AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — D.J. Augustin saw his playing time suddenly expand over the past two weeks. He is settling into his new role as the Detroit Pistons’ primary floor leader, as the Miami Heat discovered Tuesday.
Augustin racked up 25 points and a season-high 13 assists without a turnover, and the Pistons overcame a season-high-tying 34 points from Chris Bosh to pound the Heat 108-91 at The Palace.
The loss of starting point guard Brandon Jennings to a season-ending Achilles tendon tear thrust Augustin into the starting lineup. Detroit lost its first three games without Jennings but won its past two with Augustin averaging 26.5 points and 12.5 assists in the victories.
“We’re all good players, but if you get a chance to play a lot of minutes, obviously you’re going to do better,” he said. “Just by feeling comfortable and getting in the rhythm of the game, you play better.”
Augustin sparked the Pistons’ 25-1 run at the end of the first quarter with seven points and four assists. Detroit (19-30) never looked back, leading anywhere from eight to 21 points the rest of the way.
“It’s easier, certainly, to play as a starter and to know you’re going to get the minutes to really get in a rhythm,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “That’s certainly helping. He’s playing with great confidence, and he’s really on the attack.”
Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 18 points and center Andre Drummond contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons. Small forward Kyle Singler added 13 points, and power forward Greg Monroe chipped in 12 points and nine rebounds.
Bosh, Miami’s All-Star power forward, scored 21 of his points in the third quarter. Center Hassan Whiteside supplied 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for the Heat, who lost for the third time in four games.
“The first quarter they played at a much harder, competitive pace than we did,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said. “That set the tempo for the game at both ends of the court.”
Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade missed his third consecutive game with a right hamstring strain. Small forward Luol Deng, who sat out the previous three games with a left calf strain, added 10 points and five rebounds.
Like Augustin, Caldwell-Pope scored seven points during the 25-1 run while the Heat missed their last 13 shots in the opening quarter and committed two turnovers. That gave the Pistons a 33-12 lead.
“The last seven minutes of the first quarter were as well as we’ve played all year,” Van Gundy said. “That’s really where the game was decided. After that, it was a pretty even game. I think we did a good job at the end of the closing it out, but our energy early was tremendous.”
The Pistons scored 14 of their 22 fast-break points in the quarter.
“Everybody was running the floor, rebounding, playing defense together and pushing it in transition,” Augustin said. “That got us going. That’s how we want to play every night.”
Augustin’s 3-pointer early in the third gave the Pistons a 61-41 lead, but Bosh refused to let Detroit coast to victory. He reached the 30-point mark by erupting for 17 points in six-plus minutes, capped by an elbow jumper to make it 71-58.
Bosh’s 21-point quarter was the highest by a Heat player this season, surpassing Wade’s 17-point quarter against Utah on Dec. 17. The Pistons were undeterred, and when Augustin made a layup in the closing seconds, their lead was back to 18.
“Augustin was in the paint all night,” Bosh said. “He’s been playing well the last two weeks. We have to expect him to have a huge impact.”
Miami (21-27) never got closer than 12 in the fourth.
NOTES: Miami reserve PF Shawne Williams sat out with a hip injury. … Heat C Hassan Whiteside shot 67 percent from the field in January, the second-highest monthly percentage in franchise history (minimum 40 field-goal attempts) behind Shaquille O’Neal’s 68 percent shooting in April 2006. “He’s been the story of this season as far as somebody people wouldn’t have expected (to excel),” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I give him a lot of credit for coming out of nowhere and them a lot of credit for finding him.” … Detroit’s 10 victories in January were its highest total since a 10-win month in March 2008. … Pistons C Andre Drummond and PF Greg Monroe are the league’s top rebounding duo at 23.2 rpg, 1.6 more than the second-place pair of Chicago C Joakim Noah and PF Pau Gasol. … Miami has started 19 different lineups after using 21 last season. The Pistons have used only five.
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
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.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
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.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
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.