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Oladipo sparks Magic against Pistons

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ORLANDO, Fla. — A little more time on the bench worked wonders for rookie guard Victor Oladipo.

Oladipo responded to his move Wednesday from starter to reserve by playing his best game in weeks, leading the Orlando Magic to a 112-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

Oladipo, who had shot just 25 percent in the previous four games as a starter, hit 8 of 10 shots for 20 points in just 28 minutes Wednesday and sparked Orlando’s third consecutive victory at home.

“I think the past couple games I was just thinking too much. Tonight I just played,” Oladipo said. “As a starter, you can kind of ease into the game. As a reserve, you have to be ready to play immediately. I was ready. It doesn’t matter to me how I’m used. I just like to play.”

He made all four of his free throws and added four rebounds, three assists and two steals while committing just one turnover.

Oladipo was a part of Orlando’s cast of reserves that outscored the Detroit reserves 47-20, providing more than enough to make up the difference when the starters were outplayed.

“We needed them (reserves) tonight,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “And we needed them to play well. This is a team game, and everyone has to contribute.”

The Magic (14-37) never trailed in the second half. The Pistons (19-29) never got closer than 10 points in the fourth quarter, offering little resistance beyond their starting five.

Pistons forward Josh Smith led everyone with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Brandon Jennings had 15 points and 10 assists. Center Andre Drummond had 15 points and 14 rebounds. Guard Kyle Singler, in his second start this season, had 11 points and hit 3 of 4 3-point shots.

“They (Magic reserves) played well tonight, and we basically had no answer,” Singler said. “We just couldn’t counter their energy and the way they were playing.”

Magic forward Glen Davis had 18 points, and guard Arron Afflalo and reserve forward Maurice Harkless each added 15.

The Magic made 18 of 20 free throws and shot 49.4 percent (44 of 89). They held a 44-36 rebounding advantage. They also had 29 assists, including 11 from starting point guard Jameer Nelson.

The Magic led by as many as 20 points in the third period, but they got careless late, allowing the Pistons to close with a flurry. Smith had 11 points in the third.

The Magic led 57-43 at intermission after Oladipo sparked them with a strong second quarter. By halftime, they had 17 assists and four players with at least eight points.

Oladipo had 10 points in the second period and eight points in the fourth to keep the Pistons down.

“He (Oladipo) is going to figure this out,” Vaughn said. “He’s going to continue to get better and better. It’s about trusting each other, and keeping it simple.”

Both Davis and Afflalo had 10 points by halftime. The Pistons also got 10 points from Drummond and Jennings.

The Magic led by as many as 14 in the first half, despite taking just four free throws. The Pistons, conversely, made 11 of 17 free throws in the half. But they also committed 11 turnovers.

NOTES: Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks said he moved G Kyle Singler into the starting lineup — just his second start of the season — to match up better with Magic G Arron Afflalo. … Magic PG Jameer Nelson returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a sore left knee. … Pistons backup C Josh Harrellson missed his second consecutive game with a sore knee. … Despite their struggles this season, the Pistons came into Wednesday’s game leading the NBA in points in the lane (51.7 ppg). Even after replacing rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with Singler on Wednesday, the Pistons still have the third-youngest starting lineup (averaging 24.2 years) in the league. … The Pistons, like many young teams, have struggled to finish games. They have lost 17 games after leading in the fourth quarter, including nine after leading by at least five points. … G Rookie Victor Oladipo is the only Magic player to play in all 51 games. … The Magic are 3-26 this season when allowing an opponent to score 100 points or more.

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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