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Jazz hang on against Wizards

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SALT LAKE CITY — Earlier this week, the Utah Jazz were happy to get the Minnesota Timberwolves off their schedule for a while.

After Saturday night, they were glad to see the Washington Wizards leave town, too.

Especially after a wild final minute.

Center Enes Kanter scored 24 points off the bench and the Jazz rallied before holding on to beat the Wizards 104-101 at EnergySolutions Arena.

Jazz shooting guard Gordon Hayward scored 16 points, including two free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining, to help Utah improve to 15-29. The win snapped a two-game skid for Utah, which hadn’t played since a home loss to the Timberwolves on Tuesday after a road defeat in Minnesota last Saturday.

“I thought it was a good win,” Hayward said. “Obviously, not the way we wanted to close out a game, but good to get the win.”

This game wasn’t settled until Washington guard John Wall’s desperation heave from well behind the 3-point line crashed off the rim at the buzzer. The Wizards led by 13 points in the first half but were outscored in each of the final three quarters.

“We were running in mud half the game in my opinion,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “(We) walked the ball up more tonight than we have probably all season. We wouldn’t commit ourselves to our pace.”

The Jazz seemed to have control after rookie point guard Trey Burke hit a 3-pointer for a 99-93 lead with 1:23 remaining.

But Wizards forward Trevor Ariza, who scored a team-high 23 points, cut Utah’s lead to three with a 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining.

“We came out lackadaisical again, second half. We stopped playing our pace,” Ariza said. “We started to let them control the game. Everything changed from there.”

Even so, Washington, which beat the Suns 101-95 in Phoenix on Friday night, had a couple of chances to force overtime in the final 28 seconds. But guard Bradley Beal, Ariza and Wall missed tying 3-point attempts and the Wizards dropped below .500 again at 21-22.

The Jazz gave the Wizards a couple of extra chances in the waning moments. First, Hayward turned the ball over with 21.5 seconds to play with a bad pass to center Derrick Favors.

But needing a 3 to force overtime, Ariza unleashed an off-balance air ball from 3-point territory with 10.7 seconds left.

After Jazz guard Alec Burks split two free throws, Wall banked in a 3-pointer to make it a one-point game with 3.6 seconds remaining.

Hayward then sank two foul shots before Wall rushed up court and threw up an unanswered prayer at the buzzer.

“It was one of those nights where no one was really clicking except Trevor,” Wall said. “I feel like Nene did really good at keeping us in the game. I feel like we had this game won. We just didn’t do a good job in stopping them and they just kept making good plays.”

Favors played after missing Tuesday’s home loss to Minnesota with a strained right hip abductor. He finished with a game-high 14 rebounds and 11 points.

“I was a little rusty out there,” Favors said. “I was able to shake the rust off, but overall I felt good out there.”

Utah took an 85-77 lead with 9:21 remaining after opening the fourth quarter with eight straight points.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Wizards, including a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double from center Marcin Gortat. Beal turned in 14 points with a career-high-tying eight assists

The Wizards, however, only got 18 points from their bench.

Utah, meanwhile, was boosted by Kanter’s production and by a 15-point night from Burks. Jazz reserves combined to score 52 points.

Wall, who averaged 23.5 points and 8.3 assists in his previous three games, had a rough start. The point guard only hit one of his first nine shots from the field before dropping three of five in the fourth quarter for 13 points.

Ariza sparked a 12-2 run with back-to-back 3-pointers as the Wizards opened a 29-18 lead in the first quarter. Washington took its biggest advantage at 43-30 on a basket by forward Martell Webster early in the second quarter.

The Jazz responded with an 11-0 spurt to tie the score at 45 later in the quarter. Burks scored six points during that span for Utah.

NOTES: The Jazz claimed PF Malcolm Thomas off waivers on Saturday, two days after the 25-year-old was released by San Antonio. Thomas, who has had short stints with the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors, will join Utah on Sunday. “He’s someone we tracked for a number of years now,” Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said. “We think it’s a potential good fit for (Thomas) and us. We just want to take him through the rest of the year and see where he’s at relative to our team.” … The Wizards were 8-2 in their last 10 road games coming into Utah. … Jazz PF Derrick Favors, on not being selected to USA Basketball’s 28-man player pool, from which the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic teams will be formed: “It was just added motivation that I wasn’t selected.” … Jazz SG Gordon Hayward and Wizards SG Bradley Beal were both included in the pool, and Favors and Wall were left off after participating in last summer’s team USA minicamp in Las Vegas. … Washington’s last win in Utah, 108-101, came on Jan. 17, 2011.

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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