DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks hope forward Amar’e Stoudemire is another piece in a potential championship puzzle. The fit looked pretty good Sunday night.
Stoudemire made his Dallas debut and scored 14 points off the bench in a 92-81 victory over the slumping Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night at American Airlines Center.
“It’s pretty clear the guy knows how to play the game,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said of Stoudemire. “He’s got a lot of skill. He’s still got a lot of juice.”
The Mavericks (38-20) improved to 11-0 all-time in Dallas against the current Charlotte franchise. The Hornets (22-32) are still in the Eastern Conference playoff race in ninth place despite dropping their fifth game in a row.
Shooting guard Monta Ellis helped close the door on Charlotte with 15 points in the fourth quarter and finished with a game-high 23. Small forward Richard Jefferson (10 points and 10 rebounds) picked up the slack with starter Chandler Parsons shelved due to an ankle injury. Dallas center Tyson Chandler had 12 points and seven rebounds.
However, it was Stoudemire who lit a fire into the second unit with a spirited 11-minute stint. Bought out of his contract by the New York Knicks last week, the 13-year veteran returned to the Western Conference to play on a contender.
The Mavericks had a desperate need for frontline depth behind power forward Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler, Stoudemire’s former teammate in New York. Stoudemire, after missing two games since signing with Dallas, made five of eight shots and grabbed three boards.
He wasn’t trying to do too much in his first game.
“Keep it simple,” Stoudemire said. “Coach Carlisle has so many plays offensively, so in order for me to get the plays figured out, I have to take my time and take it one day at a time, but tonight I kept it simple and played my game.”
Charlotte point guard Mo Williams scored a team-high 22 and forwards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams each added 15 points. Center Al Jefferson corralled 17 rebounds, but scored only eight points on 4-of-16 shooting.
Mo Williams has averaged 21 points in two games since joining the Hornets.
“He’s a pro player,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s a good offensive player, he’s a good pick-and-roll player, and he can organize a team, so he’s doing a good job.”
The Hornets played from behind all night, but closed within six points in the fourth quarter. As has been the case lately, Charlotte couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch.
“We’re going through a little slump right now,” Al Jefferson said. “I really think we are close to where we need to be, the offense and defense. We showed throughout the game. I think we’re real close and we just need to get there. Time is running out and it’s now or never.”
The Mavericks didn’t need long to take control with a double-digit lead by moving the ball for good looks in the first quarter. Richard Jefferson spotted up for 3-pointers in the corner — he made three in the first half — as the Hornets were a step behind.
“We are just trying to get some more movement,” Jefferson said. “Coach has put in some plays that have really put us in a position to drive, and that’s what we’re trying to focus on. I’m gonna shoot 3s. I’m gonna get to the corner.”
Stoudemire made his presence felt with two thunderous dunks to give Dallas a 28-16 lead going into the second period. Dallas went up as much as 19 points and took a 45-35 advantage into halftime.
Richard Jefferson had 10 points at the break, with Stoudemire and Dallas guard J.J. Barea each scoring six off the bench. Al Jefferson grabbed 12 boards in the first half, and Marvin Williams had eight points for Charlotte.
NOTES: Dallas F Dirk Nowitzki hit just three of seven shots and finished with eight points and 12 rebounds. … The Mavericks will be without F Chandler Parsons (ankle) for at least three games. Parsons was injured in Friday’s win over Houston. He also will sit out games Tuesday (Toronto) and Wednesday (Atlanta), according to coach Rick Carlisle. … G Mo Williams had 24 points and 12 assists in his first game for Charlotte on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
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.