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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: The Grizzlies gave their home crowd plenty of consternation with several disappointing losses during the first half of the NBA schedule. Now, the message is clear: Welcome back to the Grindhouse. Memphis extended its season-high home winning streak to seven games Tuesday night with a 109-99 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in FedExForum. And the Grizzlies’ sudden dominance at home couldn’t come at a better time. The victory increased their lead over the Phoenix Suns to a game for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference. “It seems like we just couldn’t get a (loose) ball or a bounce,” Griz coach Dave Joerger said about his team’s early-season home woes. “We’re a lot more focused. We’re kind of on a mission.” It’s a month filled with road games for the Griz and that makes winning at home somewhat critical in their hotly contested race for a postseason berth.

  • Phil Richards of The Indianapolis Star: Just for starters, and this was one, Andrew Bynum and Indiana appeared to be a good match. The Pacers are 1-0 with him in uniform, a convenient 94-83 whipping of the Boston Celtics that broke a four-game losing streak. "I felt great. Couldn't do anything wrong today," the 7-foot, 285-pound strongman said after working the Celtics for eight points, 10 rebounds and an assist in 15 minutes Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "All the rebounds came my way and I just grabbed them. Looking forward to the next game." ... Bynum entered the game with 4:22 to play in the first quarter. He muscled for position in the low post, took a pass from Hill and jammed. He snatched the rebound at the other end. He made a nice pass to David West for a dunk. Bynum's inaugural stint as a Pacer spanned 7 minutes and 28 seconds. He went to the bench with four points, eight rebounds and an assist. More important, the Pacers were plus-7 with him on the floor. They maneuvered from a 12-12 tie into a 29-22 lead.

  • Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: Spurs guard Manu Ginobili can still remember the Tony Parker of February. It was not a pretty sight. “He was limping, he was struggling,” Ginobili said. “You could tell he had no energy.” A 19-day layoff appears to have paid dividends in freshening Parker for the stretch run. The latest bit of evidence came Tuesday in Chicago, when Parker's 20 points and nine assists helped key a 104-96 victory over the Bulls at the United Center. The All-Star point guard had 18 of his points in the first half, and a dozen in the first 61/2 minutes, as the Spurs built a lead that got as high as 32 points. “He was huge,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “He was aggressive for himself and his teammates and made a lot of things happen.” Said Ginobili: “Tony showed the way for us.” Parker is averaging 19.2 points and six assists in five games since his March 2 return. The next step is for Parker to regain his conditioning. After a standout first half against the Bulls, Parker managed two points on 1-of-4 shooting in the third quarter before sitting out the entire fourth.

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: If John Loyer had an internal blueprint for how this Pistons team would win games, their second- and third-quarter performance against the Sacramento Kings will be framed and referred to for future reference. After bringing their nonexistent defense with them from Boston, they ratcheted it up against a more explosive Kings team, one that features three players averaging 20 points a night. Holding the Kings to 34 points in the middle quarters will never be considered pretty, but it was certainly effective in their 99-89 win Tuesday night at The Palace. They now trail the Atlanta Hawks by 2½ games for the eighth playoff spot. Since Maurice Cheeks was fired, the defense has gone from bad to terrible, but this night stands as perhaps their best showing in a very long time, perhaps having to go back to December to find a game where they appeared to at least give multiple efforts on something that revolved around scoring.

  • Jenni Carlson of The Oklahoman: Patrick Beverley did the Thunder a solid. The Rockets’ guard decided to embrace his villain status. Be the bad guy. Wear a mask even. It worked — for the Thunder. On the night that Beverley and Russell Westbrook stepped on the same court for the first time since Beverley ran into Westbrook in last year’s playoffs and set off a round of knee surgeries that has defined nearly a year for the Thunder, Beverley’s aggressive style backfired. It helped to energize an already pumped Westbrook and Co. Thunder 106, Rockets 98. ... But it’s pretty clear this Westbrook-Beverley matchup will stay hot as long as the two are in the league. Even though it didn’t provide nearly as many fireworks in the second half — seemed fitting that Westbrook drew a foul on Beverley and hit three ensuing free throws to seal the Thunder victory with a minute and a half left — but the sparks from that matchup ignited other fires. Steven Adams got into it with James Harden. Harden got into it with Brooks. Francisco Garcia got into it with Durant. Add in lots of staredowns and the occasional f-bomb, not to mention a whopping 42 points from Durant, and it felt like June, not March at The Peake.

  • Diamond Leung of The Oakland Tribune: Ask Andrew Bogut to identify what it is that’s been sparking the bench and making the second unit go, and his answer might surprise you. Steve Blake has been doing that for sure after arriving from the Lakers in a trade and bringing stability with him. Freed up to shoot, Jordan Crawford has brought the offensive firepower the Warriors needed. And Jermaine O’Neal right now is laughing in the face of Father Time. Bogut went with one of the players who’s been there all along this season — Draymond Green. “He’s not a huge stat guy,” Bogut said. “He’s a great rebounder, but he’s not a guy that’s going to drop 20 a night. But he just affects the game in so many different ways that people don’t understand. Fantasy guys and all these guys that look into these stats, they have no idea the effect that he has on a basketball game." ... Green filled up a stat sheet in a bench-led win against Dallas. He had six points, six rebounds and three assists while making both his 3-point attempts in 18 minutes of action.

  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Dirk Nowitzki has been taken out of the game with five minutes to go and 12 points. Nowitzki now is tied with Boston legend John Havlicek at 26,395 points. Nowitzki had a rough night offensively. His first point in Utah Wednesday will put him into 12th. After that, it’s Dominique Wilkins next on the list at 26,668.

  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian Etched across the shoulders of LaMarcus Aldridge, in black cursive ink, is a tattoo that reads “Me Against the World." He has embraced that motto since he came to Portland as a gangly colt, and even moreso as he has matured into the thoroughbred that now paces the Trail Blazers. Throughout his seven-plus seasons in Portland, it has served as a barrier to many, sometimes even teammates. He has been cold. Untrusting. Distant. But also dedicated, loyal, and motivated. It has served him well. And perhaps never have the Blazers needed Aldridge to embrace that motto more than right now. Me Against the World.

  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: Joakim Noah believes the Bulls’ season was saved with the arrival of D.J. Augustin in mid-December. Augustin believes his career was saved by coach Tom Thibodeau and a locker-room culture that he had never experienced in his five previous NBA seasons. Are you listening, Carmelo Anthony? “This is probably the most comfortable I’ve felt in a long time, maybe since my Charlotte days,’’ Augustin said Tuesday.

  • Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press: If it seems difficult to be an NBA player abruptly traded to another team, imagine being a member of the unofficial Luc Mbah a Moute Fan Club. A dozen boys from Basket-club Nyonsais in France became fans of Timberwolves forward Mbah a Moute a few years ago. The boys, ages 15 to 18, began to raise money to see Mbah a Moute when he played in Milwaukee. Mbah a Moute was traded to Sacramento in July 2013. And the boys booked airline tickets to watch the Kings play in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. Then Mbah a Moute was traded to Minnesota in November 2013. The boys didn't have any more funds to switch flights. ... Mbah a Moute and teammate Ronny Turiaf had dinner with the boys Monday night. The team provided the boys with tickets to Tuesday's game against Milwaukee and passes into the locker room to see Mbah a Moute. "I just can't imagine kids coming and doing something like that for someone they don't know," Mbah a Moute said. "I think it's pretty special."

  • Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: In recent days, a strange social media beef has emerged across the digital world between Kevin Durant and rapper Lil B. The Bay Area based artist, apparently, has called out Durant in the past, challenging him one-on-one. But in the past week, he released an expletive-filled diss track, aimed at the Thunder superstar. “I don’t know who that is. Who is that?” Durant said when asked of Lil B pregame, with a hint of sarcasm. “He needs some attention, I guess. Whoever that is, he needs some help.”