MEMPHIS — If Memphis Grizzlies reserve forward Jon Leuer was feeling at less than full strength following a stomach virus that recently struck him and several teammates, his play Friday night against the Boston Celtics certainly didn’t reflect it.
Leuer paced a productive Grizzlies’ bench with a season-high 19 points in 22 minutes to complement center Marc Gasol’s career-high tying 32 points and eight rebounds in a 117-100 victory. Forward Zach Randolph added 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Grizzlies, who won their 21st consecutive home game to extend a franchise record. Memphis hasn’t lost at the FedExForum since early February.
With the win, the Grizzlies improved to 11-2, the league’s best record.
Memphis shot 53 percent, was 8-of-16 from beyond the arc and outrebounded the Celtics, 50-38. The Grizzlies also outscored Boston in the paint, 66-38. The Celtics were led by center Kelly Olynyk, who finished with 18 points.
“It was a good, professional win by our guys,” said Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. “I thought we took care of the basketball very well. We executed well. We got the ball in the paint. We did a nice job of boxing out on long shots (that led to) long rebounds and helped propel our offense. This was a dangerous game.”
Leuer was one of five Grizzlies sent home from Toronto on a charter flight earlier this week after the group caught a stomach virus so severe it necessitated a brief trip to the hospital. Against the Celtics — two days after being sent home early — Leuer connected on 9-of-13 shots, grabbed seven rebounds and added four assists, two steals and a block.
“He was good,” Joerger said. “I know he’s sick (but) he was playing his tail off. He made some shots, which was good to see, but he can barely keep his head up right now.”
Leuer had two steals, a block, an assist and a dunk during a 9-2 run in the second quarter that allowed the Grizzlies to extend a six-point lead (39-33) to 13 (48-35). Tayshaun Prince dropped in a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Grizzlies a 14-point halftime lead at 55-41.
Leuer opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from the left corner and added two strong drives to the basket to put the Grizzlies ahead, 95-79, with 7:25 to go. Memphis was never threatened again and built a 21-point lead, its largest of the game, two minutes later.
“It’s always nice to see the ball go in, especially when you knock your first couple of shots downs,” Leuer said. “The basket just seems to get bigger from there.”
Leuer, averaging 3.6 points entering the game, was part of a Grizzlies bench that finished with 42 points.
“Our job as a bench is to come in and provide energy and give the starters a lift when they come off the floor,” Leuer said. “We were able to do that. Everybody stepped up, brought energy and contributed.”
The Grizzlies never trailed in the game and breezed to the win despite missing two keyl players because of the stomach illness. Starting guard Tony Allen and reserve guard Quincy Pondexter did not play.
Trailing by 14 at the half, the Celtics made a run at the Grizzlies to start the second half and trimmed the deficit to six at 57-51. Led by Gasol, the Grizzlies answered Boston’s charge with a 17-4 run to build their biggest lead (74-55). Gasol had 11 points during the run and Randolph had the other six.
“It’s always part of our game plan to go inside to get us going,” Gasol said. “We tried to start from the inside out. We did a good job of moving the ball, too. And we made shots.”
For the game, Gasol and Randolph combined to make 20-of-34 shots.
“Gasol was huge and he was the best player on the floor,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “He just kept making plays over and over, both with the pass and the shot.
“And those guys (Gasol and Randolph) can score on the block. They make great passes out of the post. Double-teams don’t affect them at all. They’re very poised with the ball when they catch it on the pick-and-roll. They make and take their open shots without hesitation. They’re just alive.”
The Grizzlies shot 54.5 percent in the first half and scored 30 points in the paint to take the 14-point lead. Gasol had 13 points at the half, while Randolph and Leuer had 10 apiece. Leuer had all of his points during a nine-minute stretch in the second quarter.
NOTES: At one point several hours before Friday’s game, the Grizzlies listed seven players — starting guards Tony Allen and Courtney Lee along with guards Quincy Pondexter and Beno Udrih, center Kosta Koufos and forwards Jon Leuer and Jarnell Stokes — as questionable due to the stomach virus. Shortly before the tip, Pondexter was downgraded to questionable. Allen, Lee, Koufos, Leuer and Udrih missed the team’s 96-92 loss at Toronto with the stomach ailment. … When asked before the game if the Grizzlies — on a franchise-record homecourt winning streak — played any differently at FedExForum, Celtics coach Brad Stevens responded. “No. They play pretty good on the road, too.” … With the Grizzlies’ roster reduced by five in Toronto, coach Dave Joerger was able to give rookies Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes considerable playing time. Adams played 17 minutes and scored three points, while Stokes played nine minutes and scored four points. “It’s good for them to get their feet wet and experience the game and the speed of the game,” Joerger said. … The Celtics ranked third in the league in scoring at 106.8 points entering the game and ranked second in points in the paint (48.7 ppg). Boston had only 38 points in the paint against the Grizzlies. The Celtics lost their fifth straight game to Memphis.
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.
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.
Ginobili sprains ankle as Spurs rout Timberwolves
SAN ANTONIO — The fourth and final meeting of the season between the San Antonio Spurs and the Minnesota Timberwolves looked a lot like the first three.
Forward Kawhi Leonard scored a team-high 15 points as San Antonio defeated Minnesota 123-97 Sunday night at the AT&T Center. The only downside for the Spurs was losing guard Manu Ginobili due to a sprained right ankle.
Leonard was one of seven San Antonio players to score in double figures as the Spurs (41-24) completed a season sweep of Minnesota (14-51). The average margin of victory in the games as 23.
The Spurs earned their seventh win in eight games.
Guard Kevin Martin scored 19 points and guard Zach LaVine added 18 for the Timberwolves, who were missing many players on the final game of a four-game road trip. Minnesota lost its fourth game in a row.
“We moved (the ball) well, but it wasn’t a fair fight,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “Their guys are devastated by their injuries, so I thought we had good focus under the circumstances. They still played the right way, so that was the best part of the game.”
The Spurs pulled away in the third quarter behind a 13-0 run. The Wolves only shot 27.3 percent in the third, and the Spurs made 63.6 of their field goals while outscoring Minnesota 33-13 in the period.
“That’s what great teams do,” Martin said. “We knew they were going to do that. Kawhi Leonard had a first half that he probably didn’t want to have, and I’m sure Pop let him know about it. He came out in the second half and changed the whole game.”
Ginobili had to be helped off the court late in the third quarter, and he did not return. He was hurt with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs up by 30 points.
Ginobili was taken immediately to the locker room and did not put any weight on his right leg, and he will be out for a to 10 days, Popovich said. Ginobili finished the game with 11 points in 19 minutes.
San Antonio forward Jeff Ayres sustained a rib contusion in the second half and also sat out the rest of the contest.
Sunday night marked the first time San Antonio stepped back on the court since a 128-125 overtime loss to the Cavaliers on Thursday that included a 57-point performance by Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving. The loss snapped the Spurs’ six game winning streak.
Minnesota dressed only eight players. Forward Kevin Garnett (knee), guard Ricky Rubio (ankle) and center Nikola Pekovic (ankle) were all ruled out by coach Flip Saunders before the game.
“It wasn’t a fair fight,” Saunders said. “We just weren’t alert mentally, as far as trying to play. They just mauled us basically.”
The Spurs took advantage of Minnesota’s depleted lineup and jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead behind guard Tony Parker, who made his first four shots of the game and finished the night with 11 points and eight assists. Minnesota trailed 60-50 at halftime.
The Spurs led by as many as 39 points in the fourth quarter.
Even though San Antonio was facing a team without a full complement of players, forward Tim Duncan said the final game of a 5-1 homestand was a sign of good things to come.
“We’re turning that corner,” said Duncan, who finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists. “I think we’re heading the right direction. The huge loss last game, I felt like we gave that one away. But other than that, we’re on the right track.”
San Antonio will hit the road for back-to-back games in New York on Tuesday and in Milwaukee on Wednesday. The Timberwolves head home to face the Brooklyn Nets on Monday night.
NOTES: San Antonio moved percentage points ahead of the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers for fifth place in the Western Conference standings. The Clippers lost Sunday, while the Mavericks were idle. … Minnesota F Kevin Garnett (knee) missed his fourth game in a row. … Spurs G Manu Ginobili was back in action against Minnesota after battling a stomach illness that caused him to miss the team’s game against Toronto on Tuesday and play less than 10 minutes against Cleveland on Thursday.