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Rockets escape Dallas with win

The Sports Xchange

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DALLAS — Forward Chandler Parsons scored 26 points and Houston Rockets escaped a late charge by the Dallas Mavericks for a 117-115 victory Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.

One night after dispatching the San Antonio Spurs without James Harden (bruised left thumb), the Rockets persevered again without their leading scorer to beat another Southwest Division rival. This time they spoiled Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki’s 38-point, 17-rebound performance.

“Those were two big games for us, especially after losing two to Memphis,” Chandler said. “It was important for us to get these two. It is always fun and exciting and physical when we play those two (teams). San Antonio is one of the best teams in the league and like I said, Dallas is fighting for a playoff berth.”

With less than five minutes to play and down by double-digits, Dallas resorted to fouling Rockets center and historically poor free throw shooter Dwight Howard. But Howard turned the tables and went 5-for-6 at the free throw line on those fouls. That put an end to the gimmick.

With 3:21 left, Howard was fouled in the act of shooting and made two more free throws for a 114-104 lead with little more than three minutes to play. He finished the game 9-for-11 at the line and with 21 points.

“I looked like Reggie Miller tonight from the line,” Howard said with a wide grin.

Down 116-104, Dallas made a run with guard Vince Carter hitting a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 117-113 with about a minute to play. Nowitzki made two free throws with 22.2 seconds to go to make it a two-point game, 117-115. With 19.9 to go, Houston coughed up an inbounds play to give it back to Dallas. But guard Jose Calderon missed two 3-point attempts in the final five seconds to send the Rockets home with a win that evened the series, 2-2.

“The first one was a good look,” Calderon said. “They kind of double-teamed Dirk, but I couldn’t make it, so it happens sometimes.”

Houston (31-17) will enjoy a two-day break now and will hope to get Harden back in the lineup when they play host to Cleveland on Saturday. Dallas (26-21) will lament a lost opportunity as it opened a three-game homestand with Sacramento coming to town on Friday and Cleveland on Monday.

“That was good. We gave ourselves a chance, which was great,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said of rallying to get back into the game late. “But the first 46 minutes or so, whatever it was, were not good. It’s a lot of the same problem; keeping people in front of us and giving up too many layups. We’ve got to do better.”

The Rockets also got strong performances from forward Terrence Jones, who had 16 points, guard Jeremy Lin, who had 18 points and seven assists, as well as guard Aaron Brooks, who contributed 11 points off the bench.

“We are happy that we were able to sneak away with the win,” Lin said. “We just seem to always let it come down to the wire here. The last time it was the same thing, just a different result.”

Nowitzki, 13-for-21 from the floor, but 12-for-15 before going cold, was the lone Dallas starter to score in double figures. Guard Monta Ellis had just six points. Carter had 22 off the bench, guard Devin Harris had 24 and center DeJuan Blair had 13.

Houston led by six at halftime even though it shot 63.2 percent and went 5-for-10 from beyond the arc. That’s because Dallas’ potent offense hit half of its shots despite going 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. The Rockets extended the lead to 12 points with an early third-quarter run.

But neither of these teams is very good at holding a double-digit lead and Dallas’ potent offense quickly retaliated. Nowitzki swished a straightaway 3-pointer to tie it at 75 with 5:09 to left in the period. Houston led 91-85 after three quarters.

NOTES: Rockets G James Harden missed his second consecutive game with a bruised left thumb. G Jeremy Lin started in Harden’s place. … Dallas entered the game having won the last seven meetings against Houston at home. … The Rockets are expected to place Harden and C Dwight Howard on the Western Conference All-Star team when the reserves, as picked by the respective conference coaches, are announced Thursday. Rockets coach Kevin McHale threw his support for selection to Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki, who is averaging a team-high 21.1 ppg. … Houston entered the game having been held under 100 points in three consecutive games for the first time this season.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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NBA News Wire

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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NBA News Wire

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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