TORONTO — The Milwaukee Bucks found a way.
They were reduced to eight players when guard O.J. Mayo was ejected for a double-technical foul with 4:08 to play in the first half.
They were outscored 15-2 to open the fourth quarter as an 18-point third-quarter lead disappeared when the Toronto Raptors tied the game with 3:33 to play.
Yet, the Bucks scored the final seven points of the game on Monday to defeat the Raptors 82-75, extending their winning streak to four games and snapping Toronto’s six-game win streak.
“I don’t think anybody panicked,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “They made a run; we finally got to the line and made some free throws. We didn’t shoot the free throws extremely well. It’s something we talked about that we have to get better at.”
The Bucks also held the Raptors to 32.1 percent shooting from the field.
“I don’t think we ran out of gas, we just couldn’t score,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We shot 32 percent. You’re not going to beat too many teams shooting that percentage.”
Khris Middleton, a forward who started at shooting guard, scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Bucks (26-22), who had lost their previous six games to the Raptors (33-16), including the first two meetings between the teams this season.
Forward Jared Dudley added 14 points for the Bucks, including a big 3-pointer with 2:08 left in the game that put Milwaukee up by four points. Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo added 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and center John Henson had 12 points for the Bucks.
“It was a good win,” Henson said. “We figured out a way to win with three or four guys down and that’s what we have to do. I think teams might see us being down three or four guys and come in thinking not as on point as they should be. We have taken advantage of that early in the last three or four games.”
Guard-forward DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 16 points but did not play in the fourth quarter after shooting 5-for-16 from the field.
“We came out flat,” DeRozan said. “They were missing a couple of key guys that they normally have and they came out playing extremely hard. You have to give credit where credit is due.”
Center Jonas Valanciunas had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors while guard Lou Williams had 12 points and guard-forward Terrence Ross added 10.
“We were definitely missing shots and maybe a step slow,” said Raptors forward Amir Johnson, who had three points and three rebounds.
“We just kept playing defensively, relying on our defense when we weren’t scoring” Kidd said.
The task became more difficult after Mayo’s ejection. He had seven points.
“Man, just praying that we got the win,” Mayo said. “Obviously I want to be out there helping the guys but a poor decision by me.”
The Bucks led throughout the first quarter, which ended 23-14. They led by as many as 11 points early in the second quarter and took a 47-41 lead into the intermission.
Middleton’s 3-pointer gave Milwaukee an 18-point lead with 2:25 left in the third, which ended with the Bucks leading 73-60.
After the Raptors tied the game on a tip shot by forward Tyler Hansbrough, the Bucks took a one-point lead when Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws with 3:26 to play. Dudley made a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Bucks a four-point lead.
The Raptors turned the ball over with 1:50 to play.
Antetokounmpo made one of two free throws with 1:38 left for a five-point lead.
Guard Kyle Lowry turned the ball over with 50 seconds left and guard Jerryd Bayless hit a jumper with 30 seconds left for a seven-point lead.
NOTES: Raptors F James Johnson (right hamstring strain) missed his third consecutive game. … The last time the Raptors won seven consecutive games was during the team-record, nine-game winning streak from March 22-April 9, 2002. They failed to get their seventh straight win this time too. … Bucks C Zaza Pachulia (right calf strain) and F Ersan Ilyasova (sore right groin) were both out for a third straight game. … Milwaukee G Brandon Knight (sore right quadriceps) also was out, and G Jorge Gutierrez started in his place, leaving the Bucks with nine healthy players. … The Bucks are four games above .500 at 26-22. The last time Milwaukee was four games above .500 was Feb. 2, 2013. … The Bucks return home to face the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. … The Raptors play the second game of a five-game homestand Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets.
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.