. For the second straight game, the Grizzlies didn’t look like themselves. Memphis played fast relative to its standard pace over the weekend and won. But the Griz were rendered defenseless Monday night and that led to a bad result in the form of a 107-94 loss to the Washington Wizards before 17,868 in the Verizon Center. “We need to decide what team we want to be,” Allen said, lamenting a belief that the Griz are beginning to play down to the level of their competition — especially on the road. The combination of Allen’s observation and Wizards guard John Wall’s offensive onslaught defined the Grizzlies in a not-so-flattering way. … The Griz, fifth in the Western Conference standings, are a game behind the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets for third and fourth place, respectively. “They deserved to win,” Hollins said. “They were the aggressors from the get go.”

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Speaking from experience, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin knows how difficult of a position some of his guys are in right now. Eight Jazz players will be free agents this summer — nine if Marvin Williams doesn’t exercise his player option for 2013-14 — and it's only natural to be affected by the unknown. Though he believes his players are usually able to tune out noise about the future, Corbin admitted it's possible that has played a small role in the team's recent struggles. "With this group, I like to say that they've been tremendous all year," Corbin said. "Right from the beginning of training camp, we talked about the number of free agents we had. Everybody keeps mentioning it. We tried to get the guys — as much as they could — to not worry about it as much, but it's been there." Corbin said it's been more evident since nobody was moved on the final day of player transactions Feb. 21. "Once the trade deadline was over and everybody realized we were going to be this way for the rest of the year, I think we relaxed a little bit," Corbin said of his team that was 3-11 since that deadline before Monday's 107-91 win over the 76ers.

  • John Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer: The inability to be consistent, something that has haunted the 76ers all season long, reared its ugly head again Monday night. One night after the lowest-scoring team in the NBA played with bounce in its stride, the sluggishness that has been a hallmark all season returned in an ugly 107-91 loss to the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. The Sixers (27-43) shot the ball poorly and never led. They trailed by 19 at the end of the third quarter. Utah, which began the night 11/2 games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot, led by as many as 22 points in the fourth quarter. The loss came at the end of a four-game Western Conference road trip for the Sixers. It also came one night after they ended their road losing streak at 15 games.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: With 0.5 of a second still remaining on the first-half clock Monday night and his team trailing the Warriors by 23 points, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant walked off the court and headed dejectedly for the locker room. The message had been sent. "We've played 72 games, and the survey says that we're the better basketball team," Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said. "That cannot be debated. We were not going to come into this game on our heels. "We respect them. They've got some guys who are going to be in the Hall of Fame. ... But this is a different day, and we're a different basketball team." The Warriors can make those types of claims for the first time in nearly 20 years and now have more proof with Monday's 109-103 victory, during which they generally dominated the Lakers in front of the 25th consecutive sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

  • Kevin Ding of The Orange County Register: The Lakers' hope was that Pau Gasol's return from injury would help them develop a consistently solid second unit. The Lakers figured to have enough depth that fill-in starter Earl Clark wouldn't even have regular minutes once Gasol got back to his usual level of conditioning. But the Lakers' depth was woefully lacking Monday night at Golden State with Antawn Jamison struggling to adjust to a sprained right wrist suffered last game and then starting small forward Metta World Peace not playing the second half because of a strained left knee. Welcome back, Earl. Shooting guard Jodie Meeks started the second half in World Peace's place. World Peace did return to the Lakers' bench before the fourth quarter, moving around some on the leg. The Lakers have Tuesday off before a back-to-back set at Minnesota on Wednesday and Milwaukee on Thursday. World Peace has been one of the few Lakers to avoid significant injuries this season, although Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said World Peace wasn't full strength in his lower body earlier this season and struggling to defend small forwards. Aside from the first half Monday night against Golden State exposing Gasol as moving very poorly in his second game back from the torn plantar fascia in his right foot, it showed again that the Lakers' second unit is heavily reliant on 3-point shots.