NEW ORLEANS — The crowd at the Smoothie King Center instantly hushed Wednesday night, which told the story.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis vaulted down the lane late in the third quarter in search of an alley-oop feed, attempting to complete another of his trademark dunks.
However, after the 21-year-old All-Star stretched for a lob that was just beyond his reach, he landed awkwardly on his left leg and wound up writhing in pain under the basket for several minutes. He was helped into the locker room by two assistants, one under each arm.
The Denver Nuggets scored the game’s final seven points over the last 2:27 to snap a seven-game losing streak with a 93-85 victory over the Pelicans, but all anyone could talk about was Davis’ scary-looking groin injury, the severity of which remains undetermined.
Even though Davis came out of the tunnel with 8:44 left and returned to action, New Orleans coach Monty Williams pulled Davis with 46 seconds remaining and the Pelicans trailing 91-86.
“I just didn’t feel good about him being on the floor,” Williams said. “I just didn’t like the way he looked. … He started slowing down and started dragging his leg a little bit, so I thought he was, as they say, laboring. I can’t do that. … You can’t risk a guy’s career.”
Although it looked at first as though Davis might have sustained a knee injury, Williams said the initial diagnosis is a groin injury.
“They’ll MRI it tomorrow morning to find out for sure,” Williams said. “The doctors wouldn’t have allowed him to come back in the game if they didn’t think it was safe, but I think he probably pushed the issue a little bit so he could get back on the floor.”
Davis, who scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 37 minutes for his 26th double-double of the season, was unavailable for comment because he was taking treatment after the game. His status for Friday night’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks is uncertain.
“It looked like he kind of overextended when he was going for that lob pass, and I thought it was going to be a severe groin injury from the way that it looked,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. “Hopefully it’s not anything serious, because he means so much to them.”
The Nuggets (19-27) overcame their recent tendency to finish games poorly by outscoring New Orleans 23-15 in the fourth quarter. The Pelicans (24-22) shot 5-for-19 in the quarter and went scoreless in the final 2:55.
Denver guard Arron Afflalo made a 3-pointer from the right wing and a critical 12-foot baseline jumper in the final 2:27 and wound up with a team-high 20 points. Afflalo was one of five Denver players in double figures: Center Jusuf Nurkic had 15, forward Kenneth Faried 14, forward Danilo Gallinari 11 and forward J.J. Hickson 10.
“We lost seven games in a row, and if you want to change that, then you have to change your behavior out on the floor,” Shaw said. “Some of the loose balls we were able to come up with (were the type) that we had not been coming up with. And we didn’t go into a shooting slump in the last couple of minutes.”
The Nuggets made of 10 of 17 from 3-point range. Gallinari hit two quick 3-pointers and then a driving layup at 6:39 of the fourth quarter to push Denver’s lead to 84-78 with 5:21 left.
“I was able to be aggressive,” Gallinari said. “I was able to drive to the basket. They were playing very aggressive on me, so the paint was open.”
Guard Tyreke Evans led New Orleans with 25 points. He said he didn’t know what to think when he saw Davis, the Pelicans’ franchise player, crumple to the floor.
“I didn’t really know what was going on, but hopefully he’ll be all right,” Evans said.
New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson added, “I didn’t see what happened. I was just hoping he got up, and he did. Obviously, it was great to see him come back in the game and great to see the crowd get involved in that.”
NOTES: Pelicans coach Monty Williams said his team’s improved 3-point shooting during a four-game winning streak was a result of good defense setting up the offense. “When we get stops, we usually are in our game-time offense, and that opens up the floor with AD’s (Anthony Davis) ability to rim-run,” Williams said. “When Ryan (Anderson) is in the game, he spaces the floor. Eric (Gordon) can space the floor. It can wear on teams if we’re getting out and running and finding guys who are open.” … Pelicans G Tyreke Evans was running a low-grade fever after back-to-back 12-assist games, but he played Wednesday. … Nuggets C JaVale McGee missed his 24th consecutive game due to a strain near his surgically repaired left tibia. He hoped to return to the lineup Wednesday night, but he was not 100 percent. “I probably can’t jump as high off my left as I want to,” McGee said. “My right is a lot stronger.”
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.