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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: It will be at least another month, perhaps in a first-round playoff series, before declarations can be made, or conclusions drawn, or torches passed — or wrested away. After five years of pre-eminence, the Boston Celtics have at least earned a withholding of judgment until the games really matter. But the ground continued to shift beneath them Tuesday night, the balance of power tilting ever more sharply, unmistakably, southward. The Knicks cruised to a 100-85 victory at TD Garden and inched ever closer to taking the Atlantic Division crown that the Celtics have owned for the last five years. It was the Knicks’ fifth straight victory, the Celtics’ fifth straight loss, and it left a seven-and-a-half game gap between them, with 13 games to play. “We want to beat them, let’s just be quite frank about it,” Carmelo Anthony said, after scoring 29 points in the win. “We always want to beat Boston. New York in anything wants to beat Boston. And when we do, it’s a great feeling.” The Knicks (43-26) have a 2-1 edge in the season series, having won twice in Boston for the first time since 2003-4. They meet once more on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, with the Knicks poised to win the series for the first time in nine years.

  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: The South Beach showdown is six days away, but Mike Woodson is hoping the Miami Dream Team enters with a 30-game win streak. “They’re playing at such a high level, nobody is coming close to beating them,’’ Woodson said before the Knicks’ 100-85 win over the Celtics last night. “It would be nice. Their streak could end. They’re playing two good teams [beforehand]. [But if] they’re undefeated and we go into Miami, hopefully we can be the team to break their streak.’’ The Heat have won 27 straight and have Chicago tonight, New Orleans Friday and San Antonio on Sunday. If the LeBron James juggernaut keeps winning and beats the Knicks Tuesday in Miami, it would be just two away from tying the Lakers’ 1971-72 magical run of 33 straight wins — the NBA record.

  • Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe: Tuesday night at TD Garden, the Celtics faced the Knicks without Kevin Garnett and Courtney Lee. And though the Celtics have masked the absence of key players before, winning without Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger andLeandro Barbosa and even Garnett, they could not do so against New York, which prevailed soundly, 100-85. For the first time since Rondo went down with a season-ending knee injury in January, it seemed as though the Celtics had finally – if not reluctantly — succumbed to the reality of their limited roster. A 15-point home loss to a shorthanded team will do that. “It’s been like that for us all season long, it just seems like it gets worse and worse,” captain Paul Pierce said of the injuries. “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves.” The Celtics have lost five consecutive games, and as Garnett is expected to miss up to two weeks with inflammation in his left ankle, a rather gloomy question looms: Is this what the Celtics can expect while their defensive anchor is out? “No,” a defiant coach Doc Rivers said. “Guys, I think you’ve been around me long enough. Kevin’s not playing. I don’t worry about it. I really don’t. “Somebody else has to play better. A lot of guys. It’s not going to be one guy. But overall, we were pretty bad [Tuesday]. Kevin had nothing to do with that.”

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: Kenyon Martin, as plain-spoken as they come, left no doubt about the reason he’s not a Celtic today. The team decided it simply wasn’t interested in the veteran power forward, who signed with the Knicks for the rest of the season on March 15. Coach Doc Rivers said on Monday that the Celtics were more interested in finding a guard at the time Martin was available. “It’s their fault; they lost,” Martin said after helping the Knicks to last night’s 100-85 win with nine points and five rebounds, including four on the offensive glass. “There was talks, there was negotiations, they chose not to do it. It was out of my control. I’m a Knick now, so they lost. I’m just here to prove I never lost it. I guess I’m a better person than I am a basketball player. But the chip I’ve always played with hasn’t gotten bigger. I’m here to prove what I can do; that’s against everybody, every night. It doesn’t start with the Celtics. It’s whoever puts on that uniform opposite us.” Martin shot 4-for-7 last night, including three put-backs. He is 20-for-28 in his last three games.

  • Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune: For nearly 10 minutes the Timberwolves poured it on in a slow, consistent, startling burn. From the starters to the bench, through timeouts and personnel changes, the Wolves played pesky defense, shared the ball and shot it. Boy, did they shoot it. On Tuesday at the Palace of Auburn Hills, against a Detroit team that is darned near 0-for-March, the Timberwolves did everything right in a 105-82 victory. Especially in the third quarter. Or, more specifically, over the final 9:48 of said quarter. “We said win the third quarter,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “And we dominated.” It took less than 10 minutes for the Wolves, running and hitting from everywhere, to rain down three-pointers in a 32-9 run that turned a five-point game into a double-digit rout. And it didn’t stop there. By the time this was over, the Wolves (25-44) — the worst three-point shooting team in the league — had hit a season-high 14 treys, with seven players getting at least one.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: With Andre Drummond still out at least for one more game, it's perhaps one more opportunity for rookie Slava Kravtsov to get some playing time. The 25-year-old rookie has played only 20 games this season, averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 9.8 minutes. The Pistons have an option for his second year, which they'll have to decide on before July 1. "He's worked hard," said Frank, noting his 14-point, 10-rebound game against the Pacers on Feb 22. "He's had some good moments and some moments where (he's struggled), just the adjustment of the verbal commands and positioning and quick-twitch reacting."

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Lamar Odom came into Tuesday’s game with 4:15 left in the first quarter, and before he even had his sweatpants pulled off, the boos rained down from the sellout crowd at American Airlines Center. When he touched the ball for the first time, the boos got louder. Second time, more anger from the crowd. The last time there had been this much venom in the joint, the snake convention was in town. Either that or when the Miami Heat came through, which could be construed in these parts as the same thing. Odom had a modest impact in the first half, when he had four points and three rebounds in nine minutes. The Mavericks weren’t real concerned with Odom’s return. In pregame warm-ups, Odom gave a couple of winks toward the scorer’s table but had no interaction with any Mavericks to speak of. Odom had a dramatic divorce from the Mavericks last season when owner Mark Cuban questioned the 2010-11 sixth man of the year about his commitment to the franchise. Weeks later, he was told to leave, making it “addition by subtraction,” as Cuban said at the time. If there was any intention on Odom’s behalf to apologize or converse with Cuban on Tuesday, he never got the chance. Cuban was not at the game. He’s on vacation with his family for spring break.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: It was an interesting question that even Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro thought came at an interesting time of the season. Del Negro was asked by a member of the media in front of the group about his coaching future with the Clippers. The Clippers picked up Del Negro's contract last year, but he wasn't given an extension. His deal expires when the season is over. "I enjoy the pressure," Del Negro said. "That's what it's about. I love the competition. Could things be a little bit better in certain areas? Of course. But all those things get answered at the end of the year. "Our focus is on tonight's game and on this season and all those things get answered at the end of the season, one way or the other," he said. The Clippers are playoff-bound for the second consecutive season under Del Negro. It will be only the third time in franchise history the Clippers have had consecutive playoff appearances. Del Negro was asked if his future was tied to how far the Clipper go in the playoffs this season. "No, my future is great," Del Negro responded. "I've got a great future, no matter what. I've been pretty fortunate, so I don't really worry about that stuff so much. Like I said, all those things take care of themselves when we finish."

  • Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee: Here are a few other thoughts, quotes and observations from the meeting in the overheated, and overcrowded council chambers: Steve Hansen, who was thought to be vacillating about the arena issue, and who some thought would vote against the term sheet, instead gave a very impassioned explanation for his pro-arena vote. He cited the potential for jobs and economic growth, and added, "We have four billionaires who have said that Sacramento is worthy. It's been a long time since people have validated us in this way." Kevin Johnson, a former All-Star, said he intended to call David Stern despite the time difference and the fact the NBA Commissioner was not feeling well. Ron Burkle spokesman Darius Anderson, who addressed the council and took a swipe at Seattle for attempting to steal the Kings, said the four major investors will accompany Johnson to New York for his April 3 presentation to Stern and members of the league's finance and relocation committees. The ownership subset thereafter will evaluate both Seattle and Sacramento situations and make a recommendation to the entire Board of Governors. The owners will vote at the April 18-19 meetings, also in Manhattan.