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Pelicans come back in fourth to top Hawks

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NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Pelicans came away thrilled by their latest result after

blowing a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in a 102-95 loss to San Antonio on Monday night. The Pelicans rebounded to overcome a fourth-quarter deficit for only the fifth time in 26 games this season to overtake the Atlanta Hawks 105-100 Wednesday night at the New Orleans Arena.

The Pelicans (21-27) did it with a 22-5 run in a 6:03 stretch of the fourth quarter, with forward Anthony Davis scoring 10 of his game-high 27 points during the explosion that put New Orleans ahead 98-88 with 1:18 left.

Then, after the Hawks scored seven straight to cut the New Orleans lead to 98-95, guard Brian Roberts, who had been stripped of the ball beneath the basket on an inbounds play seconds earlier, hit a 10-foot runner in the lane to ice the game with 20.5 seconds left.

Roberts said he told coach Monty Williams during a timeout that he would make up for his nearly disastrous mistake.

“That was a tough turnover right there,” said Roberts, who scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half. “I just tried to move on focus on the next play. I said I was going to get it back, and I was able to make that floater and we were able to finish them off with the free throws.”

Guard Eric Gordon, who added 18 for the Pelicans, also converted a critical three-point play by getting forward DeMarre Carroll to bite on a pump fake and then drawing a foul on his way up and banking in a 20-foot jumper. When Gordon made the free throw, the Pelicans led for good, 88-85.

“He’s an aggressive defender and I try to mix it up,” Gordon said. “I remember I hit two pullups in a row, and on that third one I was going to see if he would get up in the air, and he did. I’m always going to try to create that foul.”

Another key sequence came at the start of the 22-5 run, when guard Anthony Morrow, who had 16 points, finished off a wild sequence in which center Greg Steimsma kept a missed shot alive by punching it out to the perimeter. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer called Morrow’s 3-pointer from the left wing a dagger.

“That possession is really where games are won and lost in the fourth quarter,” Budenholzer said. “It was our (lack of) execution down the stretch and just finding a way to get that defensive board. Even if it’s five or six minutes to go in a game, those are the kinds of plays that can really change a game.”

For most of the game, the Hawks seemingly could not miss from the perimeter. After missing their first four long-range jumpers, they hit nine consecutive threes. They finished 14 of 30 for the game — forward Paul Millsap hit 3 of 7 3-pointers for a team-high 26 points and Carroll was 4 of 6 for 22 points.

But down the stretch, perhaps because their legs were feeling the effects of playing the second night of a back-to-back, Atlanta misfired on 6 of their last 7 3-pointers.

“We knew that they played last night and we (needed to) just keep pushing, keep pushing,” Davis said. “We thought their legs would give in. A lot of their jump shots started coming up short, and we tried to capitalize on running the floor and getting easy opportunities.”

Davis rebounded from an abysmal 5 of 21 performance against San Antonio on Monday night. But Williams said Roberts was critical in picking up the scoring slack left by the absence of starting point guard Jrue Holiday.

“Brian Roberts probably looked around and didn’t see anyone making shots, so he stepped up,” Williams said. “I told him to play free. The first half I thought he was a bit tight. I’m always telling our guys, ‘Everybody has written you off, so what do you have to lose? Just go out there and play. I got your back either way.'”

NOTES: The Pelicans signed 6-foot-9 F Luke Babbitt, who played 13 games in Russia this year with Nizhny Novgorod, where he averaged 13.3 points and 3.7 rebounds. “He’s a guy who can shoot the ball,” said Pelicans coach Monty Williams. “He has the ability to play the 3, and maybe in a pinch he could play the 4 to stretch the floor. He’s a serious kid who really loves to work.” … New Orleans owns the rights to PG Pierre Jackson, who set a D-League scoring record with 58 points on Tuesday night. While Williams said there are no plans to bring him up, “when a guy drops 50-something points, it does get your interest a little bit.” … Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said F Paul Millsap (17.5 ppg and 8.3 rpg) deserves his All-Star selection. “We really encouraged him to expand his range and shoot 3s,” Budenholzer said. “He’s just a high IQ guy.”

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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