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Parker returns, leads Spurs past Mavs

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SAN ANTONIO – Guard Tony Parker lobbied to return to the San Antonio Spurs’ lineup on Friday against Charlotte. His coach, Gregg Popovich, elected to hold Parker out one more game.

Popovich’s decision worked out well for the Spurs. They beat Charlotte without Parker. Then Parker, back after missing six games, scored 22 points and handed out seven assists in 32 minutes as the Spurs defeated the Dallas Mavericks 112-106 Sunday night.

San Antonio (43-16) won for the sixth time in seven games. Dallas (36-25) has lost eight straight games to the Spurs.

Parker, the Spurs’ point guard, was assigned to the bench by Popovich during recent games to a recover from mental fatigue and a variety of nagging injuries.

“I felt good,” Parker said. “I felt fresh. I felt like I had my legs.”

Indeed, Parker looked fresh down the stretch, making a driving layup that gave the Spurs a seven-point lead with 45.8 seconds left.

“We have another closer on the floor,” Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard said. “In the fourth quarter, he always makes a good pass or a shot.”

Parker converted 10 of 15 shots and committed only one turnover.

“He played a good floor game and he delivered offense at the same time,” Popovich said.

Forward Tim Duncan produced 17 points and nine rebounds for the Spurs, and Leonard scored 16 points.

San Antonio reserve forward Boris Diaw contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Manu Ginobili, also a sub, scored all 15 of his points in the second half. He also had seven assists.

Forward Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 22 points, one more than guard Vince Carter’s total. Mavericks guard Monta Ellis scored 17.

Parker was dazzling early, scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes. He displayed his usual array of driving shots and also made a 3-point basket. Midway through the first quarter, Parker scooped in a layup off the backboard as he was falling to the ground, fouled on the play by Nowitzki.

The Spurs took leads of nine points in the first quarter and 10 in the second, but they never could maintain separation.

Turnovers prevented the Spurs from pulling away. San Antonio gave the ball away seven times in the second period, and the Mavs turned those into seven points.

Parker scored just two more points in the half after the 10 early ones. Meanwhile, Carter came off the Dallas bench to contribute 15 in the half — 11 during the second quarter.

Ginobili took care of separation pretty much by himself in the third quarter. He scored the last 10 points of the period, giving the Spurs a 78-70 lead. Ginobili made two 3-point baskets and four free throws during that stretch.

The Spurs are finally healthy after a long stretch with key players missing. Ginobili missed eight games with a hamstring injury. Leonard was gone for 14 games with a fractured hand. Guard Danny Green was out for 10 games with a broken finger. Center Tiago Splitter missed 12 games with a strained shoulder.

Now the Spurs have Parker, their only NBA all-star this season.

Ginobili was impressed.

“I usually come back slow, get limited minutes, and can’t make a shot,” Ginobili said. “He was sharp.”

Nowitzki said the Mavs lost the game on defense, not offense.

“We scored 106 in this building, that’s pretty good,” Nowitzki said. “I thought Parker looked great again coming out from a nice little break that they can afford to give him. They play well together. They are a tough team to defend.”

NOTES: Dallas recalled rookie G Shane Larkin and second-year F Jae Crowder from the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League. They shuttled recently between the Mavericks and the Legends to get playing time. Neither got off the bench Sunday night. … The Spurs were 5-1 in games without G Tony Parker, who was ordered to rest up by coach Gregg Popovich. Included were victories at the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland. The only defeat was at Phoenix. … The Mavs lost to the Chicago Bulls 100-91 Friday in Dallas after blowing a 16-point, second-quarter lead, marking their sixth defeat this season after squandering an advantage that big. … The Spurs’ last two victories without Parker were attained largely through big second halves by G Manu Ginobili. The Spurs’ reserve scored all 16 of his points in the second half against the Detroit Pistons. He scored 13 of his 15 in the second half against the Charlotte Bobcats as the Spurs erased a 14-point second-quarter deficit.

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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