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Bulls bigs dominate Nets

The Sports Xchange



CHICAGO — There was a strange clash of matchups at the start of this game. The Brooklyn Nets stuck with a three-guard lineup against the active big men of the Chicago Bulls.

By the end of the night, Chicago produced a 45-27 rebounding advantage and pulled away late to post a 92-76 victory over the Nets on Thursday night at the United Center.

Bulls forward Taj Gibson, a Brooklyn native, returned to a bench role Thursday after starting the previous three games in place of forward Carlos Boozer. Gibson led the Bulls with 16 points, while Boozer had a nice return from a left calf strain, producing 15 points and 10 rebounds. Center Joakim Noah, meanwhile, had 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

“I just play off Joakim, our point center, and go from there,” Boozer said. “He’s just a great passer, man. When we get the ball to Jo, our offense runs a lot smoother.”

Forward Mike Dunleavy and guard Jimmy Butler added 14 points each for the Bulls, who head into the All-Star break on a three-game winning streak.

The Bulls (27-25) are two games over .500 for the first time since they were 6-4 in November.

“The rebounding was the difference tonight,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “The depth up front, we really have three starters and they all have to sacrifice for the team and I think that’s one of our strengths.”

Both two teams are hovering near .500, but at the start of the day, the Nets had the best record in the Eastern Conference since Jan. 1, 14-5, while the Bulls were third at 14-7. The Indiana Pacers ranked second during that timeframe at 15-6.

Brooklyn (24-27) trailed by 12 points late in the third quarter before making a run.

A 3-pointer by forward Andrei Kirilenko brought the Nets within 75-72 with 6:29 remaining in the game. Chicago guard D.J. Augustin answered with a 3-pointer to spark a 9-0 run.

While Brooklyn came up empty on its next four possessions, the Bulls extended their lead. Noah hit a running hook shot, then Gibson’s corner jumper put Chicago ahead 84-72 with 3:19 remaining.

Forward Paul Pierce led the Nets with 15 points, while guard Deron Williams added 13 points and guard Joe Johnson scored 11.

“We’ve run into bigger teams like this and we have beaten some bigger teams,” Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said. “We just need to learn to be consistent, especially rebounding the ball.”

Brooklyn beat the Charlotte Bobcats at home Wednesday, then beat a snowstorm out of town. The Nets are just 2-10 in the second leg of back-to-back games this season, 0-6 when that second game is on the road.

The Bulls and Nets met in the first round of the playoffs last season, and even though there are plenty of new faces on both sides, things got testy in the third quarter.

First, Butler and Johnson got into a mild skirmish, and both players were given technical fouls. The argument started when Johnson was called for an offensive foul against Butler.

“I don’t say too much, so if I’m mad you must have really done something to get underneath my skin,” Butler said. “He poked me in the head, then backed backwards. I don’t play to fight, but come on man, just play basketball.”

A few minutes after the Butler-Johnson altercation, Pierce caught Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich with an elbow and was called for an offensive foul. Pierce disagreed with the call and was given a technical for arguing.

“Yes, this was a tough game for us,” Pierce said. “We fought hard, but our offense often dictates our defense. We just need to play better defense when Kevin (Garnett) comes out of the game.”

The Bulls opened a 33-19 lead early in the second quarter, then scored just six points over the next four minutes. Brooklyn closed the gap to six points in the second quarter, then pulled within 56-53 with 7:59 left in the third on two Pierce free throws.

Chicago answered with a 6-0 run, going inside for baskets from Noah and Boozer, and built the advantage back to 69-61 heading into the fourth quarter.

NOTES: Chicago F Carlos Boozer returned to the lineup Thursday after missing three games with a left calf strain. Boozer remained in the starting lineup, even though F Taj Gibson played well while starting in Boozer’s place. “For us to achieve what we want to achieve, Carlos has to play. He’s got a big role on this team,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. … Brooklyn G Marquis Teague returned to Chicago for the first time since being traded from the Bulls to the Nets for F Toko Shengelia on Jan. 21. Teague did not play Thursday. .. Thibodeau said he expects G Derrick Rose to miss the entire season recovering from right knee surgery, even though Rose has left the door open for a return. … Shengelia and Brooklyn F Reggie Evans were not with their respective teams due to personal reasons.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.


NBA News Wire

Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

The Sports Xchange



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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NBA News Wire

Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

The Sports Xchange



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 News Wire

NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

The Sports Xchange



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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