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Warriors’ surprising defense stymies Blazers

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry says there is nothing worse than grabbing the box score after a game and seeing he scored 38 points … in a loss.

Thus, it wasn’t his impressive point total that caught the guard’s eye after the Warriors’ 103-88 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.

It was the visitors’ season low for points that made the night special for Curry and his Golden State teammates.

“We can score the ball,” said Curry, noting that the Warriors totaled 116, 120 and 121 in three recent losses. “It (stinks) to come in the locker room and on the box score everybody had a great night and we lost the ballgame.

“When we do what we did tonight, it makes what we can do offensively even more special.”

After surrendering 121 or more points in three of their previous five games and then watching the Trail Blazers put up 55 in the first half, the Warriors outscored Portland 37-10 over a 15-minute, 54-second stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters to take command and snap a two-game losing streak.

“Coach (Mark) Jackson challenged each and every one of us to find that next gear, especially on the defensive end,” said Curry, who was playing his 300th career NBA game. “We did what we needed to do.”

The Trail Blazers, who were playing the second half of a back-to-back after beating the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night, entered the game as the league’s highest scoring team at 109.5 points per game. They were held under 100 points just three times in their previous 31 contests, and they failed to score 90 for the first time all season.

“Rough game,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Golden State did a nice job with their defense, but it’s just one of those nights where we just didn’t have enough at the offensive end.”

After trailing by as many as seven in the first half and 55-54 at halftime, the Warriors tightened the defensive screws in the third quarter, limiting the Trail Blazers to 12 points on 3-for-20 shooting.

Golden State (27-18) also forced seven Portland turnovers in the quarter, during which the Warriors outscored the visitors 22-12 to open a 76-67 advantage.

The defensive dominance didn’t end there. Power forward David Lee had two baskets as Golden State opened the fourth period on a 15-2 run that broke the game open at 91-69 with 7:18 to play.

“Just what the doctor ordered,” Jackson said. “Tonight the defense was sharp and locked in. We battled. We competed. We made multiple-effort plays, and we continued it all night.”

The Trail Blazers wound up shooting a season-low 33.7 percent (28 of 83), including just 22.9 percent (eight of 35) in the second half.

“It was just one of those nights where I couldn’t get going and I didn’t find a rhythm,” said Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who suffered through a 2-for-14 game. “I just missed shots. I got to my spots and I missed shots.”

Curry led the Warriors with 38 points, hitting 13 of 23 shots overall and five of eight 3-point attempts.

Lee (17 points, 12 rebounds) and forward Andre Iguodala (12 points, 10 rebounds) backed Curry with double-doubles, and shooting guard Klay Thompson added 17 points.

Shooting guard Wesley Matthews scored 21 points to lead Portland (33-12).

Trail Blazers stars Damian Lillard and Aldridge both struggled big-time. Lillard missed 11 of his 16 shots on a 16-point night, while Aldridge managed a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double despite his rough shooting.

Aldridge did extend his streak of double-figure scoring to 67 games, but he didn’t collect his 10th point until making a free throw with 4:04 to go. He poured in 30 points in a win over the Warriors earlier this season.

“The last time here, he was only 7-for-21, but he got offensive rebounds and he made a bunch of free throws,” Lee recalled. “I just tried to work every possession and tried my best to keep him off the boards tonight.”

Playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Trail Blazers fought to the end despite trailing by 22 in the fourth quarter. They got within 94-85 on a pair of free throws by Matthews with 2:56 to play, but Curry capped his big night with a jumper and a 3-pointer to provide a cushion the Warriors embraced the rest of the way.

NOTES: Despite having lost 113-101 in Oakland on Nov. 23, the Warriors now own 15 wins in their past 18 meetings with the Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena. … Trail Blazers All-Star PF LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 21 rebounds in each of his previous two games against the Warriors, including the Nov. 23 contest. … Aldridge has a .350 career shooting percentage (57 of 163) in 11 games at Oracle Arena. … The Trail Blazers shot worse than 40 percent for the first time this season. … The 15-point margin of defeat matched Portland’s largest of the season, equaling a 116-101 loss to the Houston Rockets on Nov. 5. … The Trail Blazers started the lineup of PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, Aldridge and C Robin Lopez for the 45th consecutive time. They are the only team in the league that has used the same starting lineup in every game.

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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