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Bench players help Mavericks beat Rockets

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DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks finally solved the riddle that is Houston, beating the Rockets for the first time this season 111-100 Friday night at American Airlines Center.

Backup point guard Devin Harris scored 17 points and dished out seven assists to pace a balanced team effort for the Mavericks, who had lost the two previous meetings with Houston but moved to within a half-game back of the Rockets in the Western Conference standings.

“I just wanted to be aggressive,” Harris said. “Obviously with a team like this, they play such a helter-skelter kind of way and there are a lot of open shots out there. I just wanted to be aggressive and tried to make something happen.”

Dallas’ bench accounted for 51 points, 24 rebounds and 14 assists on the second night of a back-to-back coming out of the All-Star break. The Mavericks (37-20) were blown out Thursday night at Oklahoma City.

Mavs forward Al-Farouq Aminu had his second double-double of the season with season highs in points (17) and rebounds (12) off the bench. Among the starters, forward Chandler Parsons and guard Rajon Rondo scored 13 points each, forward Dirk Nowitzki and guard Monta Ellis had 12 points apiece, and center Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 14 boards.

“Bench play was great,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “We had a lot of guys in double figures; we had three guys off the bench in double figures, eight guys altogether. It’s the kind of effort we needed, the kind of balance we needed to beat these guys.”

Parsons had to get his left ankle retaped in the third quarter and left the game with a sprain in the fourth.

Houston guard James Harden topped all scorers with 26 points, and made 11 of 13 free throws. Forward Trevor Ariza had 16 points, and reserve forwards Josh Smith and Corey Brewer scored 15 and 10, respectively.

Dallas was in control for much of the second half. The Mavericks turned an 11-point lead to start the third quarter to as much as a 20-point advantage before Houston made a push in the final quarter.

The Rockets cut the lead to five (94-89) despite a flurry of timeouts from Carlisle trying to stem the tide. Aminu knocked down a pair of shots and the Mavs were able to hold on.

Houston (36-18) appeared out of sync in its first game after nine days off. The Rockets committed 21 turnovers, including six from Harden and five from Smith.

“We have to knock shots down,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “We also have to make some better passes out of there, another drive-and-kick combination. We weren’t very sharp tonight. We had 21 turnovers and nine turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the game. We weren’t very good.”

The Rockets sprinted out to an 8-0 lead, but after that it was all Mavericks for the rest of the first half. Dallas made its first surge behind big bench contributions from Harris, Aminu and forward Richard Jefferson.

Reestablishing consistency from the second unit has been a point of emphasis for the Mavs. Dallas is adding another significant piece with newly signed forward Amar’e Stoudemire scheduled to play Sunday against Charlotte.

“We struggled for a while,” Harris said. “The more time we spend together, the more time we’ll have to see how each other plays and how we can be effective. Moving forward I think we’re going to get better and better.”

The Mavs were up 24-20 at the end of the opening period and extended their lead to as many as 13 in the second quarter. Aminu had nine points, as Dallas took a 54-43 advantage into the half.

Harden led all scorers with 11 points at the break, with Smith adding 10 points for Houston. Nowitzki and Ellis each had eight points. Harris had six assists in the first half.

The Rockets and Mavs hook up for the fourth and final time in the regular season April 2 in Dallas.

NOTES: Dallas had eight players score in double figures for the fourth time this season. Prior to 2014-15, the Mavericks hadn’t had eight in double figures more than twice in the same season. … Mavericks F Amar’e Stoudemire sat out his second consecutive game since signing with the club Wednesday. Stoudemire is expected to make his Dallas debut Sunday. … The two players Houston acquired at the trade deadline — veteran G Pablo Prigioni and rookie G K.J. McDaniels — passed physicals Friday and should be available Saturday against Toronto. … Houston was without C Dwight Howard (knee) for the third time this season against Dallas. … The Mavs have faced Houston on the second half of a back-to-back in all three of their matchups so far this season.

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

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Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

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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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Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

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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 notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

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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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