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Bulls snap losing streak, top depleted Spurs

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SAN ANTONIO — The Chicago Bulls played a team facing similar circumstances as of late, with the San Antonio Spurs reeling from a string of injuries on Wednesday.

Regardless of the situation, the Bulls got a must needed win.

Guard Jimmy Butler scored 19 points, while forward Carlos Boozer had 16 points and 12 rebounds as Chicago snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating San Antonio 96-86 on Wednesday night.

“It was huge,” Butler said of the Bulls win. “It’s big to come in here and get a win on the road. We want to win as many games as possible, but it’s a great way to start off the road trip.”

All starters scored in double figures for the Bulls (23-22), who were playing the first game of a six-game road trip. Guard D.J. Augustin and forward Taj Gibson both had 15 points and forward Mike Dunleavy scored 10.

The Bulls, who have had to deal with a rash of injuries, saw the return of forward Joakim Noah and guard Kirk Hinrich. Noah had missed the last game with an illness and Hinrich had been out four games with a hamstring injury. Noah had 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Hinrich scored 11 points.

“Thought Jimmy (Butler) was terrific with his defense and then turned that defense into offense,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We also had great production from Carlos (Boozer) and Taj (Gibson). Joakim (Noah) was a monster. D.J. (Augustin) and Kirk (Hinrich) gave us great production at the point tonight. A lot of guys played well.”

Guard Tony Parker led San Antonio (33-13) with 20 points as the Spurs’ losing streak reached three games.

Forward Tim Duncan added 17 points and 12 rebounds, while guard Patty Mills scored 12 points and guard Marco Belinelli had 11.

San Antonio needed more scoring but was short on bodies. The Spurs learned earlier Wednesday that guard Manu Ginobili will be sidelined 3-4 weeks with a strained left hamstring. He joins guard Danny Green (fractured left finger), center Tiago Splitter (sprained right shoulder) and forward Kawhi Leonard (fracture right finger) on the bench.

The depleted Spurs rolled out a starting lineup that included forward Othyus Jeffers, who was signed to a 10-day contract on Jan. 24, and guard Nando De Colo.

“We’re not going to make excuses,” Parker said on the Spurs injuries. “Everybody gets injuries and we just have to figure it out. Obviously, four guys is a lot, but we have to fight through it. It happens to every team during the season. We’ll find solutions. We have two days.”

Chicago pressured San Antonio early, finishing the first quarter with a 10-2 run and a 21-15 lead. The Spurs then blasted off with their own 18-5 run to start the second period and built an eight-point lead, their largest of the game.

Chicago ended the quarter with 12 straight points and went into the locker room up 40-36, holding San Antonio to its fewest points in the first half this season. Boozer had 10 points and nine rebounds to lead the Bulls.

The Spurs went up on Chicago again when Mills connected on a 3-pointer with 5:54 left in the third. That made it 51-49, but it was the last time San Antonio would lead.

The Bulls continued to force the short-handed Spurs into turnovers, getting 16 points on 19 turnovers. And they pounded the ball inside, outscoring San Antonio 52-26 in the paint.

“At various points throughout the game, we’re right where we want to be,” Duncan said. “Then we go through lulls where we defensively and offensively just can’t get it done. So it’s frustrating, but we’re working through it. We have who we have, so we’re going to play with them.”

NOTES: G Manu Ginobili is the fourth Spurs player to be sidelined this month. Ginobili suffered a strained left hamstring Tuesday in the third quarter of a loss to the Houston Rockets. He is expected be miss three-to-four weeks. … The Chicago Bulls have been an up-and-down team on both sides of the ball. They are second in the league in defense, allowing 92.9 points per game and are second from the bottom offensively at 92.8 ppg. … Spurs G Marco Belinelli confirmed that he will be participating in the 3-Point Shootout at the NBA All-Star Weekend in February. Belinelli is third in the league in 3-point shooting, averaging 46.9 percent. … Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau served as an assistant coach with San Antonio from 1992-94.

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

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NBA News Wire

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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NBA News Wire

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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