First Cup: Tuesday

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: That Budenholzer chose to rest some starters with nagging injuries was no surprise. The eighth-seeded Hawks can’t move up in the standings and Budenholzer’s former boss, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, always has believed in resting veterans. Not that anyone would expect a Monday night Hawks-Bobcats game to be a big draw in Atlanta, but attendance was so sparse they could have curtained off the upper deck at Philips Arena. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford was asked before the game why he felt it was important that Kemba Walker play in at least one of the team’s final four regular-season games. Clifford said a player used to playing as many minutes as Walker can fall out of rhythm by missing four or five days of activity.

  • J. Michael of CSN Washington: The way the Wizards were in sync Monday, it may not have mattered had LeBron James and Chris Bosh played for the Miami Heat. They blew out the two-time defending champions, who chose to rest those starters and only allowed Dwyane Wade to play 19 minutes, 114-93 at Verizon Center in spectacular fashion in front of 20,356 for their fourth sellout of the season. The Wizards (43-38) placed five in double figures led by Trevor Ariza (25 points) Nene (18), Al Harrington (16), Bradley Beal (15) and Marcin Gortat (10) and are one game away from securing no worse than the No. 6 seed for the playoffs. The No. 7 Charlotte Bobcats (42-39) won at the buzzer vs. the Atlanta Hawks to keep the pressure on. A win by the Wizards or a loss by the Bobcats on Wednesday clinches the spot. The Wizards have an outside shot at the No. 5 seed if they win the regular-season finale and the Brooklyn Nets lose their last two games.

  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Memphis clinched its fourth straight playoff berth Monday night with a hard-fought 97-91 victory over the Phoenix Suns in US Airways Center. The Grizzlies’ victory eliminated the Suns from postseason contention with one game left to play. Now, the Griz will host the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday in FedExForum with a chance to move up to the seventh seed to meet Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs. Memphis would remain in eighth place and face top-seeded San Antonio should it lose the season finale. In some ways, the Grizzlies’ playoff clincher was a microcosm of their season. They overcame adversity – such as giving up 23 points off 19 turnovers -- and took care of business to come out ahead. “This is a culmination of everything we’ve been through since December," Griz coach Dave Joerger said. “It’s a happy locker room and a relieved locker room. They really did this whole thing together."

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: The Rockets waited until the regular-season was nearly over to escape the problem that has been most unrelenting, committing a season-low six turnovers on Monday against the Spurs. “That’s a great day for me and the team,” said Rockets guard Jeremy Lin, who did not have a turnover in his 19 minutes. “We really moved the ball. The scoring was really spaced out. The ball moved all night long and we took care of it. That was one of the things we talked about on the board before the game.” Only Philadelphia averaged more than the Rockets’ 16.2 turnovers per game this season. “It’s always huge to not turn it over against that team because they get out and run,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.

  • Jimmy Smith of The Times-Picayune: Though Oklahoma City could have clinched the second seed in the Western Conference with a victory – and coming off a 116-94 win over New Orleans on Friday night, the Thunder didn't seem very motivated Monday night. OKC cruised in its home building just three nights earlier, leading that game by as many as 34 points. And the Pelicans entered the game on an eight-game losing streak. But the Pelicans' defense – and particularly that played by Darius Miller against soon-to-be-named MVP Kevin Durant, bolstered New Orleans' chances. Durant finished with 25 points but was just 9 of 23 from the outside.

  • Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times: Remember Derrick Rose? Adidas barely does. The giant shoe company that signed the onetime Bulls superstar to a 13-year, $185 million endorsement deal back in 2012 — a "lifetime" contract that was inked mainly so Adidas could kick Kobe Bryant’s and LeBron James’ Nike butts in China — seems to have moved on. The company just signed the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard to an eight-year contract, said to be the biggest since Rose signed his. The problem here for Rose? Lillard, a point guard, plays the same position. He’s the same size as Rose — 6-3, 195. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013, like Rose was in 2009. He was an All-Star this season. He performed in an astounding five events at the 2014 All-Star Weekend — from the slam-dunk contest to the three-point shooting contest — before playing in the game. ... In so many ways, he’s just like Rose. Except for three things: He has played in all of the Blazers’ games his first two seasons (Rose has played in 10 of the Bulls’ last 163 regular-season games). Both his knees are good (Neither of Rose’s is). He is 23, in his second year in the league (Rose is 25 and is in his seventh NBA season). Time waits for no one, and it seems doubtful Rose will come back as good as he was at his peak three years ago. He’ll be 26 in October. That’s a kid in almost any career except boy bands and pro basketball. Adidas was all in with Rose until his knees blew out. You can’t blame the company. How do you promote your latest Rose models with a guy on crutches?

  • Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle: The Warriors kind of had to feign a postgame celebration Monday after a comeback from 19 points down led to a 130-120 victory over Minnesota that clinched the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. That's because before the game started, they were dealt a blow that could derail their playoff hopes. Andrew Bogut, the anchor of the league's third-best defense, was ruled out indefinitely after an X-ray revealed a fractured rib on his right side. The center initially was injured in the first half of Thursday's loss to Denver and then took what might have been a season-ending hit when he was sandwiched between two players in the fourth quarter of Sunday's overtime loss at Portland. Bogut said the broken rib is too close to his lung -- risking a potential puncture -- to consider playing through the pain. A fractured rib usually takes about six weeks to fully heal, according to WebMD.com.

  • Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: Till the bitter end, Mike D’Antoni refused to make excuses. Even as Lakers losses pile up at a record pace and fans constantly point an angry finger at him, D’Antoni still won’t throw his aging, injury-riddled roster under the bus or criticize the front office for handing him one of the most talent-deficient teams in franchise history. But an unyielding loyalty to a team comprised of backups isn’t enough to save his job as head coach. It’s time for the Lakers to move on from the awkward, ill-fated relationship they forged with D’Antoni upon hiring him over fan favorite Phil Jackson. Fair or not, it’s time to fire Mike D’Antoni. And soon after, convince Los Angeles native Kevin Ollie to leave national champion Connecticut to return home and coach his hometown Lakers. Or talk Derek Fisher out of playing one more season so he can accelerate the next chapter of his career. But more on that in a bit. ... In retrospect I underestimated just how angry Lakers fans really are and how much spite and resentment they hold for D’Antoni, whose only real failure was not being the beloved Jackson. It’s an anger and bitterness I don’t believe will ever be resolved, especially with some inevitably rough years ahead of the Lakers as they try to rebuild from essentially scratch.

  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Even with DeMar DeRozan reduced to a mere spectator enjoying a night of rest, the Raptors claimed their franchise-record-setting 48th win of the year, dumping the Milwaukee Bucks 110-100 at the Air Canada Centre in the penultimate game of the regular season. “Guys came out with a total focus. We lost it there a little bit in the second half, but the start of the game, our guys were locked in, attention to detail was there on both ends of the floor,” said Casey. DeRozan’s greatest impact on the game was his short speech thanking the fans for the just-completed home season as the banner recognizing the team’s division title was unfurled in an understated, quick ceremony. “It definitely felt good to share it with (the fans) because they played a major part in it as well,” he said.

  • Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News: The talent appears to be there, somewhere, hidden inside the NBA body. But to get it to come to the surface has been forward Arnett Moultrie's problem in his two NBA seasons. He says now is the time, however, as the recently imposed five-game suspension given him for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy was what he needed to get himself on track. "It was a little dark spot for me, I guess, throughout the year I was just a little down on myself on the court, mainly, with no off-the-court issues," Moultrie said. "I'm upset with myself basketballwise. The mental part of the game is my biggest concern. Just to try and stay strong mentally. The five-game suspension was my wakeup call. So now everything is behind me, water under the bridge, I'm ready to move forward." Saddled for the first half of the season after undergoing ankle surgery in the preseason, Moultrie had trouble getting to playing weight. While the coaching staff waited for him to get there, Moultrie thought he was ready to go. When playing time didn't come, he visibly sulked and was soon sent to the Dealware 87ers, of the NBA Development League. Then came the drug suspension in late March, and now his return to the team last night.