First Cup: Thursday

  • Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: Throughout the early part of this season, NBA TV has been running a hypothetical one-on-one tournament, matching the game's greatest current players and allowing the fans to vote on who would win. The current showdown: Kevin Durant vs. Paul George. The in-progress fan results: Durant 66 percent to George's 34 percent. “One-on-one, that's what I do, that's what I grew up on,” Durant said when asked of the hypothetical matchup. “That's how I kinda molded my game. So I feel as though he is one of the top one-on-one players and I am one of the top, as well. It'd be a good matchup. I won't say who'd win, but it'd be a good matchup.” George, however, was more up front with his prediction when asked by NBA TV. “What am I going to do? Beat him,” George said. “I think it would be tougher for him one-on-one. When we play them, he does a lot of movement, so I think it would be a pretty even match.”

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Stephen Curry punched the back of a courtside chair, Mark Jackson's voice apparently echoed outside the halftime locker room, and Klay Thompson showed the slightest glimpse of on-court emotion. After weeks of Jackson pleading with the Warriors to regain their identity, they seemingly had to act completely out of character before rediscovering themselves just in time for Curry to drill a game-winner in a 95-93 victory over Dallas on Wednesday night at Oracle Arena. ESPN had to spend much of the night wondering if it really wanted to stick around and carry the Warriors' game against Houston on Friday as Golden State (13-10) looked generally out of whack and on the verge of losing for the eighth time in its past 12 games. Then, the Warriors showed why they've sold out their arena 47 consecutive times and their games have become must-watch TV, overcoming an 18-point deficit. They were down 12 in the fourth quarter and six in the final 90 seconds. "This talks about our character and makes a statement, more of a statement than any of us could make with our mouths," Jackson said.

  • Tom Layman of the Boston Herald: This revelation shouldn’t come as any surprise after Doc Rivers spent nine seasons at the helm of the Celtics: The new coach of the Los Angeles Clippers is tough on point guards. Tough love. Hard looks. Anything to show that he demands so much more out of the position he used to play. Right now, Rivers arguably has the best floor general in the league in Chris Paul. The coach believes he’s being much easier on the perennial MVP candidate than on other point guards he’s had in the past, despite the fact that Paul might disagree. ... Rivers spent 13 seasons in the NBA. Though he was an All-Star during the 1987-88 season, he wasn’t considered one of the best point guards in the league at any time in his career, and he readily admits he lacked the talent of Paul or Rajon Rondo. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be hard on his point guards as a coach, and Rondo had plenty of ups and downs while taking that tough love. Rivers believes his relationship with Paul, who did not speak to the media before last night’s game, is much different one than the one he had with Rondo simply because of stature. Rondo was a blooming player under the watchful eyes of Rivers in Boston, while Paul is playing some of his most efficient basketball in the middle of what could be a Hall of Fame career.

  • Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: When Clippers forward Antawn Jamison made a three-pointer with 9:21 left in the second quarter, it gave him 20,000 points over his 16-year career. It meant that Jamison is one of 20 players in NBA history with at least 20,000 points, 8,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists. Jamison joined Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki as the only active players to accomplish the feat. "It hasn't hit me yet," Jamison said. "I guess when I get a chance to sit back and collect my thoughts, it'll really hit me."

  • Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News: The place is not the problem, in any case. The teams are the problem. We know by now that Sather is like a Supreme Court judge, appointed for life despite a slew of poor judgments. Dolan is not nearly as understanding with Knick officials. They are not his best buddies. Maybe because of that, Woodson, for the first time really, offered a spirited defense of his record. “When I took over this team, the team was struggling,” Woodson said. “We were able to pull that team together. Then last year it was able to make a jump.” The Knicks barely survived against the Bulls, a team playing without Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng. Amar’e Stoudemire rescued the team down the stretch and has shown signs of life these last two games. “We showed a lot of heart, a lot of guts,” he said. A lot of panic, too. Will the Knicks be as fortunate on their Texas swing early next month to San Antonio, Houston and Dallas? For now, Woodson is just trying to get as far as the Alamo and forget what once happened there.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Gary Neal left the Spurs after three seasons last summer, after the team expressed little interest in bringing him back in free agency. In the wake of the Spurs’ loss to Miami in the NBA Finals, the Spurs extended Neal – a restricted free agent – a qualifying offer worth $1.116 million. Neal instead signed a two-year deal with Milwaukee worth $7.5 million. “I figured after three years, the Spurs benefited me and I benefited the Spurs,” Neal said. “But it’s a business. I kind of knew after Game 7 in the Finals, unless I signed a qualifying offer, I wouldn’t be back.” Neal – who is averaging 10.6 points and shooting 45.3-percent from 3-point range in 18 games with Milwaukee — insists he harbors no hard feelings about his departure from San Antonio. It was the Spurs, after all, who gave Neal a shot as a 26-year-old undrafted free agent in 2010. In the end, Neal said he believes he got a fair shake from coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford. “I have no complaints,” Neal said.

  • Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: When Kevin Love wasn't a cheerleader, he was a catalyst with 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. NBA players have registered five games this season with at least 25 points, 15 rebounds and five assists; Love has them all. Yet it was Hummel's 10 fourth-quarter points that secured the Wolves' biggest home comeback since November 2010. Before the fourth quarter, Hummel had zero points in 48 seconds of playing time. "He gave us a spark when we needed it," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I thought J.J. (Barea), even though he didn't score, he was very aggressive and was pushing the guys. We need the guys off the bench." The Wolves' second unit scored 24 points, including eight from Dante Cunningham and three assists from Barea. The Wolves (11-11) won despite shooting 30.8 percent in the first quarter, compared with 77 percent from the Sixers (7-16).

  • Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune: When the New Orleans Pelicans assembled their team this offseason, spending lavishly on a new point guard and a sixth man, Jason Smith wasn't necessarily viewed as a vital cog to the machine. The 27-year-old forward/center certainly was essential on Wednesday night, however, outdueling the Detroit Pistons' ballyhooed frontcourt players, while also outperforming his more heralded and higher paid teammates. Often overlooked, Smith turned in his best performance of the season in helping the Pelicans beat the Detroit Pistons 111-106 in overtime before 14,517 fans at the New Orleans Arena. Smith scored 22 points and grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds, as the Pelicans (10-10) snapped a two-game losing streak to pull back to .500 on the season. "He was a monster tonight," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Final score: Jazz 122, Kings 101. Do not adjust your newspapers or computer screens. That lopsided score is really how Utah ended its four-game losing streak against a team that won at EnergySolutions Arena in overtime on Saturday night. “I can’t say enough about how they came out focused tonight,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. Much of the focus was on the bottom of the nets as the Jazz kept snapping all nightlong. While also snapping their four-game losing skid, the Jazz set a slew of season highs. They scored more points than they had all year (122), dished out more assists (35), and had their highest margin of victory (21). And they did that all while committing just six turnovers and getting production from almost everybody who played.

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Losing takes a toll on coaches, of course, even if it's part of the deal. "You read that fine print once you sign a contract," Jacque Vaughn said before the Magic's game against the Bobcats Wednesday night. "The thought of my team never leaves me." The Magic started the night 6-15 and had lost their last six games heading into the conclusion of the 12-day road trip. Vaughn says his terrific support system at home helps him get through the tough times. "I have a beautiful wife, who has been with me from the beginning," he said. Vaughn has two children, and he says his oldest one doesn't hesitate to offer coaching advice given "he plays games out on Xbox and PlayStation," Vaughn said. "Actually, all he cares about is whether I'll be home for his flag-football game."