PHOENIX — Two nights after taking down the Indiana Pacers and clicking on all cylinders, the Phoenix Suns had very little left in the tank for the opportunistic Washington Wizards.
Forward Trevor Ariza scored 23 points and guard Bradley Beal had nine points in the fourth quarter, including two late baskets, as the Wizards held Phoenix to 38 points in the second half and won 101-95 on Friday night.
Guard John Wall had 18 points and 12 assists and forward Nene added 18 points as the Wizards forced 21 turnovers — seven in the third quarter — and pulled out a game that featured 19 lead changes with neither team ahead by more than eight points.
The Wizards forced the Suns, who averaged an NBA-low 11 turnovers per game in January, to 21 and turned them into 24 points on the other end.
Washington also grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and had a 20-14 edge in fast-break points against Phoenix, which led the NBA in that category.
The Suns, who led 57-51 at the half, have lost 12 of the 15 games in which they failed to reach 100 points.
“When we press up defensively and get stops, it ignites our offense and it gets me going,” Ariza said. “Beal came off the bench cold and made big shots that definitely helped us.”
The Wizards reached .500 or the fifth time this season. They will try to get above it for the first time since they were 2-1 against the Jazz on Saturday in Utah. Washington has won eight of its last 10 road games.
The Suns rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 93 on a hook shot by center Miles Plumlee with 2:43 left. Forward P.J. Tucker missed two free throws that would have put Phoenix up with 2:17 left and Beal nailed a 3-pointer off a Wall feed with 2:03 to go to put the Wizards ahead for good.
“Big-time player,” Wall said of Beal. “It’s great when you get going and different guys can make baskets down the stretch. We played a two-man game and ran Beal and Nene off screens. Beal made a 3 and a big pull-up for us.”
The Suns got back to 97-95 on a Plumlee dunk with 41.9 seconds left, but Beal answered with a 15-foot pull-up jumper with 26.9 seconds left and finished the game with a driving dunk with 8.9 seconds left.
“It was a bunch of things. We didn’t play well at all,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s probably been six or seven games since we had a big turnover night like that, and then they get 19 offensive rebounds and all that stuff adds up. It was a tough night.”
Suns guard Goran Dragic had 19 points and 11 assists and forward Channing Frye added 16 points — 12 in the first half of the first quarter.
The Suns hit 11 of 16 3-pointers on Wednesday night against the Pacers — their best shooting percentage night behind the arc in more than five years. But the Suns missed 15 of 22 3-pointers against the Wizards and 11 of 12 in the second half.
“I feel bad because we let this game get away,” Dragic said. “We had a lot of turnovers that they scored off of, and it was always a fast break. It was a tight game at the end and when Tuck missed two free throws and they came back with that 3-pointer, we didn’t come back.”
NOTES: The Suns made 11 of 16 3-pointers in their 124-100 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. Their 68.8 shooting percentage behind the arc was the best in a game since Phoenix went 15 of 21 (71.4 percent) in a win over Seattle in 2008. … Wizards C Marcin Gortat averaged 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 189 games during his three seasons with the Suns. His 54.5 shooting percentage from the field was fifth in team history for players who were in at least 150 games. … The Wizards evened the 116-game series at 58-58. … The up-tempo Suns came in averaging 11.5 turnovers in 11 January games, the best in the NBA. They are forcing 16.0 turnovers during that span and averaging 19.3 points off the turnovers. … The Wizards came in 7-2 in their last nine road games. Suns coach Jeff Hornacek on the Wizards: “They’ll go to their fourth or fifth option, which comes late in the shot clock. That when we can’t relax, we have to play all 24 seconds of defense.”
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.