First Cup: Thursday

  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: “Lot of emotion in this game,” Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s been our nature. I’d prefer to see that nature more often. It sparked more communication with everyone. More life.” Noting the intensity and drama ratcheting the evening to a near-playoff atmosphere, Spoelstra said, “We’d like to play every game like this.” That’s impossible across 82 games for a team built for the Finals. But Wednesday night served a welcome reminder that the Heat can summon the intensity when needed, both offensively — the Big 3 combined for 71 points — and defensively, with an effort that held Indiana to 18 points in the final quarter. The real statement between these two rivals likely won’t come for another five months or so, deep into the playoffs, but these four regular-season meetings now tied 1-1 will set the framework. Miami at 0-2 in this series would have been the same team, but the conversation would have been different Thursday. Now, instead, it’s as if the Earth has clicked back onto it axis. The Heat played like who and what they are Wednesday, just when they needed to. The home team struck a blow to Indiana’s “it-team” status and reminded the forgetful who the champions are.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The presumed final full day of Omer Asik’s tenure with the Rockets came and went Wednesday like so many others lately. He went through a rehab session on the practice court in the morning, sat on the bench during the Rockets’ game, and did not play basketball at any point in between. Things are expected to get busier Thursday, with the Rockets virtually certain to honor Asik’s trade request, choosing a deal in what one individual involved in talks described as an “auction” more than the usual trade negotiations. The Boston Celtics are considered the front-runner for Asik with an offer of forward Brandon Bass, guard Courtney Lee and a future pick. ... The pick, to be determined, could be considered a key to the deal but also would be carefully protected from being too high in the draft. The trade could involve a third team, but if not, the Rockets would have to open another roster spot. They could add a player to the deal to make it work. Little-used 2011 first-round pick Donatas Motiejunas, who will earn $1.4 million this season, said last week he hopes to soon get playing time in Houston “or someplace else.

  • Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: Chris Paul sat down, took a glance at the stat sheet and shook his head. The line that followed DeAndre Jordan’s name held his gaze. “Outstanding,” Paul said. “He was no question the MVP of this game tonight. We don’t win this game without his energy.” Jordan had 14 points,20 rebounds, five blocked shots, played 43 minutes and made all six of his shots as the Clippers negotiated their way through a flat game to score a 108-95 victory over New Orleans on Wednesday at Staples Center. “We were a little sluggish tonight,” Paul said. “You would have expected that in the Spurs game (Monday night) but it caught up with us tonight. You’ve got to push through. DJ kept telling us, ‘Come on, Come on.’ And we fed off it. I love what DJ’s doing. He’s the cornerstone of our defense, he rolls, he gets everybody open on the offensive end. I tell you, we should be seeing him in New Orleans come February if he keeps playing like that.” That would be for an All-Star appearance for the 6-foot-11 center who was challenged to become a contender for Defensive Player of the Year by Coach Doc Rivers before the season started. “Doc gave me a challenge early on in the summer, it’s something I’ve embraced and it’s fun to take on that challenge that he gave me,” Jordan said.

  • Beckley Mason of The New York Times: NBA.com tracks performance in the clutch, a time defined as a game in which two teams are within 5 points of each other in the final five minutes. Entering Wednesday’s contest against Milwaukee, the Knicks were 4-10 in games that had a clutch moment, a staggering figure if one considers that were the record reversed, the Knicks would have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. No teams that qualify have lost more games. On Wednesday, against a Bucks team with a worse record than the Knicks, there were some clutch moments in the Knicks’ 107-101 double-overtime victory, with Carmelo Anthony hitting a big 3-pointer with 50 seconds to go. But there were also a lot of clutch misses: The Knicks missed their last five shots in the first overtime, with Anthony responsible for four of them. Amid all the misfires — they also missed their last two shots in regulation — the Knicks did not so much win the game as survive it.

  • Tom Powers of the Pioneer Press: That's one in a row. The Timberwolves really need to go on some type of decent winning streak here. "We need that streak bad," Corey Brewer said after Minnesota's 120-109 over a talented but tired Portland team Wednesday night. ... The Timberwolves are at .500, and that's not going to get them anywhere in the Western Conference. You can't eat potential. You can't spend it at the store. You can't wear it. At some point, there needs to be results -- or at least straight-ahead progress. ... The team now heads to Los Angeles for games against the Lakers and Clippers. Those games could be horrific, the way the last road game was in Boston. Or they might not be. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to any of this. Yes, Adelman is right to note he has a fairly young team. Perhaps we shouldn't be looking for straight-line progression. But even the coach shook his head "no" when asked if the team was where he thought it should be at this point. He was in a pretty good mood after the victory, though. ... So I guess everyone was validated as a result of Wednesday's game. But the record shows they have a 50-50 chance to become invalidated in Los Angeles.

  • Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Kyle Korver: The guard kept his NBA-record streak of games with a 3-pointer going strong - now at 95 - with a career-high tying eight. Three of the 3-pointers came in his 11-point fourth quarter as the Hawks turned a close game into a rout. Korver's 28 points were his most as a Hawk and the most since 2007. “I got a lot of really good looks tonight,” Korver said. “Usually, you don’t get that many. That was a product of our spacing and everybody knocking down shots. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot of good looks that last few games and I haven’t shot the ball as well as I would have liked. It was nice to have a better night. “Both the ones I missed I should have made. They were wide open.”

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: The Charlotte Bobcats absolutely should pursue the playoffs if they have a realistic chance of being the sixth seed in the East and avoiding the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers in the first round. Right now that’s not crazy talk. The Eastern Conference is wide-open, not in a “You might get to the conference finals” way, but in a “You have a puncher’s chance to get to the second round’ manner. Fans talk all the time about how the Bobcats can only be so good until they have a great player. OK, I get that. But in these times when real world gets confused with “Joe-from-Matthews-fantasy-team,” here’s what becomes trivialized: There is next to no one on this team with consequential playoff experience. ... You don’t think the Bobcats would be better if Kemba Walker was exposed to the post-season? You don’t think Gerald Henderson or Jeff Taylor would benefit? Or MKG? I get tired of the stale “tanking” scenarios. I watch Parker, Smart, Randle and Wiggins constantly, and here’s what comes to mind: When/if one of those guys becomes Adam Morrison, then what?

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Manu Ginobili has bounced back with a fury following his Finals meltdown, inserting his name into early discussions for Sixth Man of the Year. He bolstered his claim with another fantastic performance on Wednesday, scoring a season-high 24 points — the most he’s had off the bench over the past three seasons — to go with six rebounds, seven assists and two steals. According to Basketball Reference, it marked only the seventh time in Ginobili’s career that he’s reached those figures in a regular-season game, and the eighth time overall. ... Stat of the Year, courtesy of the Phoenix PR staff: Tim Duncan entered the game with more career minutes (42,064) than the Suns’ entire active roster (42,027). Despite all those miles, Duncan recorded his fifth straight double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

  • Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News: Samuel Dalembert didn’t play in the Mavericks’ last game, but on Wednesday night he followed through on his vow to be ready the next time he was Rick Carlisle said he had a feeling Samuel Dalembert would be a factor Wednesday night. Call it coach’s premonition, despite Dalembert’s struggles of late and the fact he didn’t even play in Dallas’ last game. Sure enough, Carlisle summoned Dalembert in the third quarter, with Memphis rallying from a 16-point deficit and pounding Dallas on the offensive boards. Dalembert asserted himself in the paint, helped clamp down defensively on Zach Randolph and helped the Mavericks put away the Grizzlies, 105-91. “Today was a test for me personally,” said Dalembert, who scored eight points, pulled down seven rebounds and blocked two shots in 13 minutes. “Especially at a crucial point of the game, to challenge myself and use all the hard work I’ve been putting in to try to get myself back in a groove.”

  • Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press: Maurice Cheeks needed to talk to Andre Drummond. The Pistons had just absorbed a 110-95 beating from the Heat on Dec. 8. Drummond had contributed 19 points and 14 rebounds, but Cheeks felt Drummond didn’t realize the energy the Heat would bring to that game — especially considering the Pistons had won at Miami five nights earlier. So Cheeks talked to his big man as they walked off the Palace floor. “He doesn’t really know that us playing Miami, beating Miami in Miami and then coming back trying to play them a couple of days later — he’s probably one of the guys that really didn’t understand the magnitude of the way Miami was going to play,” Cheeks said before the Pistons faced the Celtics on Wednesday night. The anecdote was a reminder that Drummond is only 20 and has room to grow. Drummond’s player efficiency rating was ranked 14th in the NBA entering Wednesday night. “We don’t run a lot of plays for him,” Cheeks said. “He still comes up with 18, 15 rebounds. He learns every game. Just the way he approaches the game, he approaches the game at a high level.”

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Wizards rookie swingman Glen Rice Jr. will miss three to six weeks after having surgery on Tuesday to repair a fracture in his right wrist. Rice had experienced some discomfort in his wrist before the Wizards traveled to New York this week but aggravated the injury while celebrating with his teammates after an emotional 102-101 victory against Knicks. With Bradley Beal back from a stress injury in his right fibula, Rice wasn’t expected to get much playing time but he got some quality playing time in the previous three games, averaging seven points and 3.7 minutes in 22 minutes. Coach Randy Wittman praised Rice for not being tentative on the floor, even if he wasn’t making shots.

  • Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: Six months after Trey Burke looked overwhelmed and underwhelming in summer league play, shooting just 24 percent and hitting one of his 19 attempts from 3-point territory, the Jazz rookie put together the finest game of his young pro career, propelling Utah to a 86-82 win over the Magic at Amway Center. "He was waiting to get back to Orlando, I guess," Corbin said. While Victor Oladipo, the Magic’s rookie guard who was drafted seven spots ahead of Burke in June, missed 10 of his 11 shots, Utah’s young floor leader scored a season-high 30 points, dished eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds. "Night from day. Night from day," Burke said of his improvement since July. "Coming in here during the summer league, it was a new pace for me, a new speed, size was different." The ninth pick in the draft was frustrated by his early play, but said his summer-time struggles helped make him better.