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Gasol leads Grizzlies past Clippers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Although the Los Angeles Clippers had been playing uphill all night, they were still in the game — down by 12 points with just under three minutes to play in the third quarter. That’s when Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (30 points and 12 rebounds) ran free and clear to the rim and dunked.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers called a timeout. He couldn’t take it anymore.

“I know Marc Gasol’s got amazing speed,” Rivers said, “but he shouldn’t be able to go from the 3-point line to the goal without anybody touching him.”

In a way, that one play summarized everything. The Grizzlies defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 107-91 Sunday night at FedExForum and with a slimmed-down Gasol leading the way, the Grizzlies were the aggressors and led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter.

Gasol was almost flawless, making 13 of 18 shots from the floor. He also blocked two shots.

“Gasol looks great and he’s playing with an edge, very serious,” Rivers said. “They all have that edge. You can feel it when you watch them on tape.”

The Grizzlies (12-2) extended their regular-season home winning streak to 22 games. The Grizzlies have won three of their last four and in dominating fashion: On Nov. 17, they beat the Houston Rockets here 119-93. After losing by four at Toronto while missing several players that had a stomach virus, they returned home and beat Boston by 17 points.

And then they dropped a hammer on the Clippers.

“The Clippers are somebody that we know and that we’ve played in the playoffs, and they know us,” Gasol said. “We wanted to come out strong like we do at home. Especially at home you have to play with a little more of an edge.”

By holding the Clippers to under 100 points, the Grizzlies stopped Los Angeles’ nine-game road streak of scoring 100 or more — the team’s longest stretch since moving to Los Angeles. Forward Blake Griffin struggled through a 5-for-17 shooting night, scoring just 12 points.

Point guard Chris Paul led Los Angeles with 22 points, five assists and four steals. Guard Jamal Crawford scored 19 points off the bench, and guard J.J. Redick finished with 15 points.

The Clippers (7-5) pulled within 78-70 when Paul hit a driving layup with 1:47 left in the third quarter. However, Memphis went on a 10-2 run and led 88-72 going into the final frame. Los Angeles never again got within single digits.

Memphis dominated points in the paint 52-32 and outrebounded the Clippers 52-32.

“We didn’t rebound well enough tonight,” Paul said. “We’re one of those teams, like a lot of teams in the league, we have to defend so we can get out and play up-tempo.”

The Grizzlies shot 49.4 percent (42-for-85) from the field. The Clippers made 41.6 percent (32 of 77).

Six players finished in double figures for the Grizzlies. Guard Courtney Lee scored 13 points, swingman Tony Allen had 12, reserve point guard Beno Udrih had 11 points off the bench, and Quincy Pondexter had 11. Power forward Zach Randolph contributed 10 points and eight rebounds.

But all of those points were mere accessories to Gasol’s work, which was a nice follow-up to Friday night when he tied his career high with 32 points against the Celtics.

“He’s very difficult to guard right now,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said.

The knock against Gasol in the past? Too unselfish, rather pass than shoot or make a strong move to the rim. But that’s clearly changing as he has put up three of four career games with at least 30 points in this young season. Gasol’s first step is obviously quicker and he can become a free agent this summer.

“Contract-year diet,” said Clippers guard J.J. Redick. “Everybody leans up in their contract year.”

NOTES: The Grizzlies had everyone active for Sunday’s game after several players were out — and others were playing at diminished capacity — the previous two games due to a stomach virus that swept through the team. … Memphis PG Nick Calathes finished serving his 20-game suspension for a violation of the NBA’s drug policy and was active for the first time. He played eight scoreless minutes. Calathes was suspended just before the Grizzlies began their first-round playoff series last season. … This was the third game of a seven-game road trip for the Clippers that will cover 7,231 miles. Only four NBA teams have seven-game trips this season. … The Clippers and Grizzlies have two of the top four rebounders this season. Clippers C DeAndre Jordan was second in the NBA with 12.2 per game through Saturday, and Memphis PF Zach Randolph was tied for third at 12.1 per game.

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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