MIAMI — It was forward Chris Bosh to the rescue.
With guard Dwyane Wade out with knee soreness for the fourth straight game and forward LeBron James not quite as efficient as usual, Bosh — the most-criticized member of the Miami Heat’s Big Three — had a huge night.
Bosh made 15 of 22 shots, including eight straight in the second half, to lead the Heat to a 109-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
As a team, the Heat shot 71.4 percent in the fourth quarter, holding off the Lakers, who pulled to within four points with 2:41 remaining in the game. Bosh and James combined to score the Heat’s final eight points.
The Heat (31-12) now trail the Indiana Pacers by three games in the battle for the top record in the Eastern Conference.
For Bosh, it was his highest-scoring game since he had 37 on Dec. 28. During that span, he had two games in which he scored less than 10 points, and it is that inconsistency that frustrates some Heat fans — although not coach Erik Spoelstra.
“We’re not a your-turn play-call team,” Spoelstra said. “Chris has been critical to our execution since we put this team together because he has the great understanding of balance of when to be aggressive and when to facilitate.
“He has a great temperament. It’s not about one game if he only gets 10 points that he complains he didn’t get his touches. He’s not about that.”
Lakers guard Nick Young, who scored nine points off the bench, said it was a vintage performance.
“It seemed like the old Bosh,” Young said. “We had hands up, but he was making tough shots.”
James wasn’t bad, either, making 9 of 15 shots for 27 points while adding 13 rebounds and six assists. But James also had a game-high five turnovers and was only 7 of 13 from the foul line.
As a team, the Heat made just 11 of 23 free throws and turned the ball over 18 times.
That, to some extent, negated the Heat’s routinely brilliant shooting — 57.7 percent — and a better-than-normal rebounding effort in which Miami beat the Lakers on the boards 48-35.
“A win in this league is hard to come by,” James said. “Nick Young made a tough shot that rattled around the rim. Jodie Meeks made a pull-up at the end of the shot clock. We can live with those shots.
“We played hard and won the game, and that’s all that matters.”
The Lakers (16-27), who lost 14 of their past 17 games, were led by center Pau Gasol, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and guard Jodie Meeks, who added 22 points, including four 3-pointers. Guard Kendall Marshall added 11 assists and just three turnovers.
Wade wasn’t the only star who missed the game. The Lakers were again without guards Kobe Bryant, who has been out since Dec. 17 due to left-knee surgery; and Steve Nash, who has a foot injury and has been unable to play since Nov. 10.
James, Wade and Bryant were named All-Star starters on Thursday.
Also Thursday, James, a three-time Olympian, was named to the pool of 28 players from which the 2016 USA Olympic team will be chosen. No other Heat or Lakers players were on the list, including two-time Olympian Wade, 2008 Olympic Bosh or two-time Olympian Bryant.
The Heat on Thursday improved their record without Wade to 7-6.
Miami, which shot 50 percent or better in every quarter, never trailed. They led 30-27 after the first quarter and 57-46 at halftime. Of their 25 first-half field goals, 17 were layups or dunks.
The Heat led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter and took an 85-75 advantage in the fourth.
Los Angeles challenged in the fourth quarter but couldn’t stop the Heat, especially Bosh and James.
“We hit some big shots down the stretch, but they hit some bigger shots,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We will find a way to score. That’s not our problem. Our problem is defense.”
NOTES: Four Heat players — SG Dwyane Wade and F LeBron James, F Shane Battier and F James Jones — were at the University of Miami on Wednesday night when Duke defeated the Hurricanes. Battier is a former Duke player and Jones went to Miami. … Lakers SG Kobe Bryant and F Ryan Kelly, who played for Duke last season, were also at the game. … Lakers PG Steve Blake, who is out two more weeks with an elbow injury, played his high school ball locally at Miami High, where he won a 1998 state title with Heat F Udonis Haslem. … Lakers PG Jordan Farmar (hamstring) is also out for two more weeks. … The Lakers end their seven-game road trip with stops on Friday at Orlando and on Sunday against the New York Knicks. … The Heat play the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday and end their four-game homestand on Wednesday 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.