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Rookie LaVine wins dunk contest

The Sports Xchange



NEW YORK — Andrew Wiggins had described one of the dunks that Minnesota Timberwolves teammate Zach LaVine had up his sleeve as one that would make people unconscious with amazement.

That mysterious dunk didn’t surface Saturday night but LaVine had plenty of other aerial tricks up his sleeve, becoming the second youngest winner of the Slam Dunk contest and getting the crowd to its feet at Barclays Center.

“I never seen a dunk like that,” Wiggins said Friday night. “I’ve never witnessed it live before in my life.”

LaVine enlisted Wiggins and Minnesota teammate Shabazz Muhammad in the second round when he received a score of 94 from the judges of Hall of Famers Bernard King, Chris Mullin, Nate Archibald, Walt Frazier and Julius Erving.

“I just wanted to come out with a bang,” LaVine said. “I was trying to get 50 on every dunk. It didn’t happen but I was close on every one. The main thing was I wanted to show everyone what I got.”

LaVine won the contest by 18 points over Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo, who had to change strategy on his final dunk.

On his second dunk, Oladipo originally planned to soar through the paint after throwing the ball from the top of the key, but after four misses, he changed course, enlisting teammate Elfrid Payton. Payton handed him the ball from directly below the rim and Oladipo executed a windmill dunk that earned a score of 41.

Wiggins helped LaVine get a score of 45 on his first dunk of the final round by helping his fellow teenager execute a behind-the-back dunk with his left hand.

To finish it off, Muhammad threw the ball off the stanchion behind the backboard, and on his second try LaVine went between the legs for a reverse dunk that earned him a score of 39.

That made him the second Minnesota player to win the event. The other was J.R. Rider, who edged Robert Pack and Shawn Kemp in 1994.

The youngest player to win the award was Kobe Bryant, who was 18 when he won it as a rookie in 1997.

“I didn’t bring them all out,” LaVine said. “I know one of them that was talked about was the first one that was in my routine when we were practicing the other day.”

Before wowing the crowd, LaVine received perfect scores of 50 on both dunks in the first round.

On his first dunk, LaVine started from the right side of the court, went through his legs and executed a reverse one-handed dunk that brought Houston Rockets guard James Harden out of his seat. On his second dunk, LaVine threw the ball from behind the left side of the 3-point line, went in between his legs and behind his back before dunking with his right hand in one fluid motion.

“I know I can go out there and do my dunks and I just wanted to make my family proud,” LaVine said. “We’re entertainers. We’re in New York. I wanted to get everybody off their feet and have a good time. I was having a ball.”

Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee finished third with a score of 76, getting 36 points by flying over his brother Miles of the Phoenix Suns for a left-hand dunk. Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo placed fourth with 65 points after using Oladipo for assistance on his second dunk.

While LaVine amazed the crowd by soaring through the air, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry had a terrific perimeter display and claimed the 3-point contest with 27 points in the second round.

Curry made 13 shots in a row at one point, finished with 27 points in a terrific perimeter display and claimed the 3-point shootout.

Ten days after hitting 10 3-pointers and scoring 51 points against the Dallas Mavericks, Curry was just as brilliant in his fourth appearance in the event, making 13 straight before missing his last shot of the second round from the right corner in the money rack, which is worth two points.

Curry posted the most points of anyone in history in the finals, eclipsing the record of 25 set by Jason Kapono in 2008.

“I’m very happy right now,” Curry said. “I’ve obviously been in it four times. So I wanted to win it and get it done.”

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving placed a distant second as he was unable to win his second title in the last three years. He finished with 17 points in a round that saw him go 0 of 5 from the top of the key and miss four of five money balls from the left corner.

Curry’s Golden State teammate Klay Thompson finished third with 14 points as he struggled after making six of his first 10 shots.

Thompson won the first round with a display similar to when he scored an NBA-record 37 points in the third quarter on Jan. 23. He had 24 points, hitting 16 of 25 shots, and advanced by beating the buzzer with a 3-pointer from the left corner.

Curry and Irving finished with 23 points apiece in the opening round. Curry hit 4 of 5 from the right corner to advance and Irving beat the buzzer to reach his first-round total.

Portland guard Wesley Matthews barely missed advancing, finishing with 22 points after making eight of his last nine shots.

Atlanta’s Kyle Korver struggled to get into a rhythm and placed fifth with 18 points. Defending champion Marco Belinelli of San Antonio also had 18.

Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Reddick finished with 17 points and Harden had 15. Harden, the NBA’s top scorer, missed eight of his last nine shots.

“I think this is definitely the best field that’s ever been in a 3-point shootout,” Curry said.

Earlier Saturday, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh won the shooting stars competition for the third straight time by making all his shots in the shortest amount of time.

On a team with Hall of Famer Dominque Wilkins and New York Liberty forward Swin Cash, Bosh’s group won both rounds, taking 30.8 seconds and 57.6 seconds and edging the team led by Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook.

Rockets guard Patrick Beverley, who was a replacement for Washington Wizards guard John Wall, won the skills competition by getting through an obstacle course and making a 3-pointer before Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight.

NOTES: The 3-point shooting contest featured four first-time participants in Portland G Wesley Matthews, Los Angeles Clippers G J.J. Reddick, Golden State G Klay Thompson and Houston G James Harden. … The last time the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter in terms of percentage won the event was 2008 when Jason Kapono had 25 points. Kapono led the league that season by shooting 48.3 percent while playing for the Toronto Raptors. He also won the event in 2007 while leading the league at 51.4 percent as a member of the Miami Heat. That also happened in 1995-96 when Tim Legler won the event while leading the league at 52.2 percent with Washington. … A player from the host city has won the slam

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


NBA News Wire

Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

The Sports Xchange



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

The Sports Xchange



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 News Wire

NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

The Sports Xchange



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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