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Butler, Wall lead Wizards past Heat

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WASHINGTON — Even a Big 3 would not have helped the Miami Heat slow down the Southeast Division-leading Washington Wizards.

Swingman Rasual Butler scored 23 points and guard John Wall had 18 points and 13 assists as the Washington Wizards blitzed the Miami Heat for a 107-86 victory on Monday night.

Center Marcin Gortat had 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards (10-5), who led the Heat by as many as 25 points and by double digits throughout.

Butler made three 3-pointers off the bench to help the Wizards to their largest margin of victory this season. Washington had 29 assists on 39 field goals and Wall’s 13 topped Miami’s combined total of 12.

Center Chris Bosh scored 21 points and guard Dwyane Wade had 20 points for the Heat (9-8). Miami had won three of its last four games, including an 86-79 victory on the road against the New York Knicks Sunday.

Whether from tired legs or Washington’s relentless defense, the Heat labored shooting from beyond the arc. Miami did shoot 60 percent from the field before halftime, but finished 2 of 22 on 3-point shots, missing all 12 attempts in the second half. The Heat entered as the top 3-point shooting percentage team in the league,

Miami also went 18 of 30 from the free throw line, yet guarding Wall and the Wizards was the toughest challenge. Washington made all seven of its 3-point attempts in the first half and drained 10 overall.

“To win against a quality opponent, to give yourself a chance to win on the road, you have to have grittiness, a real disposition,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was much different than our disposition in New York.”

As the season nears the quarter-pole, Bosh prefers less talk and more action.

“I hate that word, disposition. It’s not about disposition,” Bosh stated. “It’s just about — I don’t know, man. It’s about getting the job done. That’s it. We make mistakes trying to have vocabulary and stuff. Just get the job done. Go out there. We’re failing to do that.”

Washington has won two straight, both without Nene, and improved to 7-2 at home.

Led by Butler, the Wizards’ bench tallied 54 points.

“A lot of people contributed from the bench and I’m glad that we really played the game the right way,” Gortat said.

Drafted by the Heat in 2002, the 35-year-old Butler made Washington’s roster out of training camp. He has scored 23 points in two of his last three games.

“The guy was drafted [by Miami] and they let him go,” Gortat noted. “What other motivation do you need?

The energetic Wizards led 30-22 after the first quarter and opened the second with a 7-0 run and scored a season-high 64 points in the first half. The margin never dipped back into single digits and ballooned to 95-70 in the fourth quarter. Wall recorded a double-double in the first half and sat out the final period.

“Every time we tried, they made shots,” Wade said. “Whether it was a defensive breakdown, or whether they just continued to make shots. They earned the win. They wanted it, and they got it.”

The Heat, winners of four straight Southeast Division titles, defeated the Wizards at home on Oct. 29 in the opening game of the season for both teams.

Wade missed seven games with a left hamstring injury before scoring 27 points in Sunday’s win at New York. The All-Star guard and Bosh combined to shoot 18 of 27 from the field. Their teammates went 15 of 45.

The Wizards shot 64 percent (24 of 38) from the field in the first half. Wall had 11 points and 10 assists entering halftime. He banked in a 3-pointer ending the first quarter, and his fade-away jumper at the buzzer gave Washington a 64-49 halftime lead.

“Against those guys you definitely have to move the ball a lot,” Wall said. “We wasn’t caring about who was getting shots.”

Notes: Nene missed his fourth straight game (right plantar fasciitis) and fifth this season. The power forward was suspended for the 107-95 loss at Miami. … Guard Mario Chalmers had 11 points for the Heat. … The Wizards recorded nine wins in November, their most in any month since March of 2012. … Dwyane Wade scored 21 points in the Heat’s 107-95 home win over the Wizards on Oct. 29. … Miami returns home to face the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday before embarking on a five-game road trip. … The Wizards host Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

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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