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NBA roundup: Spurs surge into break with win

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Everyone around the NBA better watch out. The defending champs are heating up heading into the All-Star break.

The San Antonio Spurs were just five games over .500 in late December, but they have gotten healthy and found their rhythm lately, winning 15 of their last 20 games. They avenged a one-point home loss to Detroit last month by rolling to a 104-87 victory over the Pistons on Wednesday night at The Palace.

Shooting guard Danny Green had 19 points, including five 3-pointers, along with eight rebounds and four assists for the Spurs. Point guard Tony Parker contributed 17 points and shooting guard Manu Ginobili added 13 points and center Aron Baynes chipped in 12.

Point guard D.J. Augustin’s 22 points and six assists led the Pistons. Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tossed in 20 points and center Andre Drummond added 10 points and nine rebounds.

Raptors 95, Wizards 93

TORONTO — Guard DeMar DeRozan snapped a tie with 12.9 seconds left and scored 23 points Wednesday as Toronto defeated Washington to extend their winning streak to three games.

Guard John Wall scored 21 points for the Wizards, who won their previous two games.

Guard Lou Williams led the Raptors with 27 points off the bench. Guard Kyle Lowry added 13 points, and guard Greivis Vasquez had 11.

Forward Paul Pierce had 17 points for Washington. Forward Nene had 14 and forward Drew Gooden 10. The Raptors completed a three-game season sweep of the Wizards.

Celtics 89, Hawks 88

BOSTON — Guard Evan Turner capped a furious Boston comeback with a floater in the lane with two-tenths of a second remaining, giving his team victory over Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta.

Turner finished with 12 points, nine assists and seven rebounds as the Celtics earned their fourth win in their last five games. Forward Jared Sullinger finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. Guard Marcus Thornton came off the bench to score 14 points, 12 of them on 3-pointers, as the Celtics overcame 24.5 percent shooting in the first half.

Atlanta center Al Horford finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds. The Hawks got 14 points from forward DeMarre Carroll and 10 points and eight assists from guard Jeff Teague.

Pacers 106, Pelicans 93

NEW ORLEANS — Forward David West and guard George Hill scored 17 points each as Indiana won for the fourth time in five games with a victory over injury-riddled New Orleans at the Smoothie King Center.

In defeating the Pelicans for the eighth consecutive time, Indiana placed four players in double figures, including guard Rodney Stuckey with 16 and forward Solomon Hill with 12.

Luke Babbitt led the Pelicans with 15 points.

Bucks 111, Kings 103

MILWAUKEE — O.J. Mayo had 21 points, Brandon Knight scored 20 and Milwaukee doubled their victory total from last season, earning their 30th of the season with a decision over Sacramento at the Bradley Center.

Up by as many as 21 at one point, the Bucks had to hold off two hard Sacramento rallies over the final few minutes.

Center DeMarcus Cousins scored 28 to lead the Kings, who shot 42 percent and gave up 21 points on 18 turnovers. Sacramento lost seven of nine.

Warriors 94, Timberwolves 91

MINNEAPOLIS — Guard Stephen Curry had 25 points as Golden State, playing its fourth road game in six nights, beat Minnesota fora third consecutive win.

Guard Klay Thompson added 14 points for Golden State, which has won six of its last seven.

Guard Kevin Martin, who is averaging better than 20 points per game in his nine appearances since returning from a wrist injury, led Minnesota with 21 points. Guard Ricky Rubio, playing his fifth game after missing the previous 42 with an ankle injury, had 18.

Thunder 105, Grizzlies 89

OKLAHOMA CITY — Forward Kevin Durant scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, leading Oklahoma City over Memphis at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Oklahoma City moved three games over .500 for the first time this season. The Thunder also pulled within a half-game of the idle Phoenix Suns for eight place in Western Conference as both teams head into the All-Star break. Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook posted 24 points, nine assists and nine rebounds. Collison came off the bench to score 15 points and haul in nine boards.

Forward Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Forward Jeff Green and guard Beno Udrih added 11 points apiece on 4-of-13 shooting and 4-of-11 shooting, respectively. Center Marc Gasol was held to eight points and five rebounds.

Cavaliers 113, Heat 93

CLEVELAND — Forward LeBron James had 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists against his former team, guard Kyrie Irving had 15 points and six assists and Cleveland erased a Christmas Day loss to Miami with a victory.

Forward Kevin Love had 12 points and six rebounds — one of seven Cavs players to score in double figures.

Heat center Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Mario Chalmers had 18 points and forward Chris Bosh had 15 points for the Heat, who have lost four of their last five while batting injuries.

Magic 89, Knicks 83

ORLANDO — Center Nikola Vucevic scored 28 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in leading Orlando to victory over the hapless New York Knicks at the Amway Center.

Magic guard Victor Oladipo had 19 points, and reserve guard Willie Green added 13, and guard Elfrid Payton finished with 12.

The Knicks were led by center Jason Smith, who had a season-high 25 points and seven rebounds. Reserve forward Andrea Bargnani had 11 points. Swingman Tim Hardaway Jr., starting in place of forward Carmelo Anthony (knee), had 10 points. Point guard Jose Calderon contributed nine points and seven assists.

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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