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Timberwolves rally to defeat Suns

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PHOENIX — Nearly two months ago in Minnesota, the Phoenix Suns scored the final seven points of the game and stole a one-point win from the Timberwolves on guard Gerald Green’s basket in the final seconds.

Tuesday night, red-hot center Kevin Love and the Timberwolves pounced on an opportunity to return the favor.

Love put up 30 or more points for the sixth straight game with 33 points and 13 rebounds and had seven of his points during a 15-2 Minnesota run late in the fourth quarter as the Timberwolves rallied to beat the Suns 110-101 on Tuesday.

Rookie forward Shabazz Muhammad added a career-high 20 points and forward Corey Brewer had 18 for the Timberwolves, who won for the fourth time in the last five games behind their star big man.

Love barely missed his second triple-double the last four days with nine assists. He had his first career triple-double with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a win at Utah on Saturday. Love now has 10 30-point performances in his last 12 games and had 11 double-doubles during that span.

“That was a big win for us. We kind of owed them after being up on them in the fourth quarter at our place and Green hitting that shot,” Love said. “It was in the back of our mind but we wanted to have some success in the second half especially that fourth quarter and we did. It was a different lineup we hadn’t really seen and we had success with it.”

With guard Kevin Martin and center Nikola Pekovic still sidelined with injuries, Muhammad played a career-high 24 minutes and hit eight of 13 shots from the field. He matched Love with 10 points in the final period.

“Coach (Rick Adelman) is always telling me to stay ready and wait for an opportunity and I think I had mine today,” said Muhammad, acquired from Utah in a draft-night trade. “I really took advantage of the post and the stuff I like to do.”

Forward Markeiff Morris had 24 points off the bench to lead the Suns, who lost back-to-back home games after winning three straight coming out of the All-Star break. Phoenix gave up 35 fourth-quarter points and blew a lead to the Houston Rockets on Sunday and surrendered 34 points in the fourth to the Timberwolves, committing four of their 19 turnovers in a critical two-minute span that decided the game.

The Suns outrebounded Minnesota 50-38 and had 18 offensive rebounds — eight of them by forward P.J. Tucker. But the Suns managed just nine second-chance points to 18 for the Timberwolves, who made the most of their extra opportunities.

“It just one loss, it’s just the way you lose it,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Giving up points like that in the fourth quarter, you’re not going to win games. These teams are good.”

Green added 19 points and guard Goran Dragic had 16 — although he missed part of the second half with a sprained ankle and fouled out of the game with 3:46 left.

“In hindsight, maybe I should have just left him off of it,” Hornacek said. “I think the momentum had swung prior to him fouling out anyway.”

The Suns led 91-86 after a 3-point play by guard Ish Smith with 7:57 left. But Minnesota outscored the Suns 24-6 down the stretch, and Love and Muhammad had help. Forward Dante Cunningham had 12 points and gave Minnesota the lead for good at 98-97 on a 21-foot jumper with 3:04 left.

“With five minutes to go in the game, we said the team that makes the stops is going to win the game,” Adelman said. “We were physical, we rebounded the ball well and we won the game.”

Love took 10 shots in the first quarter and collected 14 points and five rebounds as the Timberwolves led by as many as eight points. Cunningham added eight points, including a 19-footer with 4.9 seconds left to give Minnesota a 34-28 lead.

The Phoenix bench answered in the second period. Markieff and forward Marcus Morris had 11 points during a 15-8 run to open the half, with a Marcus Morris 3-pointer giving the Suns a 43-42 lead. Guard Archie Goodwin, who had played in just one game since Feb. 1, had 10 first-half points and teamed with Smith to help the Suns to 18 fast-break points in the half.

The Suns led 57-51 before a 3-pointer from Brewer and Love free throw cut the deficit to 57-55 at the half.

NOTES: Minnesota is still without G Kevin Martin (left thumb), C Nikola Pekovic (right ankle) and C Ronny Turiaf (right knee). All of them are on the trip and close to returning. … Neither team has been blown out often this season. Phoenix’s 22 losses have come by an average of 7.5 points and Minnesota’s 29 losses are by an average of 7.8 points, raking third and fourth best in the league. … G Goran Dragic put up a career-high scoring game twice in the last 12 games, including his 35-point effort in Sunday’s loss to Houston. He has averaged 23.7 points, 6.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals in those 12 games. … Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said the Suns are more than just an offensive team. “They are very physical defensively,” he said. “They grab, they hold, they do a good job of being physical with you.” … The Timberwolves are 9-0 this season when shooting at least 49 percent from the field, and the Suns are 12-0 when shooting 50 percent or better.

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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