SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Indiana Pacers trailed the Sacramento Kings 103-99 with 18 seconds left to play Friday night when they called timeout to draw up a play.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel was looking for a quick 3-point basket from All-Star game starting forward Paul George. George did even better, producing a four-point play and forcing overtime. Then he scored eight of his 36 points in the extra frame, leading the Pacers to a 116-111 victory over the Kings.
“You hit a shot like that, you have to have the momentum going into overtime,” George said. “That’s what we do so well is finish and close games out.”
George took an inbounds pass, drilled a 3-point shot from the right wing, drew a foul from Kings forward Derrick Williams and made his free throw with 15 seconds left. Kings guard Isaiah Thomas missed an 18-foot jumper under pressure and the game went to overtime.
George has made plenty of miraculous plays in his career but never a four-point play to force overtime.
“That will be the first one on my bucket list,” George said, smiling. “I practice shots like that. So that was just a normal shot I felt like, but I did feel like I got hit and got pushed from behind.”
Guard Marcus Thornton scored a career-high tying 42 points and guard Isaiah Thomas added 38 for the Kings (15-27), matching his career high.
“Tough loss man, tough loss,” Thornton said. “The plays we needed to execute we didn’t. They came up with the big stops. We did a lot in that game to win the game, so it’s tough.”
Pacers guard Lance Stephenson had 24 points and 10 rebounds. Forward David West scored 22 points and center Roy Hibbert had 11 rebounds and 10 points for Indiana (34-8).
The Kings played without two injured starters, center DeMarcus Cousins (sprained right ankle) and small forward Rudy Gay (strained left Achilles) — who were hurt Wednesday night against Houston. Cousins averages 22.6 points and 11.6 rebounds — both team highs — and Gay averages 19.8 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Aaron Gray started for Cousins, and Williams started for Gay.
“I’m very proud,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “Our guys came out and played their hearts out and they put themselves in a position to win the game. It was a game we should have won. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone who played tonight. This shows you a lot about our team.”
In overtime, West hit a 3-point shot, putting the Pacers up 108-106 with 3:56 left. After a Kings turnover, George extended Indiana’s lead to 110-106, capping a fast break with an emphatic dunk.
The Kings pulled to 112-111 on Thomas’ jump shot with 1:38 left, but Stephenson scored from close range, giving Indiana a 114-11 lead with 1:20 left. The Kings turned the ball over twice and George made two free throws, extending Indiana’s lead to 116-111 with 12 seconds left.
The Pacers were coming off a 124-100 road loss on Wednesday night to Phoenix, their worst defeat of the season, and narrowly avoided just their second two-game losing streak.
That surprising loss to the Suns, who made 11 of 16 3-point shots, had the Pacers ready for anything from the undermanned Kings.
“We didn’t overlook them,” Hibbert said. “We lost to Phoenix. this was like a comeback game for us. We didn’t take this team lightly. We went out there and played our hearts out. Guys made big shots.”
Thornton quickly filled the Kings’ offensive void when the game began, scoring 26 points in the first half and lifting Sacramento to a 60-50 lead. Thomas added 13 first-half points.
NOTES: Kings C DeMarcus Cousins (sprained left ankle) and F Rudy Gay (strained left Achilles tendon) did not play against Indiana and, according to coach Michael Malone, might miss at least one more game. “It’s honestly too early to tell,” Malone said before the game. “I know DeMarcus is dying to play. The good thing is both MRIs didn’t reveal anything to us serious. So I’m hoping (they return) in the next day or so, but it could be a couple games. We’ll have to re-evaluate it tomorrow with our training staff and see what they’re saying.” … Despite his team’s injuries, Malone said he still planned to “slowly increase” backup F Carl Landry’s playing time as he continues his comeback from a torn left hip flexor muscle. Landry appeared in just his third game this season Friday. … Pacers F Paul George appeared in his first game since being voted a starter for the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star game and being named in the pool of 28 players for the U.S. men’s basketball national team. “Couldn’t be more proud,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.
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.