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Anthony, Knicks cruise past Cavaliers

The Sports Xchange



NEW YORK — After reaching a milestone, Carmelo Anthony got to enjoy a fourth-quarter rest Thursday.

The Knicks forward poured in 29 points and became the 50th player in NBA history to accumulate 19,000 career points, leading New York to a 117-86 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden.

Anthony accomplished the feat in the first quarter with his 15th point, and he sat out the end of the rout. He averaged 28.7 points in January as the Knicks posted their best month of the season, 10-6.

New York (19-27) earned its second consecutive one-sided and wire-to-wire win. The Knicks, who defeated the Boston Celtics 114-88 Tuesday, are 4-3 on their eight-game homestand, with the Miami Heat set to visit the Garden on Saturday.

The Cavaliers (16-30) lost for the third game in a row and for the seventh time in 10. They were led by guard Kyrie Irving, who scored 24 points. Guard Dion Waiters scored 21 points off the Cleveland bench. He is the highest-scoring reserve in the Eastern Conference at 14.5 points a game.

With center Andrea Bargnani and forwards Kenyon Martin and Amar’e Stoudemire out due to injuries, Knicks coach Mike Woodson employed a three-guard starting lineup. Point guards Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni joined J.R. Smith in the backcourt.

The “small ball” formula worked, as Felton and Prigioni acted as the distributors and Smith provided the scoring. Felton and Prigioni combined for 13 assists, and Smith poured in 19 points. Rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. was the first guard off the Knicks’ bench, and he contributed a season-best 29 points.

Smith made the most of his 10th start in an inconsistent season. The 28-year-old shooting guard shot at least 50 percent from the floor for the third time in four games, going 8-for-16 Thursday.

“I am getting more shots up,” Smith said. “You can never shoot enough basketballs.”

Woodson liked the offensive and defensive mix his three-guard lineup gave him.

“J.R. gives you offense, and Kyrie (Irving) is tough to deal with for anybody,” Woodson said. “I thought Pablo got up and forced the pressure early, and he maintained throughout the whole game.

“It is hard to guard that kid (Irving) one-on-one. We got back on transition and we built up the wall which supported Pablo.”

Cleveland never put together a sustainable run. The Cavaliers trailed 81-65 heading into the fourth quarter, then were outscored by 15 in the last period.

The Knicks took their biggest lead of the first half, 58-29, when Anthony sank the second of two free throws with 4:23 remaining. Hardaway came off the bench to score six points to help the Knicks take a 60-36 halftime advantage.

“They hit us in the mouth and things became easy for them in the second and third quarters,” Irving said. “We have to play with more fire, especially starting off the game.”

Anthony poured in 18 first-quarter points and Smith added 11 to help the Knicks to a 38-21 lead. That was the most points New York has scored in the first quarter this season. Anthony was 5-for-10 from the floor and 6-for-7 from the line in the quarter.

NOTES: Knicks G Tim Hardaway tied the single-game team record for 3-pointers by a rookie with six. He shares the mark with Nate Robinson and Toney Douglas. … The Knicks recalled C Cole Aldrich, G Toure’ Murry and F Jeremy Tyler from Erie of the Development League after they practiced with them on Wednesday, an off-day for the Knicks. … The Cavaliers’ bench began the night ranked second in the Eastern Conference and sixth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 36.6 points a game. The unit scored 36 points against the Knicks. … Cleveland F Anderson Varejao missed his second straight game due to a hyperextended left knee. … Hardaway was selected to play in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend. … Both teams wore warm-up tops with a horse displayed on the front in celebration of Chinese New Year — the year of the horse. … Thursday’s matchup featured two players who graduated from New Jersey high school powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, Knicks G J.R. Smith and Cavaliers F Tristan Thompson. … Denver Broncos defensive back Champ Bailey was at the game.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.


NBA News Wire

Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

The Sports Xchange



If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.

Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.

Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.

“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”

Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.

Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?

“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”

The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.

“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”

Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.

“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”

Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.

Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.

“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”

The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.

Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.

“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.

Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.

The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.

Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.

NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.

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NBA News Wire

Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

The Sports Xchange



SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.

Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.

In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

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NBA News Wire

NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

The Sports Xchange



Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.

Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.

“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”

Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.

“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”

In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.

He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.

Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.

–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.

“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”

Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.

“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.

–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.

Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.

–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.

Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.

In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.

–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.

Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.

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