HOUSTON – Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin authored another chapter to the storybook tale that is his improbable professional career by recording his first NBA triple-double — and doing so in a reserve role.
Beyond that statistical benchmark, Lin provided the requisite thrust to help Houston overcome a lethargic start to the second half in its 106-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers Saturday at Toyota Center.
Lin totaled 15 points, a career-best 11 rebounds and 10 assists, completing the triple-double with an assist when Houston center Dwight Howard converted a bank shot off the pick-and-roll with 53.5 seconds left. By that stage, even Lin could not ignore the raucous crowd and team-wide effort to help him reach the milestone, even if Lin was initially oblivious.
“I didn’t know until I needed a couple more assists,” said Lin, who became the first Houston player to record a triple-double off the bench since Cedric Maxwell posted 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists against the Indiana Pacers on Mar. 31, 1988. “That’s when everyone started talking about it. Prior to that, I didn’t know.
“James (Harden) was being really unselfish. At the end of the game he was trying to get everybody involved. He facilitated that (Howard pick-and-roll offensive set).”
The Rockets (32-17) needed Lin to resuscitate their lagging effort in the third quarter, especially after the Cavaliers scored the first 11 points of the period to swipe a 63-61 lead and completely erase a 19-point deficit.
Lin entered with 8:36 left in the third and immediately keyed a 19-5 push that enabled the Rockets to reclaim a double-digit lead at 82-68.
Harden scored 28 points in his return from a two-game injury absence while Howard and forward Terrence Jones combined for 43 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. Rockets guard Patrick Beverley recorded 10 rebounds, eight assists and a career-high five steals and became the first player in NBA history to produce such a line while failing to score since steals became an official league stat in 1973-74.
“A lot of guys contributed in a positive way,” Harden said. “Obviously, Jeremy came off the bench and did a tremendous job of playing an overall great game with a triple-double. It’s a great accomplishment.”
Houston improved to 10-0 at home against Eastern Conference teams.
“You have to give credit to their two guards,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said of Beverley and Lin. “They played a heck of a game between the two of those guys. Twenty-one rebounds is phenomenal.”
Cleveland, which dropped its seventh consecutive game at Toyota Center, got 24 points from forward Luol Deng, while guards Kyrie Irving (21 points, seven assists) and Dion Waiters (19 points, four assists) also reached double figures in points. However, the remaining seven Cavaliers that played combined to score 28 points on 12-of-35 shooting.
With Harden back in the lineup, the Rockets had little difficulty scoring in bunches, reeling off an 11-0 run midway through the first quarter to seize control, before an 11-3 spurt bridging the opening two periods yielded a 35-25 lead on a transition layup by forward Omri Casspi.
Cleveland closed the half by making 9 of 14 attempts, including four 3-pointers. Waiters tallied 15 second-quarter points and the Cavaliers added 14 points off six Rockets turnovers in the second to cut into a 49-30 deficit. But when the Rockets got running in the third – they finished with a season-high 29 fast-break points – Cleveland couldn’t keep pace.
“We have to do a better job of balancing the floor,” Deng said. “I thought on the one, two and three, we didn’t do a great job of running back to make sure they played half-court basketball.”
NOTES: The Rockets improved to 6-2 without All-Star G James Harden via back-to-back wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks this week, results that led to some erroneous analysis. With Harden in the starting lineup, the Rockets have a 12.1 net rating over 40 games; with G Jeremy Lin subbing for Harden, the Rockets’ net rating is minus-2.8 despite supposedly superior ball movement. “We’ve had that ball movement many times with James,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “There are times the ball gets sticky with everybody; that’s not exclusive to James. That’s one of our common denominators when we don’t play well.” … Cavaliers C Anderson Varejao missed his third consecutive game with a left knee contusion and hyperextension. … Cleveland coach Mike Brown tweaked his starting lineup, removing G C.J. Miles while inserting G Jarrett Jack. Miles has made 33 starts; Jack made his third start of the season. “I can make changes at any time, especially with where we’re sitting record-wise,” Brown said. “And I’ll continue to search, look and feel for what’s best for the team.”
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
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.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
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.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
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.