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Lawson, Faried lead Nuggets over Lakers 134-126

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DENVER – Ty Lawson was sidelined by a fractured rib, but he wasn’t idle. The Denver Nuggets guard studied his game while recovering for nearly a month, and it has paid dividends.

Lawson had 30 points and tied a career high with 17 assists, forward Kenneth Faried scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 134-126 on Friday.

Forward Wilson Chandler scored 19 points for the Nuggets, who had all five starters score in double figures in their second straight win.

“Great individual efforts (by) Ty and Kenneth,” Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. “Great balance in our starting lineup. It’s a win, we’ll take it. Good for us to finish on this note before we head out on this road trip and build up some confidence.”

Denver (27-34) is a vastly different team with Lawson healthy. Without him, the Nuggets lost eight of nine and were non-competitive in most of the losses.

Lawson had to watch his team fall out of the playoff race, but he used the time to improve his game.

“When you sit out you watch a lot of tape, you watch a lot of games,” Lawson said. “I could see things that were open that I wasn’t taking. It’s been helping. Shooting threes, and now making them, has opened the rest of my game – the mid-range and getting to the basket. Also getting more assists.”

His quickness and ability to create shots off the dribble has opened up Denver’s offense and put pressure on opposing defenses.

It was never more evident than late in the first half when he used a crossover to put Los Angeles guard Jodie Meeks on his rear and feed center Timofey Mozgov for an easy layup.

Center Pau Gasol had 27 points and guard Jordan Farmar scored 24 points off the bench for Los Angeles (21-41).

This is shaping up to be the Lakers’ worst season in 39 years, and it hit a low point with a 48-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night. That was the largest margin of defeat in franchise history and the largest in the NBA this season, and it came on the heels of allowing 132 points to New Orleans on Tuesday.

“You can’t win that way. We are trying everything we can do,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I don’t know if the air has gone out or we are tired or what the problem is.”

Despite playing their fourth game in five nights, the Lakers were buoyed by the fact that Brooklyn came to Denver last week on the heels of a 44-point loss in Portland and won easily.

The Nuggets scored just eight points in the first quarter against the Nets, but with Lawson in the lineup they put up 42 in the first quarter on Friday to set the tone against the Lakers that lasted the entire game.

“Coach said he wanted us to score 40 a quarter,” Lawson said. “He said he wanted us to get 160. There wasn’t much defense being played but we won nonetheless.”

Denver, which shot 54.5 percent from the field for the night, led 77-66 at halftime and eclipsed 100 points with 3:14 left in the third quarter. Lawson, Faried and Chandler were a combined 31-for-41 from the field heading into the fourth quarter with the Nuggets leading 110-91.

“Our defense needs to get better,” Lakers center Robert Sacre said. “If we give teams an average of 140 points every night it’s not good enough.”

The Lakers made a little push early in the fourth quarter, getting within 13 on rookie forward Ryan Kelly’s layup with 7:40 left, but five quick points by Denver ended hopes of a comeback.

Kelly finished with 24 points and a career-high 11 rebounds.

D’Antoni said he didn’t get upset with the result.

“They’re good guys. It’s not like you can go in there and yell at them,” he said. “They’re trying, and they’re trying to put everything into it, they’re trying to figure it out. Sometimes they get outmanned or outmatched.”

NOTES: Nuggets G Ty Lawson was in the lineup despite jamming his left heel during Wednesday night’s win over Dallas. He left the game in the third quarter but returned in the fourth. He did some shooting Thursday but did not participate in the full practice. … Los Angeles ranks fourth in the NBA in 3-point shooting. The Lakers are averaging 9.4 made 3-pointers per game. … Denver’s bench came into Friday night’s game third in the league in scoring (38.8 points per game) and first in rebounding (18 per game). … The Lakers have used 29 different starting lineups this season.

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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