PHILADELPHIA — Jameer Nelson celebrated, of course, with a cheesesteak.
Playing just miles from his hometown of Chester, Pa., the Orlando Magic’s veteran guard feasted on the Philadelphia 76ers Wednesday night, too.
Nelson, who also played at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Magic beat the Sixers 101-90 to snap a 16-game road losing streak.
“‘Vintage,” to say it one word,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said of Nelson’s performance.
The 32-year-old Nelson, who made just 2 of 7 shots in the first three quarters, made 5 of 9 in the final period. He also handed out four of his 12 assists.
Afterward he visited with St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli in the visiting locker room before chowing down on his cheesesteak.
Nelson said it was “definitely special” to break the long road losing streak, a franchise single-season record. And, he added, it is “always fun coming back.”
Asked how many friends and family members were in attendance, he said, “It wasn’t a lot this time — probably 60 or 70. It was like 600 one time.”
Center Nikola Vucevic, a former Sixer, had 21 points and 13 rebounds to pace the Magic (18-42), who improved to 4-27 on the road.
Guard Victor Oladipo added 17 points and 11 rebounds for Orlando.
Forward Thaddeus Young had 19 points and guard Tony Wroten 15 to lead the Sixers (15-43), who lost their 12th straight. It was also their 11th straight defeat at home. They finished the month of February 0-11, their first winless month of four games or more since they went 0-13 in March 1973. That was the final month of their 9-73 season.
In a game featuring the teams with the NBA’s second- and third-worst records, Nelson snapped a 67-67 tie when he nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the circle 20 seconds into the fourth quarter. He added a jumper, a layup and another triple over the next 4:18 as Orlando outscored Philadelphia 21-10 to take an 88-77 lead with 7:22 left.
Asked what got him started after his struggles through the first three quarters, Nelson said, “Myself. … I don’t lack any confidence when I’m 2-for-7. I’m shooting that shot.”
Guard E’Twaun Moore and forward Andrew Nicholson also hit 3-pointers in the decisive run — the latter after Nelson found him in the right corner — and guard Doron Lamb sank three free throws while attempting another triple.
The Sixers closed within six, 92-86, on Young’s fast-break conversion with 4:12 remaining, but Oladipo nailed a 3-pointer and jumper as Orlando rattled off the next seven points to go up 99-86.
“It was a deterioration defensively,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “The last quarter got us.”
The lead changed hands 13 times during a dismal first half. The Sixers shot 34.7 percent but nonetheless established a 44-40 lead, largely because the Magic made just 33.3 percent of their attempts. It was the first time Philadelphia had led after two quarters since a Feb. 7 loss to the Lakers.
Young scored 10 points in the half for the Sixers, who outscored the Magic 12-4 over a five-minute stretch late in the second quarter to move in front.
Two of the players acquired at least week’s trade deadline were also effective. Center Henry Sims, making his first start for Philadelphia, had eight points and six rebounds, and backup point guard Eric Maynor contributed six points, three rebounds and a pair of assists.
Vucevic had 13 points and seven rebounds in the half for Orlando.
The Sixers extended their lead to eight early in the second half, only to see the Magic storm back behind Vucevic. He had a dunk, a layup, a tip-in and a block of Michael Carter-Williams’ dunk attempt as Orlando outscored Philadelphia 25-10 to take a 67-60 lead with 2:22 left in the third quarter.
The Sixers then rattled off the period’s last seven points — on Maynor’s 3-pointer, a dunk by forward Byron Mullens and Wroten’s two free throws — to tie it.
NOTES: The Sixers bought out the contract of F Danny Granger, acquired last week in a trade from Indiana. “Given Danny’s future goals and his desire to pursue them, we worked to fulfill his requests and have come to a resolution that we feel is mutually beneficial to both Danny and our organization,” general manager Sam Hinkie said in a statement. Added coach Brett Brown: “We wish him well. We worked with him. We talked a lot about treating people the way people should be treated — respecting his situation, listening to him and still running a business. Sam was able to do both of those things.” According to Yahoo Sports, the Los Angeles Clippers are the front-runners to sign Granger when he clears waivers on Friday. San Antonio, Miami, Houston, Dallas and Chicago also have interest. … Orlando G Arron Afflalo, the Magic’s leading scorer at 19.7 points a night, missed his third straight game with a sprained right ankle. Afflalo notched a career-high 43 points in a 126-125 double-overtime loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 3.
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
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.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
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.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
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.