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Nowitzki leads Mavericks past Cavaliers

The Sports Xchange

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DALLAS — All-Star forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 23 points, leading the Dallas Mavericks to a routine 124-107 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night at American Airlines Center.

Nowitzki failed to score at least 30 for the third consecutive game, but it mattered little as Dallas had the game well in hand. Guard Monta Ellis finished with 22 points after scoring a combined 33 in the previous three games.

Four other Mavericks scored in double figures, including two reserves, guard Devin Harris (season-high 16 points) and forward Brandan Wright (14). Center Samuel Dalembert scored 18 points and guard Jose Calderon had his first double-double in a Dallas uniform with 11 points and 10 assists.

“We got it done,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “I thought we did a lot of good things. There’s going to be some mistakes in any game. The good thing was the first half we had eight turnovers, the second half we only had five. Being able to sit Dirk for the last seven minutes is a big deal. It really helps us.”

The Mavericks (28-21) swept the season series from Cleveland for the second season in a row, and they won for the 11th time in the last 13 meetings in Dallas.

Harris continues to provide a spark off the bench. He made two baskets late in the third quarter to help Dallas take its largest lead of the game to that point (91-76), forcing a timeout from Cleveland coach Mike Brown.

“I’m trying to get comfortable out there,” Harris said after his eighth game of the season. “I’m trying to make the most of my minutes. Offensively we’re gifted, but we have to step things up defensively.”

The Mavericks held a double-digit lead throughout the fourth quarter despite an 8-0 run from Cleveland midway through the period. The Cavaliers (16-32) lost for the seventh time in eight games.

All-Star guard Kyrie Irving scored a game-high 27 points and dished out eight assists for Cleveland, which lost its fifth game in a row. Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson added 17 points and eight rebounds. Forward Luol Deng had 18 points for Cleveland, which was outrebounded 45-31.

“Offensively we did some nice things out there,” Brown said. “I thought we some great looks from the perimeter, especially early in the game, that did not go in. The ball was moving fairly well, the spacing was good. We had some

stretches where we couldn’t score.

“Dallas took advantage of it and they got some easy buckets, whether we turned it over or our floor balance was poor off of a missed shot. Dallas got some easy looks in transition and resulted in easy baskets for them.”

The Mavericks were hot in the first half, shooting 51.1 percent and taking as much as a 13-point lead. Nowitzki had 16 points at the break, and Ellis added 13.

Dallas was up early before Irving started to heat up. The Eastern Conference All-Star reserve nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to give Cleveland an 18-16 lead in the first quarter.

Nowitzki scored 12 points in the second period, and his consecutive 3s pushed the Mavericks out to a 52-39 advantage. The Cavaliers finished the half strong but still trailed 59-52 going into the locker room, with Irving accounting for 13 points.

Dallas finished its four-game homestand 3-1, and it next plays Wednesday at Memphis. The Mavericks hold a one-game lead on the Grizzlies for eighth place in the Western Conference.

The Cavaliers look to end their skid Wednesday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We need to keep pushing forward,” Brown said. “Guys have got to keep grinding. We’ve got to keep grinding until we get out of it. The only thing we can do is work, keep our head up, and keep looking forward. Try to learn from what we did tonight.”

NOTES: Dallas F Shawn Marion (shoulder/rib contusion) missed his second straight game. Second-year F Jae Crowder started in Marion’s place. … Cleveland C Anderson Varejao returned to the lineup after missing three games with a left knee contusion. He played with a brace on his knee, and he scored 10 points in 25 minutes. … Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle is a fan of Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a guy in 30 years in this league do the things off the dribble that he can do, in terms of getting places on the court,” Carlisle said. “Just a ridiculous change of direction, beyond crafty.” … Dallas rookie G Shane Larkin was recalled after a one-game stint in the D-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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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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