LOS ANGELES — The Indiana Pacers didn’t play up to their standards during a five-game road trip, but they were pleased to close the trek on a high note.
Shaking off a sluggish first half, the Pacers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 104-92 at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
“We could have played better, but I’m happy overall,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said of the road swing, which produced a 3-2 mark. “We feel like we should win every game we play. That’s our mindset. We’re good enough to come in and expect to win every game we play. Every time we lose, we’re highly disappointed.”
Six Indiana players scored in double figures, led by forward David West, who had 19 points and eight rebounds. Guard Lance Stephenson scored 15 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and handed out six assists. Forward Paul George finished with 14 points but experienced a rough night shooting, missing 17 of his 21 shots. He went 1-for-6 on 3-point attempts.
“Sometimes, you have those type of games when you’re sluggish. You go in after the first half, watch film and see what you did and correct,” said Stephenson, who hit six of nine shots from the floor but just three of nine free throws. “(The Lakers) were pushing it and making plays for each other, making shots. Coach told us to be aggressive and push it on the break. We did that.”
The win allowed the Pacers (35-9) to bounce back from a disappointing 109-96 road loss to the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
The Lakers (16-30) suffered to their fifth consecutive defeat and their 17th in the past 20 games. Indiana won its fourth in a row against the Lakers at Staples.
“The Pacers became the Pacers. They played well,” Los Angeles coach Mike D’Antoni said.
Forward Pau Gasol and guard Jodie Meeks led the Lakers with 21 points each. Gasol also grabbed 13 rebounds, but he left the contest late with a strained grown. His status for Friday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats was unknown.
Regardless, Gasol couldn’t prevent the inevitable in the second half.
“They picked up their intensity a little bit, and we didn’t exactly match it early on in the third quarter, and they got away from us,” Meeks said. “Against a good team like that, it’s hard to come back. They’re a good team. You’ve got to give them credit.”
Point guard Kendall Marshall had 11 points and 13 assists for Los Angeles.
The Lakers were coming off a seven-game, 11-day road trip in which they finished 2-5. They stayed close to the Pacers, who own the NBA’s best record, until midway through the third quarter.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair with 14 lead changes before the teams went to the locker rooms tied at 49. The Pacers were tied at intermission for the first time this season.
Indiana began to create some operating room in the third, outscoring the Lakers 30-20 for a 79-69 lead after a 3-pointer by George ended the quarter. Stephenson scored 10 points in the third on 4-of-5 shooting.
The Lakers pulled within 84-77 after a 3-pointer by Meeks with 9:31 remaining in the game, but the Pacers responded with a 9-0 run for a 93-77 advantage after a layup by forward Luis Scola with 7:26 left. Indiana had little trouble with Los Angeles the rest of the way.
“They started hitting some of those shots that they were missing in the second half,” Marshall said. “We started missing some of them. I felt like we were getting good looks and some of them just weren’t falling.”
Indiana hit just 42.4 percent of its shots, but it limited Los Angeles to 39.4 percent shooting.
Vogel said, “We didn’t have a good shooting night. We forced shots a little bit (and) we were a little bit out of sync.”
NOTES: Lakers G Kobe Bryant will miss at least three more weeks because of continued pain and swelling in his fractured left knee, the club announced Tuesday night. Bryant was examined by team physician Steve Lombardo prior to Tuesday’s game. He will be re-evaluated again in about three weeks. … The Pacers are 12-1 when G Lance Stephenson records a double-double. … The Lakers handed out bobbleheads in honor of the late owner Jerry Buss, who would have celebrated his 81st birthday on Monday. Buss died on Feb. 18, 2013. … Los Angeles hosts the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday before heading out for a three-game swing through Minnesota, Cleveland and Philadelphia. … The Pacers return home for a three-game homestand that begins Friday against the Phoenix Suns.
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.