First Cup: Friday

  • Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: This is the kind of loss that might stick with the Knicks for a few days. “I’m at a loss for words right now," Carmelo Anthony said after his 45 points were rendered meaningless when the Knicks suffered a deflating defeat at home, 109-106, against Jeremy Lin and the Rockets on Thursday night. “It’s a little bit like a blur." It’s more like a nightmare. The Knicks did a lot right, but ended up making bad decisions in critical times and couldn’t get the break they desperately needed with five seconds to play. When James Harden fouled Anthony with the Rockets protecting a three-point lead, Anthony threw in a three-pointer. The Knicks screamed for a continuation call. With Larry Johnson in the building, the fans were probably thinking four-point play. But Anthony was not given the basket. It was ruled that the foul had come before he got the shot off. And the refs later told the Daily News that the play was not reviewable, since none of the 14 triggers for a review in that situation were met. Tough break, but that’s where the Knicks are right now. Two games below .500 and a dismal 1-4 at the Garden, where they lost only 10 times last season. “My thoughts don’t mean anything," Anthony said about the last foul call. “I’ve seen (a replay) multiple times. I don’t want to see it again."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: With no end in sight to teams sending Dwight Howard to the line to slow the Rockets’ pace and scoring, Rockets coach Kevin McHale said he might actually benefit from being fouled more often. He did not, however, expect Howard to be fouled when he was, with less than two minutes left and the foul giving the Rockets a free throw and possession. “It was a great play, they went and fouled him with less than two minutes left and gave us a free free throw,” McHale said. “I would really doubt that Woody (Knicks coach Mike Woodson) would tell them to foul intentionally and give them a free free throw and possession out of bounds.” McHale did pull Howard for the first time this season when an opponent was intentionally fouling, but he needed to sit for less than two minutes before he returned. Howard made 5 of 8 free throws, the second-consecutive game he made one more than half. He made 2 of 4 when the Knicks were intentionally fouling. “He gets his rhythm at the free throw line,” McHale said. “He gets up there more often. He’s going to have that happen off and on all year. He might as well get accustomed to it. It’s not like the first year this happened.” Howard had taken at least 10 free throws in seven consecutive games, the longest stretch with at least 10 free throws for a Rockets player since Moses Malone.

  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: The Warriors finally played a close game at home and, boy, was it a doozy. Andre Iguodala's turnaround jumper at the buzzer not only gave the Warriors a 116-115 win over Oklahoma City but also gave them their first win over a WesternConference contender. It spared them from the doubt that surely would've followed a gut-punch of a loss. Golden State blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead. And it looked as if Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook had given the Warriors their first home loss with a pull-up 29-footer. He yelled after holstering his imaginary guns, his 3-pointer putting the Warriors down a point with 2.3 seconds left. "Huge," Klay Thompson said. "We needed a signature win like this." ... It was Iguodala's fourth career buzzer-beater. That's tied for the most in the NBA since the 2004-05 season with Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Paul Pierce and Gilbert Arenas. "We have the luxury of having weapons on the floor," Jackson said of his decision to go to Iguodala, knowing the Thunder would just trap Curry.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: This was a classic. A good old-fashioned shootout. A barnburner in the Bay. It doesn’t even matter who won or lost, what flaws were exposed or how much deficient defense was on display. Thursday’s contest between the Thunder and Warriors was all about fun, a feel-good night of basketball in mid-November. As the saying goes, if you don’t like this, you don’t like NBA basketball. This one, Game 8 of 82, will be hard to top. “It was a great NBA basketball game,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “It was playoff intensity in November. It was a great crowd, great atmosphere. They’re a great team. Couldn’t ask for a better game. Unfortunately, somebody had to lose.” ... A couple of things really kept the Thunder from taking this one. 1) Turnovers. 2) Poor rebounding. 3) Durant going cold in the second half. 4) Poor perimeter defense. I could write 1,000 words about all four. They were that critical.

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: The first real test of the Doc Rivers era has appeared, and it can appropriately be described in less than 140 characters. Can the new Clippers coach practice the same toughness that he preaches? Less than a month into his first season as the Clippers' $7-million savior, Rivers must start by repairing his own locker room after one of his players threatened to blow it apart. The player's name is Matt Barnes, his motive was anger, his weapon was Twitter, and 20 seconds worth of his insensitive typing could rattle this team for weeks. ... The new coach will meet with Barnes and the team Friday, at which point Los Angeles will have a better understanding of Rivers' renowned definition of toughness. Barnes, whose hardened on-court persona is diametrically opposed to his kind and thoughtful off-court nature, was actually defying toughness in his tweet. If he really wanted to call out his teammates about their fortitude, shouldn't he have done it to their faces? And should the context of the racial slur really mitigate the offensiveness of its use? It shouldn't matter that he was an African American using it in relation to his predominantly African American teammates. There should be no difference if he was using it in relation to locker-room buddies or a group of strangers. When he typed the word on a worldwide public forum, he lost all room for debate. ... Beginning Friday, Doc Rivers must now figure out how to win with him.

  • Walter Villa for The Miami Herald: “I’m a first-generation Battier,” he said. His father was born Eddie Battle. But the confusion began when the letters after B-A-T-T on his birth certificate where scribbled illegibly. Still, Battle went by his given name until he enlisted in the army. “My dad shows up the first day and says: ‘Private Battle reporting for duty,’‚ÄČ” Battier said. “The sergeant said: ‘Uncle Sam says your name is Battier.’ So my dad rolled with it, and he was now Eddie Battier.” The story of the Battier name was told after Heat practice Thursday. That’s because Battier will use the occasion of NBA “nickname nights” to honor his father’s original name. The first of those four nickname nights is Jan. 10 against the Brooklyn Nets, and that’s when fans will see “Battle” where they are accustomed to seeing “Battier.” Known as “Batman” by his teammates, Battier said nickname night will give him a chance to right a wrong.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: One game does not make a season. Particularly when you’ve played nearly 1,400 of them. Indeed, thorough studies on the vagaries of guiding a leather ball through a small metal hoop elevated above the ground indicate that even 10 games are a completely unreliable sample size. As such, neither Tim Duncan’s nightmarish shooting night on Wednesday against the Wizards (1 for 12, the worst showing of his illustrious career), or the fact that he’s currently shooting just 38.6 percent through seven games should be cause for significant alarm. It’s ridiculously early, and the Spurs are still 8-1. (Incidentally, their lone defeat coincided with Duncan’s best game, 24 points on 12-for-23 shooting against Portland.) No longer the low-post force he once was, Duncan’s perimeter-oriented styles makes him increasingly vulnerable to swoons. Last season he endured the following slumps: 31.7 percent, three games; 39.5 percent, three games; 40.5 percent, six games; 41.0 percent, six games (playoffs); 39.7 percent, four games (playoffs). Duncan ended up shooting 50.2 percent for the year, and 47 percent during the playoffs while becoming one of the oldest players in league history to earn All-NBA honors. So, just in case the point isn’t sinking in, we’ll spell it out: With almost 90 percent of the regular season yet to be played, there’s absolutely no reason to panic. Yet.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Arron Afflalo revamped his offseason training routine over the summer. He swam. He boxed. When he lifted weights, he gave himself less rest between sets. He ate better, too. He feels more energetic now. He notices more definition in his physique. His legs feel stronger. But as important as those changes are, perhaps they pale in comparison to the improvements he made to his mental game. Challenged by his coaches to play more efficiently after a disappointing season, he entered this season determined to refine the way he attacks on offense. ... That attitude has made a huge impact on Afflalo and the Orlando Magic so far this season. On Wednesday night, he scored a career-high 36 points and made eight of his 11 shots from 3-point range as the Magic narrowly beat the Milwaukee Bucks. He did everything. He collected eight rebounds, recorded six assists and played sound defense. The performance was emblematic of his season. He's averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and 3-point shooting accuracy.

  • Jodie Valade of The Plain Dealer: Yes, the performance in a 29-point loss to Minnesota was atrocious. And no, they're not happy that they're 3-6 at this early point in the season. However, they want to remind everyone that not only is it early in the season, but it's early in coach Mike Brown's first season (of his second stint) in Cleveland. Anyone who expected miracles immediately probably was thinking a bit loftily. …. Some early defensive success that catapulted the Cavaliers into the top five in the league has been tempered by opponents scoring at a higher clip in more recent games. … A year ago, the Cavaliers were 30th in the league in opponent field goal percentage, allowing .476. This season, the Cavaliers have improved to allowing opponents to shoot .448, good for 13th in the league. That part is very good. However, the difference isn't showing in scores – the Cavaliers are actually allowing more points this season, 101.4 to 101.2 last season. And worse, the Cavaliers are scoring 92.8 points (27th) and shooting .408 (30th). A year ago, they scored an average of 96.5 points (19th) on .434 shooting (29th). That means the Cavaliers' average point differential has slipped from -4.7 last season to -8.6 now.

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: David Morway knows this Indiana Pacers team is really good. After all, he helped put the pieces together as general manager of the Pacers from May 2008 until June 2012. Now Morway is assistant general manager for the Milwaukee Bucks and trying to help engineer a turnaround for another small-market team. So Morway will be watching his old and new teams with keen interest Friday night when the Bucks face the unbeaten Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana (8-0) is the only undefeated team in the National Basketball Association more than two weeks into the regular season. ... Morway was out of basketball last season after resigning as Indiana's general manager. Team president Larry Bird wanted to make a change and installed Kevin Pritchard as the Pacers' GM. Now Morway is energized about his new opportunity working with Bucks general manager John Hammond. Milwaukee (2-5) has been hit by injuries and controversy early in the season, with starting center Larry Sanders lost for six weeks after tearing ligaments in his right thumb in a bar brawl. Starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova has played sparingly due to a right ankle sprain suffered in the preseason, and veteran Luke Ridnour has yet to play due to a herniated disc in his back. "We have great veterans and some really good young players," Morway said. "Anytime you're building something it's tough. "The exciting part is watching guys grow every day and develop over time. One thing I've noticed. They don't like losing."