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First Cup: Wednesday

  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: The Suns were looking for better production when they replaced Miles Plumlee in the starting lineup with Alex Len. They got it from Plumlee, too. Plumlee has blocked more shots, rebounded almost the same and been far more efficient offensively off the bench. He was shooting 64.7 percent as a reserve entering Tuesday's game after making 53.8 percent of his shots as a starter, and he gets to the free-throw line twice as often. "He's not forcing anything," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "That's why we have been shooting the ball better. If we don't have it, we give it to the next guy. Miles and Alex will get the roll to the basket, the dump-offs and the put-backs. That's what we want them to do." In the five games before this road trip, Plumlee had made 16 of 22 shots for his best offensive stretch since mid-November. "I feel like I'm getting the ball in some good opportunities and making the most of it," Plumlee said. In the last two home games, Plumlee logged more minutes than Len.

  • Don Walker of the Journal Sentinel: Peter Feigin, the new president of the Milwaukee Bucks, said the team's ownership is fully supporting center Larry Sanders. Sanders has been out with illness and what was later described as personal reasons. He has not played since the Bucks' home game against Charlotte on Dec. 23. In a luncheon appearance at the War Memorial Center on Tuesday, Feigin denied a media report that was published on Twitter that Sanders recently told team officials he didn't want to play basketball any longer. "Larry didn't say that," Feigin said. "Which I can tell." Feigin said Sanders was experiencing personal issues "of which we are 1,000% supportive of around him." He added that the franchise's new owners want to "surround players with the best medical, psychological, emotional and physical support we can possibly have. When Larry's ready, he'll be ready."

  • Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News: The San Antonio Spurs often win because they are the NBA's best at not beating themselves, and letting you make the most minute mistake before pouncing on it. Brandon Jennings turned the tables on the champs, doing the pouncing as he searched for an opening with milliseconds remaining after getting a loose ball, flipping up a winning lefty layup as the buzzer sounded — the finisher to an improbable win that continues their winning streak, a 105-104 stunner at the AT&T Center. If you're counting, that's a six-game winning streak, after Jennings ignored the fact he had trouble finishing all night at the rim and was surprisingly brought in late in the fourth quarter when his backup D.J. Augustin had it rolling. "DJ really did have it going," Jennings said of Augustin, who finished with 19 points. "He was making plays, getting into the lane. He played better than me tonight. If it was up to me, if he would've asked me I would've said let DJ stay in there." But whether divine intervention took hold, or a team growing to believe in itself wasn't afraid of standing up to the formidable champs in their building led to it, they took every single punch the Spurs tossed and replied with one of their own.

  • Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: Spurs center Tiago Splitter entered Tuesday’s game off a season-high 16 points in Saturday’s win over the Wizards, in which he also played a season-high 27 minutes and 33 seconds. Splitter missed 20 of the first 22 games with a strained muscle in his right calf and had been on a minutes limitation for his first 10 games back. The limitation lifted, Splitter said he has been able to play without concern about reinjuring himself. “I forget about the injury and playing,” he said. “It still bothers me after the game, but it’s part of the process after the injury. But I don’t think about it.” The 30-year-old from Brazil continues to undergo daily treatments on the bothersome calf, a process he said will continue through the season.

  • Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: Last April, Lakers Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss told The Times he would step down if the franchise isn't contending within three years. On Tuesday night, Lakers President and Governor Jeanie Buss said she'll hold him to that. "Yeah, of course," Buss told The Times at the 11th annual Lakers All-Access event at Staples Center on Tuesday night. "But I don't see why -- given the resources, given our legacy, given who our head coach is, who our front office is -- [we'll have] any problem. It was a private conversation with our family but I understand why he said it. I mean, I don't understand why he said it but I don't think it'll be a concern," said Jeanie Buss. "I think he presented a challenge to himself, but I don't know why he made that public."

  • Jay King of MassLive.com: One day after what the Boston Celtics agreed was an “embarrassing” effort against the Charlotte Hornets, head coach Brad Stevens continued to dump the blame on himself. Small forward Jeff Green, though, pointed a finger in his own direction. “It starts with me,” Green told reporters in Waltham before Tuesday’s practice. “I would blame myself for the way we come out and play. As a leader, you have to lead by example, and I don’t think I’ve been doing a great job of that. You can put the blame on me if you want.” While no single player (or coach) should shoulder the responsibility for Boston’s skid, Green has been less than good. Over the nine games since the Rajon Rondo trade, the small forward has averaged 13.6 points on 38.1 percent shooting, including 27.8 percent from behind the arc – long cries from his previous season averages of 19.6 points on 45.4 percent shooting with 32.2 percent from deep. During Monday night’s 104-95 loss to Charlotte, Green totaled seven points on 3-for-13 shooting.

  • Harvey Araton of The New York Times: Ask 10 fans which teams they would forecast for the finals from either conference and you might get 10 different answers. Cleveland’s failure to meaningfully coalesce is one reason the East has opened up for upstarts from Atlanta, Washington and Toronto. Having been spared the chore of stripping down its roster to shoehorn Carmelo Anthony into its salary-cap scheme, Chicago proceeded to construct what many nights has looked like the league’s best and most balanced roster, astutely designed to ease the burden on Derrick Rose. That is where James’s vision — particularly his depth perception — in ordaining Irving and Love may have been faulty. The whole Big 3 model already looks outdated. The most successful teams this season have more or less been the deeper ones, and those that have grown and maintained a stable core. Consider the San Antonio model mimicked. That is why Monday’s trade, desperate as it may seem, could be a good one. The draft pick might help land another big man. Smith might behave himself more in Cleveland than in New York because James, as a leading man, commands far more respect than Anthony does. If nothing else, on his good nights, Smith improves a shallow Cavs bench.

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: By adding Waiters, the Thunder also ventured into new territory and exceeded the tax threshold for the first time. OKC’s payroll now sits roughly $2 million above the $76.8 million tax line. The team has until the Feb. 19 trade deadline to make another move to get under the tax, and it still might. But contrary to popular belief, avoiding the tax has never been the goal for the Thunder. Delaying the more punitive repeater tax has long been the objective. Presti and his staff have long prepared for the day when the Thunder would need to dip into the tax. But they weren’t willing to do it just because. It had to be for the right opportunity, at the right moment and for the right player. Years of planning, prudence and patience finally has produced that moment, and on Monday it led to a rare opportunity to pounce on Waiters.

  • Josh Rubin of the Toronto Star: While Kyle Lowry isn’t likely to admit he’s bothered by it, Patterson says there’s no doubt an all-star spot matters to the fiercely-competitive Lowry. “Every guy wishes that they could be an all-star. So in my opinion, yeah, I feel like it does matter to him,” said Patterson. It also, apparently, matters to Casey — a lot. Dwane Casey says he was “very surprised” when he saw Lowry in fourth spot. “I hope our fans get out and vote and don’t put it in the hands of the coaches. And if the coaches don’t do it, I’m probably going to get into a physical fight with those guys,” said Casey, with only the slightest of smiles on his face. Casey admitted he’s sometimes baffled by the fan voting, and pointed to Lowry and Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler as prime examples of odd decision-making. (Butler’s in fifth spot among Eastern Conference guards). “It’s for the fans, but sometimes fans have their favourites and it has nothing to do with basketball,” said Casey.

  • Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: When the Nets are fully healthy, Hollins plays a basic rotation of nine players: some combination of guards Williams, Jack, Joe Johnson, Sergey Karasev and Alan Anderson and big men Lopez, Plumlee, Kevin Garnett and Mirza Teletovic. The problem is, several of those players are awkward fits playing next to one another. As Hollins said, the numbers this season have not been kind to the pairings of both Lopez and Plumlee in the frontcourt and Williams and Jack in the backcourt. The Nets are being outscored by 16.9 points per 100 possessions when Williams and Jack share the court together, according to NBA.com, and by 11.1 points per 100 possessions when Plumlee and Lopez play together. That makes life difficult for Hollins because he doesn’t have nearly as many lineup options as he would like to have.

  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: According to Bovada of Las Vegas, the two teams favored to win the NBA championship are the Chicago Bulls and the Golden State Warriors. Both are listed at 5-to-1 odds. What do they have in common? Both considered trading for Kevin Love, and decided against it. The Bulls are 25-10, even with Derrick Rose struggling to overcome injuries. The Warriors are an NBA-best 27-5, and are the most entertaining team in the league as well as the best. The Cavaliers, who added LeBron James and Love, are 19-16 and currently in the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. ... Those who argued against the Wolves trading Love for Klay Thompson said that Thompson was a one-dimensional player, a pure shooter and little else. They ignored the fact that he's a driven young player who was bound to improve, and has.

  • Enrico Campitelli Jr. for CSNPhilly.com: You ask any Sixers fan what their favorite memories are from Philadelphia's magical run to the NBA Finals back in the early 2000s and you're sure to hear Allen Iverson stepping over Los Angeles Lakers' guard Tyronn Lue. It was badass and it is so easy to remember nearly a decade and a half later. It has also been immortalized in clothing form. Enter Monday night. Lue is now an coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers who were in town on Monday to compete and eventually lose to the 76ers. One Sixers fan had the rather humorous idea of wearing the shirt and getting his photo taken with Lue. You have to admit, Lue takes it in stride.