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Raptors close out trip with win over Jazz

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Toronto Raptors began their three-game Western trip with a rough loss against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Guard Kyle Lowry made certain the road swing didn’t end with another unpleasant result.

Lowry led the Raptors to their second win in as many nights, scoring a career-high 39 points in a 123-104 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at EnergySolutions Arena.

“I think we just came out here with a business-like approach,” Lowry said after his 13-for-22 shooting night. “We lost one and gave one away in L.A. We wanted to finish this road trip on a positive.”

Toronto (15-4) completely dominated the first half and withheld the Jazz’s brief second-half surge, looking nothing like a team that was playing its second game in 24 hours and for the third time in four nights far from home.

“We know how tough this (Jazz) team is, especially at home,” Lowry said. “So we didn’t want to give them any confidence to think they could win the game.”

As a result, the Raptors, who beat the Sacramento Kings 117-109 Tuesday, won for the eighth time in 10 games.

DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors past the Jazz in Toronto, 111-93, last month with 27 points. The Eastern Conference-leading club didn’t skip a beat without the injured swingman on Wednesday.

Lowry (15 first-half points) and Greivis Vasquez (14 of his 17 points) help established control before halftime as the Raptors shot 64 percent took a 69-53 lead to the locker room.

“We’re developing a business approach, a professional approach, a mature approach about the game, and that’s what you ask for from a team like this that’s young,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. “We came in to take care of business. There wasn’t any bull crap. There wasn’t any laughing and joking around. Guys came in with a focused attitude to start the game.”

It showed.

The Jazz got strong offensive contributions from their frontcourt, as both center Derrick Favors and power forward Enes Kanter finished with 19 points. However, Utah (5-14) fell for the seventh straight time, its longest losing streak since opening the 2013-14 season with eight consecutive losses.

“It’s hard. When you feel like you can’t stop a team, it hurts,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “But you’ve got to keep going.”

The Jazz, who had the same starters for the first 17 games, were forced into using their second different starting group in consecutive games because of guard Alec Burks’ shoulder injury.

Rookie Rodney Hood replaced Burks in the first unit, which was the fourth-youngest starting group in Jazz franchise history with an average age of 22 years, 351 days.

All five Jazz starters scored in double figures, including Hood, who posted a career-best 10 points. Utah, however, didn’t shoot nearly as well as Toronto thanks in part to rough shooting nights by small forward Gordon Hayward (5-for-15, 16 points) and point guard Trey Burke (6-for-15, 15 points).

“They caught fire tonight, for sure, on on us. Especially there in (the second quarter) they put up (38) points or something crazy,” Hayward said. “Frustrating loss for us. I thought we did some good things, but at the end of the day it’s still a loss.”

Rookie forward Joe Ingles scored a career-high 12 points off the bench for Utah, which continues its four-game homestand Friday against the Orlando Magic.

The Raptors return home for a Friday night showdown with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Six Toronto players finished in double figures, including a whopping 79 combined points by the backcourt trio of Lowry, Vasquez and guard Lou Williams (17 points).

NOTES: Jazz G Alec Burks sat out Wednesday and will be sidelined for at least one more game because of left shoulder inflammation. Burks’ injured shoulder was aggravated Monday when he was fouled midair by Denver G Arron Afflalo in the fourth quarter of Utah’s 101-101 loss. … The technical foul that Jazz trainer Gary Briggs received for going onto the court to attend to the injured Burks was rescinded by the NBA on Wednesday. Afflalo was fined $15,000 for using excessive force above the shoulders on Burks. … Toronto improved to 12-25 all-time against the Jazz and 6-13 in EnergySolutions Arena. … Jazz F Steve Novak played for Toronto last season before being traded to Utah in the offseason.

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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