LOS ANGELES — A third-quarter spark allowed the Los Angeles Clippers to coast past the Utah Jazz.
Guard Jamal Crawford scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half and forward Blake Griffin added 25 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers rolled to a 102-87 victory over the Jazz on Saturday night before an announced crowd of 19,060 at Staples Center.
The Pacific Division-leading Clippers (34-16) won for the fifth time in their last six games. Utah (16-31) lost for the second time in as many nights and dropped its fourth in the past six outings. The Jazz fell to the Golden State Warriors 95-90 on Friday night at Utah.
Defense allowed the Clippers to break up a close contest and pull away in the second half.
“We got some stops. We had good ball pressure defensively, forced them to take some tough shots, got into the open court and hit shots,” said Griffin, who scored 14 of his points in the first half. “When everybody is on the same page, like we were there in the third quarter, we’re a much better team.”
Center DeAndre Jordan grabbed 14 rebounds, blocked three shots and chipped in 10 points for the Clippers. Los Angeles point guard Darren Collison had 11 points and six assists.
“I thought in the first half we didn’t feel like we shot the ball well, but we were shooting like 50 percent,” Jordan said. “But our defense kept the game close. The second half we got our legs back and we got a better feel for the game.”
Center Enes Kanter paced the Jazz with 23 points and 14 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. Forward Richard Jefferson finished with 19 points and guard Gordon Hayward had 15 despite 3-of-13 shooting from the floor.
The Jazz played without forward Derrick Favors, who missed his second straight game with an inflamed right hip. They also played without forward Jeremy Evans, who did not make the trip after suffering a hard fall in Friday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. Without Favors and Evans, the Clippers pounded Utah inside for a 54-30 advantage on points in the paint.
“Derrick’s a real protector. He’s a shot-blocker for us,” Corbin said. “He’s a physical specimen also, so he can take the banging and bumping inside and get the big guys off and finish with blocked shots. We need all our pieces. When we have a guy out, we need to step up.”
Los Angeles stepped up with a third-quarter spurt as it improved to 20-3 at home. The Clippers also stretched their winning streak over Utah to eight in a row.
“Good win for us,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought it was a hard game. You could see it early. We just couldn’t get going, and I thought our defense tonight was terrific and kept us in the first half. The second half I thought it won it for us.”
The lead changed hands nine times in a sluggish first half as the two clubs creeped to the break tied at 42. Utah managed to shoot just 41 percent from the floor (16 of 39) compared with 51.5 percent (17 of 33) for the Clippers, but the Jazz converted six 3-pointers and Los Angeles failed to hit any. The Clippers also missed nine of their 17 free throws.
Overall, the Clippers shot 51.4 percent from the field (38 of 74) to 35.8 percent (29 of 81) for the Jazz.
Utah led 58-55 midway through the third quarter when the Clippers went on 16-2 run after a dunk by Jordan gave them a 71-60 lead with 1:22 left. Two field goals by Kanter in the final seven minutes of the quarter were the only baskets for the Jazz as the Clippers took a 76-65 heading into the fourth quarter.
NOTES: Coach Doc Rivers is concerned about fatigue hindering the Clippers’ play. The club played eight of nine games on the road and 10 overall in 15 days entering Saturday. The Clippers visit the Denver Nuggets on Monday before hosting the Miami Heat on Wednesday. … The Jazz host the Toronto Raptors on Monday. … This was the second of three meetings between the two clubs. The Clippers won the initial encounter 98-90 at Staples on Dec. 28 when F Blake Griffin went for 40 points and 10 rebounds. Los Angeles visits Utah on March 14.
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.