MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Forward Zach Randolph posted his 11th consecutive double-double with 15 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a 99-69 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, but his consistency failed to earn him what he coveted: a reserve spot on the All-Star team.
The reserves were announced shortly before tipoff and Randolph used the snub to punish the Nuggets. Behind Randolph’s lead, the Grizzlies (34-12) earned their ninth win in 10 games overall and their seventh in their past eight home games.
Randolph, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds since returning from a right knee injury Jan. 9, spoke only briefly after the game. When the subject about his omission from the all-star game arose, he mentioned “politics, politics.”
Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, who turned 30 Thursday, said Randolph deserved to join him on the All-Star team, as did point guard Mike Conley, who missed the game with a wrist injury. Gasol will be the starting center for the Western Conference.
“Obviously, I want them both there,” Gasol said. “I feel like they both deserve it (especially) when we’re the second-best team in the West. When you play well and you’re a winning team, you’re supposed to be there.”
As for Randolph, he did not play in the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies rested their starters after ending the third with a 25-point lead.
Randolph’s string of 11 straight double-doubles is three shy of the team record he holds. His 17 rebounds gave him double-figure boards for the 17th straight game, a career-high.
“Z-Bo is a workhorse,” said Grizzlies forward Tony Allen. “He’s up for the challenge every game. He’s our leader. We go as he goes.
“He’s back to that level in the 2010-11 season when we were able to beat the Spurs (in the playoffs). We’re going to need to ride on his back as we go forward.”
Forward Jeff Green added 13 points for Memphis, and guards Courtney Lee, Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes scored 11 each. The Grizzlies are 7-1 since acquiring Green in a three-team trade with the Boston Celtics and New Orleans Pelicans three weeks ago and 5-0 since moving him into the starting lineup.
“It was a good win,” said Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. “We caught a team on a tough night. I think they got us on a tough night at their place (a 114-85 Memphis loss Jan. 3) on the second of a back-to-back. I thought when we defended we made it tough for them.”
Denver, which lost for the eighth time in nine games, shot 2-for-26 from beyond the arc and 33.3 percent from the floor overall. Forwards Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried had 10 points each to lead the Nuggets (19-28).
Nuggets coach Brian Shaw dismissed excuses for his team’s poor performance, especially the notion his team was fatigued by playing consecutive nights. Denver beat New Orleans Wednesday night.
“If my memory is correct, this isn’t the first year that a team has ever played back-to-backs,” Shaw said. “Back-to-backs have been a part of the game from its inception, so that’s no excuse. I didn’t feel like we came and competed from the very beginning of the game.”
“I’d have more respect if guys just told me that they didn’t feel like playing from the start. I’ m just sick and tired. One night giving a certain effort and the next night you don’t show up and you don’t compete.”
Leading by 15 at the half, the Grizzlies extended the margin to 74-49 after three quarters and built an 86-53 cushion midway through the fourth behind their reserves.
Despite playing without the injured Conley for the second straight game, the Grizzlies jumped quickly to a 19-9 lead thanks to Conley’s replacement. Udrih had seven points during the rapid start.
The Grizzlies shot 52 percent in the first quarter and led 26-11. They boosted their lead to 19 late in the second quarter by taking advantage of poor shooting by the Nuggets. Denver missed 12 of its 13 3-point attempts in the first half, including all five tries in the second quarter, to allow Memphis to build a 50-35 halftime lead. The Nuggets shot 19 percent in the first quarter and 34 percent in the half.
The only negative for the Grizzlies in the half came midway through the second quarter when reserve swingman Vince Carter sustained a left foot injury and had to be helped off the floor. He will undergo further evaluation Friday.
NOTES: The Grizzlies’ 114-85 loss at Denver on Jan. 3 was Memphis’ laregst margin of defeat this season. Grizzlies F Zach Randolph did not play in the game. He was in the midst of missing nine straight games with a right knee injury. … Nuggets C JaVale McGee returned to action and scored two points in 15 minutes Thursday. He missed 77 games last season with a stress fracture in his left tibia, has missed 23 games this season with a strain in the surgically repaired leg. … The Grizzlies held the Nuggets to 11 points in the first quarter, a Grizzlies’ opponent low for an opening frame. The previous low was limiting New Orleans to 13 points Nov. 3 in New Orleans.
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.