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Matthews helps Blazers hold off Raptors

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland guard Wesley Matthews scored 21 points, but it was his defensive work on the game’s final possession that keyed the Trail Blazers’ 106-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night at the Moda Center.

Matthews twice thwarted Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan on drives to the basket, allowing the Blazers to hold off a torrid fourth-quarter rally by the Raptors.

With Portland leading 104-103 and 11.8 seconds remaining, Matthews forced a jump ball on a DeRozan move to the hoop. After Toronto won the tap and called timeout with 5.6 seconds left, DeRozan committed a turnover on another drive under defensive pressure from Matthews.

Matthews had fouled DeRozan on a long jump shot on the previous possession, resulting in two free throws that gave the Raptors a 103-102 lead with 25.4 seconds remaining.

“My mentality (on the final possession) was, ‘I owe us one,'” Matthews said. “I had to get us one back. That’s unlike me to be undisciplined, to jump at that (DeRozan shot with 25.4 seconds to play). But he had it going, so I felt like any time it left his hands, it was going to go in.”

DeRozan scored 30 of his game-high 36 points in the second half and also had 12 assists for the Raptors (25-22), who were playing the second of back-to-back games after winning 90-80 at Denver on Friday night. Guard Kyle Lowry added 23 points and eight assists for Toronto.

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for Portland (34-13), which snapped a two-game losing streak. Matthews and guard Damian Lillard each scored 21 points for the Blazers.

Lillard’s basket with 11.8 seconds proved to be the winner, allowing Portland to stave off a torrid late rally by the Raptors, who trailed by 16 points with nine minutes to play only to take the lead in the closing seconds.

“We understood what we had to do,” DeRozan said. “We were down big, and the only way to get back in the game was to get stops.”

More than that, though, was the offense provided by DeRozan and Lowry.

Held to six points in the first half, DeRozan cranked it up with 16 points in the third quarter as the Raptors closed a 69-50 deficit to 75-70 with a 20-6 run. Portland held an 83-74 edge going into the fourth quarter and increased the lead to 93-77 early in the fourth. Toronto stormed back, though, closing to within 102-101 on a Lowry 3-pointer with 2:52 remaining.

Neither team scored again until Lowry sank two free throws with 25.4 seconds to go to give the Raptors a 103-102 lead.

Lillard made a running bank shot from the right side with 11.8 seconds left to pull Portland back on top 104-103.

“I came up off a down screen,” said Lillard, who also had seven assists and six rebounds with no turnovers. “My first thought was to try to turn the corner and attack as fast as I could. I was able to get a pretty good look and make the floater.”

After the DeRozan turnover, Portland forward Nicolas Batum made two free throws with .1 of a second left for the final margin.

“The first half wasn’t us,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “We picked it up in the second half, but you can’t spot a good team like Portland that many points and expect to survive.”

Aldridge had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Lillard added 15 points — 12 in the second quarter — to stake Portland to a 17-point lead at the half. Lowry had 12 points for the Raptors, who shot only 35 percent from the field and were outrebounded 28-19 through the break.

Portland jumped to a 13-point first-quarter lead as Toronto and settled for a 31-19 lead at the end of the quarter. Aldridge had already secured his 30th double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds, though he was only 4 for 11 from the field.

The Blazers increased their advantage to 41-24 midway through the second quarter, but the Raptors used a 10-2 run to cut the margin to 43-34. The Blazers outscored the visitors 14-6 the rest of the half to go into intermission ahead 57-40.

NOTES: Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge had his eighth game of at least 25 points and 15 rebounds this season. … Toronto reserve G Greivis Vasquez sat out the game with flu-like symptoms. … The Blazers have won six in a row over the Raptors in Portland. … Toronto entered the game having won three in a row and nine of 13.

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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