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Mavs’ rally sends Kings to sixth straight loss

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DALLAS — The hard-luck and short-handed Sacramento Kings could not hold onto a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and lost their sixth game in a row, 107-103 to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at the American Airlines Center.

Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, selected for his 12th All-Star Game on Thursday, led the Mavs’ comeback with 34 points, including 12 in the decisive fourth quarter. He spoiled Kings forward Rudy Gay’s effort that included 35 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

The Kings (15-31) led 78-64 with 3:44 to go in the third quarter after Gay drove the baseline for a bucket. But again playing without star center and offensive anchor DeMarcus Cousins, who is nursing a sprained left ankle, the Kings’ offense quickly came unglued and the lead began to slip away.

Nowitzki’s fourth-quarter 3-pointer, the Mavs’ first of the game on 15 attempts, cut the deficit to 87-85. Guard Monta Ellis’ two free throws tied it with 7:46 to play.

As the Kings’ offense continued to melt down in the fourth quarter after their torrid third, Dallas (27-21) took the lead, 89-87, on two Nowitzki free throws with 6:54 left. The Kings kept it close, but they never regained the lead.

“He’s our horse and a guy that we rely on,” Mavs forward Brandan Wright said of Nowitzki, who had 38 points and 17 rebounds in Wednesday night’s two-point loss to Houston. “He’s bringing it every night at 35 years old and not leaving a single drop of energy in his body when he is playing. We are riding that momentum and hopefully we can help him out and carry this thing to the playoffs.”

Ellis provided second-half help. He sealed the victory with a three-point play with 12.4 seconds to go and then two free throws with 4.6 seconds left for the final margin.

The victory was huge for Dallas in the Western Conference standings. Had the Mavs lost, the streaking Memphis Grizzlies, winners of five in a row after Friday’s victory at Minnesota, would have knocked Dallas out of a playoff spot for the first time this season.

“Dirk was great, obviously, with 34 points in 34 minutes,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “It was a tough night because our shot-making wasn’t great. It took us almost three-and-a-half quarters to hit a 3.

“On those nights, you’ve got to hang in somehow and Sacramento had a pretty good groove going. Gay had it going early; he had 18 points on six shots in the first half. That’s tough. We got down, but we hung in.”

The Mavs overcame a 2-of-19 night from beyond the arc by going 29 of 36 at the free-throw line, outscoring the Kings by nine, and by committing just four turnovers. Dallas scored 18 points off 15 Sacramento turnovers.

“You look at them, they have four turnovers for four points. Good teams don’t beat themselves,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “And we had (15) turnovers for (18) points. So it’s very hard to win on the road when you beat yourself like we did tonight at times.”

Ellis rebounded from a recent scoring slump to score 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. He had 16 points in the second half.

Point guard Jose Calderon had 14 points, including a big 3-pointer during the Mavs’ fourth-quarter rally, and backup center Brandan Wright had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

“I thought Ellis played probably his best all-around game of the season,” Carlisle said. “He had zero turnovers. He was extremely disciplined at both ends of the floor. He waited for the opportunities to pop and then he got to the rim. He had assists. He made huge free throws at the end. He was fantastic tonight.”

The Kings outshot Dallas 50.7 percent to 47.5 percent from the field but were outscored 32-22 in the fourth quarter.

Point guard Isaiah Thomas had 19 points and six assists for the Kings.

“In the fourth quarter, you allow that team to score 32 points, and we put them on the foul line, we didn’t get loose balls, we didn’t get rebounds,” Malone said. “And if you let that team hang around — Monta started being in attack mode (and) got to the foul line; Dirk, obviously that’s why he’s a Hall of Fame player; but we just had no defensive mindset or presence in that fourth quarter and that’s been our challenge all year long if you’ve watched us play.”

NOTES: Kings C DeMarcus Cousins missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. Kings coach Michael Malone said Cousins will also likely miss Saturday’s game at San Antonio with a possible return Monday at home against Chicago. … Cousins said he was disappointed he wasn’t selected as a reserve to the West All-Star team on Thursday. “I feel like I was pretty deserving of an All-Star spot,” he said. … Mavs F Shawn Marion missed the game with a right shoulder contusion, a recurring injury that forced him out of four games earlier in the season. … Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki was named to his 12th All-Star team as a reserve. In Wednesday night’s game against Houston, Nowitzki became the 13th player in NBA history to surpass 26,000 career points. … Dallas has now won its last 19 home games against Sacramento, the Mavs’ longest ever home winning streak against one opponent. … After the game, the Mavericks assigned rookie Gs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo to the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League.

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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Irving leads Cavaliers to rout of Magic

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ORLANDO — Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving is in the midst of an incredible shooting zone. And he’s loving every minute of it. Irving followed his NBA-best, 57-point scoring burst on Thursday with a more-efficient, 33-point effort Sunday, leading the Cavaliers to a 123-108 victory over the outmatched Orlando Magic.

Irving was sensational again.

In the last two games, Irving has made 12 of 13 shots from 3-point range. He has made 32 of 47 shots overall. He made the Cavs look unstoppable.

“It’s just a feel, an overall body feel right now,” Irving said. “The basketball feels a little bit better. It’s a fun game right now, and it’s fun to be part of something like this.”

Irving made 12 of his 15 shots Sunday and hit five of six from 3-point range, finding time to add four rebounds and four assists in leading the Cavs (43-25) to their fourth consecutive victory.

“Someone did ask me (before the game), what does he do for an encore (after his 57 point effort),” said Cavs coach David Blatt. “I didn’t have a good answer, But 12 of 15 from the field, in 34 minutes. That’s a pretty good encore. And he played right, which is the most important thing. It’s not the scoring as much as it is him just being engaged, locked in.”

LeBron James happily provided the perfect complement and setup man. He had 21 points, 13 assists, eight rebounds, and three steals, creating opportunities for everyone else. The Cavs buried the Magic by making 18 of 35 3-point shots, most of which were wide open.

Guard J.R. Smith scored 25 points, leading the 3-point onslaught by making six of his 10 from long range.

“I thought LeBron seemed to be seeing everyone in the gym tonight,” Blatt said. “And he threw it to them in the shooting pocket, and it seemed like that made every one. It seemed like he found guys in the eighth row that could make an open shot tonight.”

The Cavs received a brief scare midway in the third period when James went up to contest a shot and landed awkwardly, twisting his right knee. He continued to play and looked fine, but he raised the issue about his availability for Monday’s game in Miami.

“A scary moment for myself obviously,” he said. “I’ll see how I feel tomorrow and go from there. I haven’t had one of those falls in a pretty long time. I was happy to stay in the game.”

The Cavs made 45 of 76 shots (59.2 percent). The Magic (21-47) made 42 of 88 (47.7 percent, but they never seriously challenged in the second half, even though they closed to nine points twice in the fourth quarter.

Magic guard Victor Olidipo had 25 points and seven assists. Center Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 15 rebounds. Rookie point guard Elfrid Payton had 13 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Forward Tobias Harris had 24 points and eight rebounds. Reserve guard Luke Ridnour had a season-high 15 points.

Irving made his first four 3-point attempts, giving him 11 consecutive 3-pointers without a miss, dating back to his 7-for-7 effort Thursday against San Antonio. He finally missed from 3-point range midway in the third period.

The Magic twice fouled Smith while he was shooting beyond the 3-point line, accounting for all five of his free throws.

“That’s a tough team. You have to give them credit,” Harris said. “They have a lot of options out there, and guys who can make tough shots. It’s just overall tough for us against a team like that.”

The Cavaliers led 100-86 going into the fourth quarter. Smith made a trio of 3-pointers in the third period, helping hold off every Magic charge in the period.

Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Cavaliers a 84-68 lead. Irving hit a pair of 3-pointers earlier in the period.

The Cavaliers led 66-55 at intermission, riding a red-hot shooting start and a 40-point second quarter. They made 26 of 42 shots (61.9 percent) and eight of their 16 3-point attempts in the first half.

Irving hit both of his 3-pointers in the first half. The Magic held a 28-16 rebound edge in the first half, but they couldn’t keep pace with the Cavaliers, who exploded in the second period when they made 16 of their 20 shots.

The Magic led the entire first quarter. Forward James Jones gave the Cavaliers their first lead when he opened the second with a 3-pointer.

Vucevic and Harris each had 14 points by halftime. James had 15 points and six assists before intermission. Irving made six of his first seven shots for 14 points.

NOTES: The Cavaliers were without PF Kevin Love (sore back), but they were helped by the return of veteran Shawn Marion, who missed the past three weeks with a strained hip muscle. F Tristan Thompson started in Love’s place. … The Magic were without reserve G Willie Green, who missed his third consecutive game with lower back spasms and F Evan Fournier, who missed his eighth consecutive game with a sore right hip. … A quirk in the schedule gave the Cavs two-plus days in balmy Orlando before the game Sunday. The extra time gave one fan of James the opportunity to invite him Friday to his wedding reception Saturday night at the posh hotel where the Cavs were staying. James politely declined.

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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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