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First Cup: Tuesday

  • Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post: If the offseason proceeded how the Washington Wizards had envisioned on July 1, when the NBA’s wild free agency period began, they would have re-signed Trevor Ariza. Bringing back the premier perimeter defender and positive locker-room presence was a top priority. An aggressive recruiting campaign, which included visits to Ariza’s Los Angeles home from players and Coach Randy Wittman, was evidence. Ariza, however, decided to bolt for the Houston Rockets, leaving the Wizards stunned. But Washington had a contingency plan in place, and it included wooing Paul Pierce to Washington, an implausible notion just a year earlier. When the future Hall of Famer agreed to join the upstart Wizards two days after Ariza left, it signaled that Washington had become a desirable destination. Nearly six months later, the Wizards encountered Ariza and the Rockets to commence a grueling road trip and signal another step in their ascendance. Fueled by a third-quarter outburst led by Pierce, Washington held off a Rockets surge down the stretch to escape Toyota Center with their best victory of the season, 104-103. The triumph, the Wizards’ first in Houston in exactly six years, extended Washington’s winning streak to three games.

  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: For a second consecutive night, the Rockets seemed flustered and frustrated when out of sync with their new rotation. When the Rockets got their pace going, they could be effective, with Harden scoring 33 points and Brewer and Trevor Ariza, who finished the game together on the floor as Josh Smith sat out the entire fourth quarter, each scoring 15. But the Rockets never seemed to find themselves on either end, with the Wizards scoring on nine of their final 11 possessions. But when the second unit was on the floor, the Rockets had the energy that was otherwise lacking. "The second unit played with way more just intensity, purpose, speed," McHale said. "Everything they did, they did much harder. For whatever reason, we had a couple groups out there just didn't do things hard enough. They came in, there were 50/50 balls we didn't get. There were rebound balls we didn't track down. There were extra-effort plays, the run-back on defense that just wasn't there for that group."

  • Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News: A combined $35.6 million in salaries sat against the scorer’s table, the priciest duo of substitutes in the NBA. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez didn’t get on the court for the first 11½ minutes of Monday’s game. They weren’t even the first off the bench, becoming the seventh and eighth men. By the end of a 107-99 victory over the Kings, the point guard and center played 17 and 13 minutes, respectively. Lionel Hollins, clearly losing patience with the questions about Brooklyn’s former cornerstones, indicated that his controversial rotation is here to stay. “Why you keep asking about Deron and Brook? This is the Brooklyn Nets,” the coach said. “Yes, they were starters, they’ve been out and if you note, while they were out we started playing better and winning, so why would I go back and change the lineup now?” Rebounding from a dreadful effort two days prior against the Pacers, the Nets (14-16) pulled away in the fourth quarter Monday to win for the fourth time in five games, an eight-day stretch occurring with Jarrett Jack and Mason Plumlee as starters.

  • Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: This was the kind of night DeMarcus Cousins had seen too much of in his first four seasons. The kind of night he’d hoped was a thing of the past. But lately, things haven’t been going how the Kings had hoped and that was the case again Monday night as they fell to the Brooklyn Nets, 107-99, at Barclays Center. The Kings have lost eight of their last 10. The Kings didn’t appear to have the urgency needed to a win a road game most of the night as they committed 21 turnovers and fouled enough to allow the Nets to shoot 39 free throws, the most by a Kings opponent this season. ... Lack of focus plagued recent Kings teams and threatens to be a problem again if there are more efforts like Monday’s. “Reggie (Evans) even said it at halftime, shooting around at halftime,” Cousins said. “We had to hold a huddle and tell guys to pick up their energy. We weren’t ready to play.” For most of the season there has been no questioning the Kings’ intensity. But Monday, that was a concern as the Kings couldn’t take care of the ball.

  • Dan Woike of The Orange County Register: Some people call it the “airplane view.” Imagine flying over a city and the details become so small, they’re unnoticeable. The big features, the lakes, the forests, the golf courses, that’s what you notice. J.J. Redick is applying the airplane view to the Clippers’ season through 31 games, saying before Monday’s game with Utah that he’s not too concerned with the minor details. The numbers – a defensive rating just out of the bottom third, 3-point defense that’s fallen from atop the league – they’re just details right now. “I think strategically and personnel-wise, we have what we need. From a personnel standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, I think we have what we need,” Redick said.

  • Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News: Guard Alec Burks accompanied the Jazz to Los Angeles even though he was declared out for Monday’s game before the team left. It marks the fourth game Burks has missed this year with his left shoulder injury. Coach Quin Snyder says he likes Burks “being supportive and having a role’’ helping the younger players on road trips.

  • Manny Randhawa Contributor to CSNChicago.com: On this night, it was the newly-named Eastern Conference Player of the Week. Jimmy Butler buried the game-winning shot with 1:07 remaining, a 3-pointer from the right wing off a pass from Pau Gasol that finally put the pesky Pacers away for good. “He’s a primary scorer,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Butler after the game. “You have Derrick Rose, you have Jimmy, you have Pau...All those guys are terrific...There’s always someone who is going to have a good game and we have good options we can go to to close.” ... Butler is a young player on the rise, and part of any ascension of a star-in-the-making is the development of the ability to hit a big shot late. “I’m confident in my game, and so are my teammates,” Butler said. “So I feel like I’ve gotta step up and take and make shots late. I guess that’s what a starting 2-guard is supposed to do.” Butler has been getting encouragement in that department, from none other than a former MVP who has been entrusted with the ball in many similar situations in the past.

  • Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star: As hard as the bench played Monday night and as much as they believe they got a bad whistle -- then a really slow one -- against the Chicago Bulls, the Indiana Pacers still let a superb opportunity slip away. The Pacers' second unit outworked the Bulls through the fourth quarter and even recovered from a deficit that had ballooned to 21 points, but lost 92-90 inside a sold-out Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "It's frustrating to leave it all out there on the floor, which is all you can ask," said C.J. Miles, coughing after playing more than 23 minutes while still recovering from an upper respiratory infection. "It's just tough, man. We left it all out there and that's all I can really say. I'm not saying that I'm OK with losing. I'm definitely upset about it. I feel like we went out there and we fought. We fought our (tails) off."

  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: Jason Kidd did not tiptoe around the subject at halftime with his Milwaukee Bucks team leading by 17 points. The Bucks coach reminded his players of the season opener in October when they held a 24-point lead only to go down in overtime to the Charlotte Hornets. This time it was a 21-point first-half lead that disappeared, but a clutch basket by Brandon Knight tied the score late in regulation and the Bucks dominated overtime to secure a 104-94 victory over the Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena. "You look at Game 1 and you look at Game 32, it showed some growth," Kidd said. ... Milwaukee ended a string of seven straight losses to Charlotte and improved to 9-10 on the road this season.

  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford said small forward Jeff Taylor requested his upcoming stint with the Austin (Texas) Toros of the NBA Development League because Taylor wasn’t getting enough work out of limited practice time. It has been more than a year since Taylor suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon, and during that time he has played small parts of three games. Clifford said that this way, Taylor can get heavy minutes in three or four D-League games. The situation with rookie Noah Vonleh’s D-League assignment is a bit different. He’s still learning the NBA game, particularly on defense, Clifford said, and his time with the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants can help him figure out the nuances of pick-and-roll defense.

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: No current player on Orlando's roster had ever beaten the Miami Heat as a member of the Magic. Time for a status update: Streak over. The Magic beat the Heat 102-101 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Monday night, rallying late and hitting 3-pointers. The Magic's last win against the Heat came on March 13, 2012 in Orlando. They still had Dwight Howard, and Miami had its Big Three. The Magic led 102-101 with 6.3 seconds left after Victor Oladipo hit one of two free throws. Dwyane Wade then missed a potential game-winning jumper.

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Thus far, Chris Bosh has had difficulty breaking old habits. After two months, he's still playing mostly on the perimeter. "Old habits die hard," Bosh said. "It's what I've been doing for four years. That's what we needed, we needed to spread the floor. Now, we can kind of play in the interior a little more. We don't have that 6-8, 260-pound point guard that can get in the lane." Bosh was obviously referring to former teammate LeBron James. Missing eight games because of a calf strain allowed Bosh to reflect on what his game was lacking. He realized he wasn't playing enough with his back to the basket. Bosh admitted he has become too reliant on his perimeter game, especially the 3-point shot. Extending the defense was his primary responsibility the past four seasons, but that is no longer the case with James now in Cleveland. The Heat want Bosh to be more of a post presence.