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Spurs break back into win column vs. Kings

The Sports Xchange

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SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs, reeling with injuries, are spirally out of the win column in the last week.

Ready for their fortunes to change, they relied on their prime-time players.

Forward Tim Duncan had 23 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Spurs to a 95-93 win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night.

Guard Tony Parker had 18 points and 10 assists and Duncan added five assists and two blocks as San Antonio (34-13) snapped a three-game losing streak.

“It’s huge for us. It’s huge for us,” Duncan stated on getting the much needed win. “Awful losing streak for us. It’s good to finish with a win here at home. Not only that, but just to start the road trip on the right note.”

Guard Patty Mills had 15 points and forward Boris Diaw 14 for San Antonio, which played its last game at the AT&T Center before its annual “Rodeo Road Trip.”

The Spurs, who have been riddled with injuries, saw the return of starting center Tiago Splitter. He missed the last 12 games with a sprained right shoulder and had two points.

“Yeah, they’re trickling in so that’s great,” Duncan said on the return of Splitter. “Great to have bodies back out there. Great to start getting everybody healthy.”

In a surprise move, guard Shannon Brown, who signed a 10-day contract on Saturday morning, was in the Spurs’ starting lineup at small forward. Brown scored two points in 15 minutes.

Sacramento (15-32), at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and without their leading scorer, were led by guard Isaiah Thomas with 26 points.

Forwards Rudy Gay added 23 points, Derrick Williams 14 and Jason Thompson 10. Forward Quincy Acy grabbed 10 rebounds in the Kings’ seventh straight loss.

A close game from start to finish, both teams were tied 19 times and there were 19 lead changes. But San Antonio, down 10 in the third quarter, climbed back and took the definitive lead when Parker’s 3-pointer with 56 seconds left that gave San Antonio a 94-91 lead.

Down one, the Kings had one more chance to win the game, but Gay’s 15-foot jumper with a second left bounced off the rim. Parker rebounded the ball, got fouled and then connected on the first of two free throws to seal the win.

“The rim. The rim,” Gay said on what he saw on the last shot. “I mean honestly I wish I had that one back; I don’t think I miss that too many other times.”

The Kings were only able to score five points in the final four minutes of the game and were held to 15 points in the fourth quarter.

The first quarter was close until Mills hit a 3-pointer with seconds left on the clock to give the Spurs a 27-24 lead.

Sacramento bounced back behind 28 first-half points between Gay and Thomas. The Kings were up by four when Belinelli hit a 26-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer. After the referees reviewed and confirmed the shot, the Kings went into the locker room up 53-52.

“We gave ourselves a chance to beat a veteran, playoff team on their home court, the second time in a row in this building,” Kings’ coach Michael Malone said after the game. “We did a lot of very good things tonight, unfortunately we just came up a little bit short for another loss.”

NOTES: San Antonio announced the signing of G Shannon Brown to a 10-day contract on Saturday. Brown, a seven-year NBA veteran, has averaged 8.1 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists during his career. F Othyus Jeffers, who signed his 10-day contract with the Spurs on Jan. 24, was released. … Sacramento G Jimmer Fredette did not attend the game. He remained at the hotel in San Antonio because of an illness. He joins C DeMarcus Cousins (sprained left ankle) on the injured list. Cousins has missed six straight games. … San Antonio’s annual rodeo road trip will begin Feb. 3 and the team will return to San Antonio on Feb. 26. In between, they will play nine consecutive games away from the AT&T Center, with a break for the All-Star Game, traveling 8,989 miles during the trip. … Kings G Rudy Gay has totaled 55 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists the last two games. He had a strong return after missing the three previous games because of a strained Achilles tendon.

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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