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Livingston, Nets shut down 76ers

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NEW YORK — Like a pitcher on the verge of a no-hitter, Shaun Livingston doesn’t want to think about the streak he is on.

Still, there is no denying the Brooklyn Nets guard is playing some of the best basketball of his career.

On Monday night, he did a little bit of everything to help lead the Nets to a 108-102 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Barclays Center.

“I’m trying not to jinx it and think about,” Livingston said. “It’s a situation where I know where I’ve come from mentally as well. I just want to continue to play with the same confidence. I give credit to (coach) Jason (Kidd) as well because I talk to him every day, and just getting a chance to pick his brain gives me confidence.”

Livingston, who seven years ago suffered a debilitating knee injury, lit up the stat sheet Monday with 13 points, eight assists, a career-high seven steals and six rebounds in a shade less than 37 minutes.

“I was just trying to be active in the passing lanes,” Livingston said. “I’ve been on the wing, obviously guarding some of the better scores. I was just trying to be active, be disruptive, help my teammates and be in the right spots on defense.”

Livingston was the defensive catalyst for the Nets, who had 15 thefts, becoming the first team in the NBA this season to record 13 or more steals in three straight games. It is the fourth time in franchise history the Nets did so, and the first time since 1990.

Veteran forward Kevin Garnett had a season-high five blocks, becoming the 18th player in NBA history and second active player to record 2,000 career blocked shots. He added six points and seven rebounds.

“The guys are executing the game plan,” Kidd said. “It’s team defense, their hands are active.”

Guard Paul Pierce scored a game-high 25 points, guard Deron Williams had 21 points and six assists, and forward Mirza Teletovic added 20 off the bench for the Nets. Brooklyn (21-25) snapped a three-game losing streak despite being short-handed because of injuries.

“Today was especially tough because we didn’t have a lot of players,” Teletovic said. “The starting five got out, and on the bench there were like three people left. It’s very important we pulled together, everybody talked to each other and just helped out to get a win.”

Philadelphia rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams scored 21 points, guard Tony Wroten had 18 points and six rebounds, forward Thaddeus Young had 17 points, and swingman James Anderson added 12 for Philadelphia, which committed 26 turnovers en route to its third consecutive defeat and sixth in seven games.

“I can’t, I wish I could, you know,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said when asked to explain the 76ers’ 26 turnovers, which led to 32 points for the Nets. “It continues to haunt us. We have to get more responsible with the ball. I have to do a better job.”

The 76ers (15-34) trailed by as many as 19 in the second half, but they stormed back to pull within two points twice late in the fourth quarter.

“Anytime we start taking care of the ball and playing each and every position like it’s very valuable to the team, it’s easy for us to get back in games like this,” Young said. “They’re a very good team, very solid defensive team with KG anchoring their defense.”

The Nets responded each time — first with an 18-footer by Williams and a Teletovic layup as he was fouled. His three-point play gave Brooklyn a 102-95 lead with 2:59 remaining.

Anderson buried a 3-pointer to bring the 76ers within 104-102 with 22.7 seconds left, but Pierce and Livingston each knocked down two free throws in the final seconds to seal the win for Brooklyn.

NOTES: Brooklyn’s Jason Kidd was selected the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month. “It’s a very nice recognition, but it’s for those guys who are playing and those guys are playing very well right now,” he said. … G Joe Johnson (right knee tendinitis), F Andray Blatche (bruised left hip) and F Andrei Kirilenko (sore right calf) were out for the Nets. … After handling personal business in Boston, G Michael Carter-Williams returned to the 76ers’ lineup. … Philadelphia coach Brett Brown is targeting late February/early March for C Nerlens Noel’s NBA debut. The 6-foot-11 rookie, who is recovering from left knee surgery, is able to participate in limited on-court work. “I hope he never has this opportunity again, but we’ve taken advantage of it and I’m proud of his commitment to it, his buy in, and I think we’re starting to see results.”

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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