NEW ORLEANS — For Anthony Davis, other than winning a national championship at Kentucky, Friday was about as good as it gets.
Finding out just a few hours before tipoff against the Minnesota Timberwolves that he had been named to his first All-Star game as an injury replacement for Kobe Bryant, the New Orleans Pelicans’ second-year forward scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and showed a national TV audience his full athletic arsenal in a 98-91 comeback victory over the Timberwolves at the Smoothie King Center.
“It’s great, man,” Davis said after leading the Pelicans from a 71-61 third-quarter deficit. “I’ve got to enjoy it while I can. The thing is, we’ve got to keep pushing. You can’t get too happy. At the same time, you’ve got to enjoy it.”
In winning for the sixth time in eight games, the Pelicans (22-27) had plenty to celebrate. Guard Eric Gordon scored nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, reserve guard Anthony Morrow nailed three critical 3-pointers in the final 9:16 and point guard Brian Roberts, playing for the injured Jrue Holiday, canned a 20-footer from the right wing with 22.9 seconds left to put the game out of reach, 96-91.
Shooting 65 percent from the field (13 of 20), the Pelicans outscored the Timberwolves 37-20 in the fourth quarter, holding Minnesota to 33 percent shooting and forcing five turnovers.
“We gave up 37 points in the fourth quarter,” said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. “We came out in the fourth quarter and didn’t play well at either end. I just thought our decision-making offensively wasn’t very good. Everyone was trying to do it for themselves.”
Minnesota (24-25) got a game-high 26 points from forward Kevin Love, including 14 at the foul line, but the Timberwolves could not survive five fourth-quarter turnovers. Love also finished with 18 rebounds, but he was just 1 of 5 in the final quarter and missed all three of his long-range jumpers.
Minnesota led 75-66 on a driving layup by guard J.J. Barea with 10:01 left, prompting Williams to call a timeout. New Orleans scored the next seven points, including a 3-pointer by Morrow, to cut the deficit to 75-73, and that was the beginning of a 32-16 run to end the game.
In the last four games, Morrow, a perimeter shooter who struggled earlier in the season, has made 8 of 9 from 3-point range.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who can penetrate and are willing passers,” Morrow said. “Guys are stepping up when they get the opportunity to play.”
Morrow said the Pelicans were especially pumped up playing a rare game on national television and wanted to show the rest of the league how Davis, their franchise player, was deserving of All-Star recognition.
“I’m so proud of that kid,” Morrow said of Davis, who recorded his 23rd double-double of the season. “He’s like my little brother. He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever seen, and he’s going to represent all of us. And he’s very humble. If there’s anybody who deserves it, it’s him.”,” said Pelicans coach Monty Williams. “To be selected for the All-Star game in the afternoon and to play like that on national TV and in front of the world, that’s pretty cool. It’s a lot for a 20-year-old. He’s just starting to scratch the surface on what he can do. That’s just him. I’d like to take credit for all that.”
Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer tried to stop the New Orleans run with a dunk off a full-court feed from Love, but Morrow added another 3-pointer from the top of the key and Gordon put New Orleans on top 78-77 with a two-handed dunk after leaving Brewer in the dust with a crossover baseline move.
The Timberwolves dominated at the free throw line through three quarters, hitting eight foul shots during a 10-0 run that padded their lead to 71-59. Entering the fourth quarter, Minnesota had outscored the Pelicans 24-6 at the line and Love was 9 of 10.
NOTES: Pelicans second-year F Anthony Davis received thrilling news on Friday when new NBA commissioner Adam Silver named him as an injury replacement for Lakers G Kobe Bryant on the Western Conference All-Star team. The game will played next Sunday in New Orleans. Davis is averaging 20.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. “It’s a great opportunity for me,” Davis said. “I’m excited playing in the game. I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say. I thought he was joking around, but it’s fun and I’m glad I got picked.” … New Orleans coach Monty Williams said Davis deserved the nod. “After having to tell him the first time that he didn’t make it, I can’t express how happy I am for him,” Williams said. “He was speechless and laughing — and he’s 20.” … Minnesota coach Rick Adelman also said Davis deserved the spot. “He’s the leading shot blocker in the league,” Adelman said.
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.