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Warriors late run seals win vs. Grizzlies

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Facing one of the toughest frontcourt tandems in the league without their two top big men, the Golden State Warriors had a good excuse to suffer another in a long line of losses to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.

But thanks to point guard Stephen Curry, the club that refers to itself as a “no-excuse team” didn’t have to make any.

Curry capped a 33-point night with two hoops, including a 3-pointer, in a 14-0 run to close the contest as the Warriors rallied from seven down to stun the Grizzlies 100-93 in a game with major Western Conference playoff implications.

When a loss would have lifted the Grizzlies into a tie in the standings with the Warriors, the win by Golden State (45-27) instead vaulted it two games ahead of Memphis (43-29) with just 10 to play in the race for the sixth playoff spot in the West.

It also squared the teams’ season series — a potential first playoff-position tie-breaker — at 2-2.

“Huge win,” stressed Curry, who topped 30 points for the 18th time this season. “These are the games we have to have to close out the season.”

After being held to seven points in the first eight-plus minutes of the fourth quarter as they watched a three-point lead turn into a 93-86 deficit, the Warriors got a driving hoop from shooting guard Klay Thompson with 3:16 to go to trigger the difference-making run.

Backup power forward Draymond Green made it a two-point game with a 3-pointer on Golden State’s next possession, and the Warriors tied the score 93-all on two free throws by backup center Jermaine O’Neal with 2:04 left.

Then Curry took over. First he buried a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1:21 to play for a lead the Warriors never relinquished before converting a driving layup that made it a five-point game with 30.9 seconds left.

“We’re never quitting,” Curry assured. “We have the weapons to take a heavy punch. Obviously, you never want to be down in the fourth quarter. But we can fight back.”

Thompson completed the run, and the night’s scoring, with two free throws with 5.6 seconds left.

The Grizzlies, who shot 50.6 percent from the field, missed their last six shots and went scoreless in the final 4:02.

“I don’t know if it slipped away,” observed Grizzlies coach David Joerger. “The kid (Curry) was the best player on the floor. He’s tremendous.”

Curry had eight assists to complement his 33 points on a night when he made five of eight from beyond the 3-point arc. Green (12 points) added two 3’s as Golden State outscored Memphis 27-6 on 3-pointers.

Marreese Speights, starting at power forward in place of injured David Lee, contributed 15 points and eight rebounds to the win. The Warriors outrebounded the Grizzlies 43-33 despite playing without Lee all night and center Andrew Bogut for the final 44 minutes after the veteran big man suffered a pelvic contusion.

“We had tailor-made excuses,” assured Warriors coach Mark Jackson. “This is a big-time win. They understand the light are bright and they embrace it.”

Power forward Zach Randolph had 21 points for Memphis, which had won its five previous trips to Oakland, including an 88-81 overtime affair earlier in the season.

Point guard Mike Conley added 20 points and center Marc Gasol had 17 for the Grizzlies.

“It is really disappointing,” Randolph insisted. “We were up five with just a few minutes left in the game and we couldn’t execute or get stops. It was very frustrating.”

The Warriors caught fire after they could not buy a hoop earlier in the fourth quarter.

Down 79-76 entering the final period, Memphis used a stingy defense and four consecutive hoops by Conley to build a 93-86 lead with 4:02 to play. The Warriors had only three field goals in more than eight minutes to begin the quarter.

But the game then swung when Conley missed an open 3 that could have extended the margin to 10 with 3:23 to play.

Instead, the Warriors dominated the rest of the game, holding the Grizzlies scoreless to enable the come-from-behind win.

“It’s nothing new to us,” Jackson said of the comeback. “This is who this team is.”

Bogut’s injury occurred four minutes into the game when Gasol crashed leg-first into the veteran’s midsection, sending the Warriors center to the locker room for the rest of the night with what was labeled a pelvic contusion.

Bogut is scheduled for an MRI on Saturday.

NOTES: The victory gave the Warriors back-to-back 45-win seasons for the first time since 1975-76 and ’76-77. … Small forward Andre Iguodala returned from a three-game absence due to right-knee tendinitis to contribute five points and five rebounds to the Golden State win. … The Warriors hadn’t beaten Memphis in Oakland since Nov. 3, 2010. … The Grizzlies’ franchise record for consecutive wins at a road site is six. They currently have six-game winning streaks at Minnesota and Detroit. … The loss was the Grizzlies’ first of the season in the state of California after five consecutive wins.

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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