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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Even Michael Malone, a coach who prides himself on defense, had to chuckle at the statement. His Kings had just given up 119 points, including a season-high 46 in the fourth quarter. Portland point guard Damian Lillard torched the Kings for 26 of his career-high 41 points in the fourth quarter. But Malone was proud of how the Kings played defense in a 123-119 win over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night at Sleep Train Arena. “Yes, they scored 119, but I felt we defended at a fairly high level,” Malone said. “It’s kind of funny saying that.” The Kings scored 43 fourth-quarter points, their season high for a quarter, to fend off the Trail Blazers, who trailed 102-83 with 7:54 to play. Sacramento (11-22) took control by holding Portland to 13 points in the third quarter, pleasing Malone.

  • Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald: Believing there’s no need to add center Andrew Bynum at this time, the Heat decided to keep guard Roger Mason Jr., and, as expected, forward Michael Beasley by Tuesday’s 5 p.m. NBA deadline to guarantee contracts for the remainder of the season. That means Miami would have to eat a contract to add another player. Erik Spoelstra called the lack of any roster moves “fairly easy decisions” and said of Mason: “It’s not easy to find guys like that.” Though the Heat hasn’t ruled out Bynum barring a change of heart (if he’s still available), Miami was not among several teams that contacted Bynum’s agent after he was released by Chicago on Tuesday. The Heat also remains optimistic that center Greg Oden will be able to contribute at some point this season, but feels no rush to insert him in a game. Oden hasn’t played in an NBA game in more than four years while continuing to work his way back from several knee operations.

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Derrick Rose might want to proceed with extreme caution. The next thing he says should be thought out very well. It’s time for the face of the Camp Rose franchise to gather the troops — brother/manager Reggie included — and deliver a simple message: Everyone needs to shut their mouths. Because fair or not, the Bulls’ mess is on Rose. He’s earning $17.6 million this season and still is owed roughly $60 million for the next three seasons. He has earned the complete trust of a franchise still committed to building around him, despite two knee surgeries. And he defiantly won’t involve himself in the recruiting game that goes on among the NBA’s elite. So come the trade deadline Feb. 20, there shouldn’t be one whisper out of Rose’s camp that he’s somehow unhappy with the direction of the team. Not when his hands have been on the steering wheel the last four seasons. The trade of Luol Deng late Monday was for financial flexibility, but it also came about because of Rose’s injury.

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: Things are seemingly getting so easy for the Warriors that they're finding ways to make the games more interesting. For the second consecutive game, they let an opponent hang around for a half before taking over in the third quarter. Two days after opening the third with a 30-5 run against Washington, the Warriors reeled off a 27-9 stretch to start the second half Tuesday night against Milwaukee and then skipped away with a 101-80 victory to extend their winning streak to 10 games. The Warriors (24-13) hadn't won 10 consecutive games since 1975-76, the same season the franchise last won a division crown. The Warriors' all-time best winning streak is 11 games, in 1971-72. They'll have a chance to tie that mark as well make some more history when they close their season-long, seven-game road trip Wednesday in Brooklyn. An eighth straight road win would be a franchise high, breaking the seven-game best established in 1969 and tied Tuesday.

  • Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer: One argument for delaying gratification yet again, is that the ceiling for this season, even with Deng, is basically a Hobbit house. So what? Win now. Make the playoffs. Go as far as you can. Reset. Repeat next year. Unlike the NFL, these things actually take time in the NBA. Longer, if you never start the process of winning games. The Deng deal is not without a trap door because he becomes a free agent at season’s end and keeping him could be riskier than letting him walk. While it’s promising that the Cavs could pay him more than anyone else to stay, he would be a dangerous max contract given his age (29 in April) and the miles on his odometer. So the trade for Deng is not without concerns. But for an organization needing to turn its direction from wallowing to winning in time to give Kyrie Irving more enticement than money alone to make this his home, Deng is the right acquisition.

  • Mitch Abramson of the New York Daily News: It's not clear if J.R. Smith has a foot fetish or if he just can’t help himself. But with 6:50 left in the first quarter of the Knicks’ 89-85 win over Detroit on Tuesday, Smith reached for the sneaker of Greg Monroe as they lined up for a free throw, giving the impression he was trying to loosen his laces. Monroe’s reaction was to quickly shift his shoe away. Was Smith merely enjoying a moment of levity with a peer or was he actually trying to duplicate the stunt he pulled Sunday in Dallas when he succeeded in loosening the left shoelace of Shawn Marion as they awaited a free throw late in the second quarter? According to a league source, Smith was warned by the NBA for the brazen act, luckily avoiding a fine or a suspension. But for Smith to even hint that he was trying the same maneuver on Tuesday with NBA czar of discipline Rod Thorn in attendance speaks to either his level of playfulness or wayward behavior — depending on your view of Smith. In a session with the media that was quickly broken up by a team official once the questions veered toward footwear and shoelaces, Smith was not given time to answer what his intentions were with Monroe. He was coy on whether he was told by the league to stop tampering with shoelaces. “Yes and no,” he said. “I’m not really supposed to talk about it, so I’ll leave it at that.” Smith appears unfazed by the attention his shoe-grabbing gesture in Dallas brought him, a swipe that was caught on camera and quickly went viral.

  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: Gregg Popovich enjoys a well-earned reputation as one of the NBA’s premier tacticians. He was at his best on a pair of late possessions Tuesday’s, drawing up not one but two plays that earned layups for Ginobili coming out of timeouts. The second came deep in overtime as Ginobili snaked inside to finish at the rim with 1.8 seconds remaining in overtime. Before that, he worked a beautiful high-low with Duncan to score with 3.6 seconds left in regulation, a basket that was negated by Mike Conley’s floater at the buzzer. The Spurs’ deployment for Wednesday’s home game against Dallas becomes very, very interesting after most of the Spurs’ key players were forced to far exceed their typical minutes allotment. In addition to Duncan’s 38, Parker played 40 while Ginobili got 33. While it’s hard to imagine Popovich will outright sit anyone for a home game, those three could be looking at significantly reduced time in the name of the big picture. (Ginobili complained of tightness in his hamstring after the game, which he appeared to tweak on his game-winning drive.)

  • Gil LeBreton of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Oh, the Mavericks prevailed 110-97, snapping a disappointing four-game home losing streak. Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 points, and guards Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis combined for 10 steals. With 1:40 to go before halftime, however, the Mavericks’ run of New Year’s rotten luck bit them again. Shawn Marion appeared to trip on Laker Pau Gasol’s foot, then he bumped into teammate Nowitzki and fell hard to the floor. The 19,656 at American Airlines Center let out a groan when they saw the replay. Marion, who already had eight points and seven rebounds, left the game, never to return. His injury was announced as a shoulder contusion. ... The Mavericks, if anything, have been hardy souls through this still-young NBA season. They have survived a fractured shoulder (Brandan Wright), neglected alarm clocks (Samuel Dalembert), occasionally indifferent rebounding (many) and only fleeting glimpses of backcourt defensive play. Yet, if the season ended today, the 20-15 Mavericks, for better or worse, would be headed for the NBA playoffs. They wouldn’t want to do it without Marion. Nor would they want to play the first 40 minutes the way they did Tuesday night. ... On Tuesday night, the visiting Lakers were like a dose of cough syrup. A more probing examination for the Mavericks comes in San Antonio tonight.

  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: In their previous two games against Toronto and Golden State, the Wizards got ambushed in the third quarter and were outscored by a combined 70-31. Wittman said his players had become “front-runners,” incapable of playing with intensity if their shots weren't falling. After entering the second half with a 43-39 lead, the Wizards let the Bobcats get within two on a three-pointer by Chris Douglas-Roberts, then Wall, a North Carolina native, and Booker, a South Carolina native, combined to score 13 of the next 15 points. Booker stole the ball from Gerald Henderson (27 points) and fed Wall for the alley-oop dunk that got the Wizards going on the game-breaking 17-0 run. “He thinking he a point guard sometimes. I told him to throw it up, and he hit it on the money,” Wall said of Booker. Wall, meantime, scored 17 points to go with eight assists and no turnovers.

  • Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: Rasual Butler was the big winner Tuesday, with the Pacers opting to keep him on the roster, thus guaranteeing the rest of his $1.4 million salary. The journeyman forward from LaSalle was the only Pacer without a guaranteed contract, and Tuesday was the NBA's deadline for teams to make full commitments. Butler, who played in the D-League last season, earned a roster spot with strong play in training camp, and he's continued to help the Pacers in spots this season. "People had written him off," Vogel said. "He made up his mind that he wasn't done yet, that he was going to keep working and keep trying. He was able to make some positive things happen (here). It's a good story."

  • Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post: As Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari continues to work toward a return from a knee injury, his time missed is approaching a level for which the team will get some of his money covered. The magic number is 41. If Gallinari misses 41 consecutive regular-season games — and this goes back to last season — an NBA insurance policy will pay for part of his salary per game in every contest after that. Gallinari has missed 40 consecutive regular-season games, dating to the final six games of last season, as he rehabs a left ACL injury. Starting Saturday in the Nuggets' home game against Orlando, the insurance policy pays for 50 percent of his base salary per game, meaning the Nuggets will get about $61,800 covered each night he does not play until he returns. Gallinari is making more than $10 million this season, the second of a four-year contract. Gallinari has steadily improved in his on-court work lately, doing some running and working on some lateral movement. There is no timetable for his return.

  • Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: On Tuesday, Kevin Durant was in that crazy-good mode he gets into, oh, about every time he stops onto the court. He had the eye of the tiger Katy Perry and Survivor like to sing about. For the second time in four nights, the superstar scored an NBA season-high 48 points. How cute. Thanks to Gordon Hayward, it wasn’t nearly enough. On this night, Hayward’s career game trumped Durant’s latest huge outing as the hot-shooting guard scored 37 points to lead the Jazz to a 112-101 victory over Oklahoma City at EnergySolutions Arena. “Yeah,” Hayward said, “I was in the zone a little bit tonight.” Not only did he have the line of the night — 13-of-16 shooting, 11 rebounds and seven assists — but Hayward also had the understatement of the night with that humble quote.