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Fourth quarter rally lifts Warriors past Clippers 109-105

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LOS ANGELES – Score round one for the Golden State Warriors.

Guard Klay Thompson scored 22 points and forward David Lee added 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the Warriors surprised the Los Angeles Clippers with a 109-105 victory in the Western Conference quarterfinals Saturday before a sellout crowd of 19,339 at Staples Center.

“It’s a big way to start the series,” said Golden State guard Stephen Curry, who finished with 14 points, seven assists and three steals.

With the win, the Warriors grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is Monday, also at the Staples Center, before moving to the Bay area.

“I’m sure this isn’t how they envisioned starting the series, but it’s how we envisioned starting the series,” said Curry, who had seven of Golden State’s 23 turnovers. “It’s still too early to say who has the upper hand, but obviously we have home-court (advantage) back. We still have to come out and play well (in Game 2) to back this win up.”

The Warriors prevailed despite blowing a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. They also benefitted from the Clippers’ inability to hit crucial shots and free throws down the stretch.

“Just a bunch of small mistakes that are big mistakes toward the end,” said Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who was limited to only 19 minutes because of foul trouble and finished with 16 points and just three rebounds before fouling out with 48.3 seconds remaining.

“Those are the times that we’ve really closed out games,” Griffin added. “Then a couple of turnovers, a couple of missed shots, missed free throws, things like that. We just didn’t do it.”

The Warriors led 98-88 after a layup by Lee midway through the final period, but the Clippers used a 15-4 surge to take a 103-102 lead after a free throw by guard Darren Collison with 2:10 left.

A 3-pointer by Barnes gave Golden State the lead again, but Griffin tied it at 105 with two free throws with 1:31 remaining.

It stayed that way until forward Draymond Green hit a pair of free throws for a 107-105 Warriors’ lead with 24 seconds left.

Los Angeles point guard Chris Paul turned the ball over with 18.9 seconds remaining after being defended by Green before a free throw by Barnes gave Golden State a 108-105 advantage with 13.9 seconds left.

Paul, who led the Clippers with 28 points and added eight assists and four steals, missed two free throws with 11.9 seconds remaining, forcing the Clippers to foul Green. He missed both free throws, but in the ensuing scramble for the ball Collison stepped out of bounds with eight seconds left. A free throw by Thompson sealed it for Golden State.

“I think the biggest thing is we felt like we had nothing to lose coming into this series,” said Lee, who hit eight of his 13 shots. “It’s two very good basketball teams, and we’re a little short-handed, so our goal tonight was to come out aggressive.”

That aggressiveness allowed the Warriors to carry an 87-79 lead into the fourth quarter, and led by as many as 11 before Los Angeles rallied.

Guard J.J. Redick scored 22 points, hitting eight of 11 shots from the field, including four of five on 3-pointers. Center DeAndre Jordan had 11 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks, but committed seven turnovers.

Golden State forward Andre Iguodala also was limited by foul trouble. Iguodala, who fouled out with 3:04 left, managed just eight points and six rebounds in 20 minutes.

Clippers forward Danny Granger returned after missing nine games with a strained left hamstring, but was ineffective, scoring just three points on 1-of-6 shooting.

The Clippers missed 12 of their 35 free-throw attempts (65.7 percent) compared to 18 of 25 (72 percent) for the Warriors. Los Angeles also turned the ball over 17 times.

NOTES: Both coaches believe the animosity between their clubs is healthy. “It’s supposed to be edgy. It’s playoff basketball,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. … The officials apparently disagreed, calling a combined 29 fouls in the first half and 51 overall. … Clippers coach Doc Rivers said the offense of G Jamal Crawford will be a big key to his club’s success in the series. “He’s huge for us,” Rivers said. Crawford managed nine points on 2-of-11 shooting. … Jackson said if he were not coaching the Warriors, he would pick the Clippers to win the series. … Golden State C Andrew Bogut is out indefinitely with a rib fracture and Jackson said he has no idea when or if Bogut will return. … Warriors PG Stephen Curry has scored 3-point baskets in 70 consecutive games, which ranks fifth on the career list, but well back of Kyle Korver’s record of 127 in a row.

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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