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Pelicans end Hawks’ 19-game win streak

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NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis was supposed to be nursing a sore groin. It’s scary to think what might have happened if he were completely healthy.

The third-year All-Star brushed aside his aching body to score 29 points and grab 13 rebounds — his 26th 20-point, 10-rebound double-double of the season — and guard Eric Gordon added 20 points as the Pelicans snapped the Atlanta Hawks’ NBA-best, 19-game winning streak with a 115-100 victory Monday night at the Smoothie King Center.

“It was good to end their streak, but it was more about us,” said Davis, who missed one game due to the groin strain but showed he was in the flow by scoring 19 of his 29 points in the first half as the Pelicans took a 55-42 lead. “It felt good to snap their 19-game winning streak, but it felt great just to see how we played.”

The Pelicans (26-22) played well in every phase. In winning for the sixth time in seven games, they limited the best 3-point shooting team in the league — the Hawks came in shooting 39 percent from long range — to just 7 of 22 shooting (32 percent). The Hawks (40-9) had made at least 10 3-pointers in 14 of their previous 15 games.

Offensively, Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans had 12 assists for the third time in four games, including six in the third quarter when the Hawks had cut a 14-point deficit to 70-63. Reserve center Omer Asik added a season-high 17 rebounds, contributing to New Orleans’ 52-32 advantage on the boards.

“They had us on our heels from the very beginning,” said Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer, whose team had won 33 of its previous 35 games, including 12 straight against Western Conference opponents. “I thought New Orleans was good on both ends of the court and, defensively, we couldn’t get into a rhythm.

“Give our guys credit for a lot of good work over the last month. Tomorrow we’ll get back to figuring out how we can improve and get better.”

Davis showed no ill effects from the nasty fall he took last Wednesday in a home loss to Denver. He soared high for dunks and blocked two shots, including a deep jumper from the left wing by guard Jeff Teague.

But New Orleans was particularly impressive moving the ball on offense. The Pelicans had 30 assists, and the starting backcourt of Gordon and Evans combined for 19. Gordon also made 7 of 11 shots, including 4 of 6 3-point attempts.

“He’s been playing out of his mind,” Davis said of Gordon. “Every time we need a big shot, he hits one. That’s what he can do. He’s a scorer, and we definitely try to look for him.”

Gordon said the key to ending the Hawks’ 19-game winning streak was chasing guard Kyle Korver, a 54-percent shooter from long range, off the 3-point line. Korver made both of his 3-point attempts, but that was far below his average number of attempts.

“When you see those guys win 19 in row, you’ve got to figure out a way to break their rhythm, so we tried to run them off the line,” Gordon said. “They’re the best 3-point shooting team in the league. We’re just in a comfort zone at home. We have to keep having fun.”

The Pelicans led by as many as 19 points, 103-84, with 4:57 left in the fourth quarter and coasted to the victory. The Hawks lost for the first time since a 107-77 defeat at the hands of Milwaukee on Dec. 26. Atlanta was led by guard Jeff Teague with 21 points, and Korver added 12.

“We knew we weren’t going to win every game the rest of the season, but we had a great accomplishment,” Korver said. “We won a bunch of games and we grew in confidence. We’ve grown in a lot of ways. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

Davis said the Pelicans are just beginning to understand that themselves.

“We’ve just been playing together, sharing the ball and not caring who’s scoring and playing defense,” Davis said. “When we play like this, we’re a tough team to beat. We got to realize this is how we’ve got to play night in and night out.

NOTES: Pelicans PF Anthony Davis returned to the lineup after missing Friday night’s 108-103 victory over the Clippers with a strained groin. New Orleans coach Monty Williams said his third-year All-Star forward looked comfortable in practice Sunday. “He went through a full practice, talking trash, typical A.D. in practice with high energy and high everything, so we felt good about him playing,” Williams said. … Pelicans reserve C Alexis Ajinca of France has averaged nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds when he has played at least 20 minutes. “Now he understands he’s an NBA player and he just works on his game,” Williams said. “He could always shoot the ball. He got stronger this summer and worked on his conditioning.” … Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said winning NBA coach-of-the-month honors for two consecutive months is “a credit to our players. They’ve been great, and I think our coaching staff does an amazing job.”

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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