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Raptors run past Kings in second half

The Sports Xchange

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TORONTO — Picking up their offensive tempo in the second half, the Toronto Raptors picked up a 119-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

“That was huge,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of the increased pace. “That’s something we weren’t doing in the first half.”

After the game was tied 54-54 at halftime, the Raptors took control with a 39-22 third quarter and extended their winning streak to four games.

Guard Lou Williams made sure the Raptors would not let the Kings back into the game by scoring 14 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter.

Former Raptors forward Rudy Gay scored 22 points, 17 in the first half, but that was not enough to prevent the Kings’ seventh loss in a row.

“We did a pretty good job of weathering the storm in the first half,” Kings coach Tyrone Corbin said. “The game was at a pace that we liked. … In the third quarter, I don’t know how many transition points they had, but they had 16 for the game.”

Guard Greivis Vasquez added 18 points for the Raptors, while center Jonas Valanciunas scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Guard Kyle Lowry and guard/forward Terrence Ross each had 13 points for Toronto, with guard/forward DeMar DeRozan adding 12 and forward Patrick Patterson scoring 11.

“I thought the defense set the tempo for our offense,” Casey said. “We started being more aggressive offensively. Physicality was big. It was almost like we were afraid to touch them in the first half, and once we got into them physically, putting our hands on them and touching them, that’s when our offense started clicking.”

Guard Ben McLemore added 17 points for the Kings, reserve forward Carl Landry had 14 points and seven rebounds, center DeMarcus Cousins chipped in with 13 points, and guard Darren Collison had 12.

“Whichever team decided to be the first to play defense was going to win the game,” Cousins said. “And they decided to play defense first. … They had a lot of time.”

The Kings (16-28) returned from a four-day break, as their scheduled game Monday against the Knicks in New York was postponed due to an impending blizzard. The Raptors (31-15) were playing on back-to-back nights after winning at Indiana on Tuesday.

The Raptors led 26-22 after the first quarter with DeRozan scoring seven points. Gay put the Kings ahead 47-46 on a 3-pointer with 3:51 left in the first half.

After dropping behind by three points early in the second half, the Raptors took a 73-66 lead midway into the third quarter on a pair of 3-pointers by Vasquez, who scored 12 points in the quarter.

“Greivis did a good job of making two big shots right out of the locker room after halftime,” Williams said. “I think that is what sparked us. After that, it is contagious when the ball is flying around and everyone is playing together. We were just able to continue it for the whole quarter.”

The Raptors used a 10-0 run late in the third to lead by 18 points with 49.9 seconds left before taking a 93-76 lead into the fourth quarter.

Toronto shot 14-for-21 from the field in the third quarter, including 8-for-10 on 3-point attempts.

“It was too much to overcome,” Corbin said.

The Kings cut the lead to 13 points early in the fourth quarter, but a pair of free throws by Williams with 6:11 to play pushed the Raptors’ lead to 20.

Guard Ray McCallum scored on a driving layup with 3:20 to play as the Kings pulled within 14. Williams made all three free throws after being fouled attempting a 3-pointer with 3:05 to play to get the margin back to 17.

NOTES: The Raptors reached 30 wins before the All-Star Game for the first time in franchise history on Tuesday when they defeated the Indiana Pacers. … Kings F Carl Landry (sprained right wrist) returned to action after missing five games. … The Raptors wore their camouflage uniforms on Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Night on Wednesday. … Sacramento G Nik Stauskas, a Toronto-area native, had about 200 friends and relatives at Air Canada Centre to watch his first game in Toronto against the Raptors. He was the Kings’ first-round draft choice out of Michigan in 2014. He scored eight points Wednesday… The Raptors will visit the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. The Kings head to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Friday.

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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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