PHOENIX — With his infant son at a basketball game for the first time, Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic showed him that daddy does not need a lot of shots to score a lot of points.
The red-hot Dragic continued his offensive eruptions with a career-high 34 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, including 6-of-7 3-pointers and two during an 11-2 run midway through the fourth quarter as the Suns put away the Golden State Warriors 122-109 on Saturday night.
Guard Gerald Green added 25 points and forward P.J. Tucker had 16 points and a career-high 15 rebounds as the Suns snapped a two-game losing streak before a season-high crowd of 18,846 at US Airways Center and beat the Warriors for the second time in three meetings this season.
“(Three-month old) Mateo, my son, it was his first game and I was a little bit hyped,” Dragic said. “I tried to show him what his daddy can do. We had to win that game, especially after two losses.”
It has been almost 44 years since a Phoenix player has scored that many points on so few shots from the field. On St. Patrick’s Day in 1970, guard Gail Goodrich was 10 of 13 from the floor and added 16 of 18 free throws as the Suns beat the San Francisco Warriors.
Dragic added 10 assists in the game. Snubbed for the Western Conference All-Star team, Dragic now has 20 or more points in seven straight games.
With the win, the Suns (30-20) moved past the Warriors (30-21) into second place in the Pacific Division and sixth overall in the Western Conference.
“He got it going and he’s a guy like that,” Golden State coach Mark Jackson said. “I said before the game, he’s got a case to be made that he should be on the All-Star Game the way he’s playing. He’s making great decisions out there, whether it be scoring for himself or making plays. He made it tough on our defense.”
Dragic received a standing ovation from the crowd as he left the game after playing 40 minutes.
“He made some big ones there in the fourth quarter,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. “He played the whole second half, so I think he was in a daze. I kept asking him, ‘Do you want to come out?’ and he told me, ‘No, coach, I’ll stay.’
“He was fantastic tonight. Not only did he score, he got assists. That’s what we need him to do as a point guard.”
The Suns lost by 14 points at Houston on Wednesday, only the fourth time this season they have lost by double-digits. But they have rebounded to win the next game each time.
Guard Stephen Curry had 28 points and nine assist for the Warriors, who played without starting center Andre Bogut (shoulder) and forward David Lee (shoulder, hip).
“We are a no-excuse team,” Jackson said. “Obviously, we miss those guys, but we still have more than enough to win ballgames. Give them credit, they played extremely well.”
Forward Harrison Barnes added 23 points for the Warriors, who were 9-2 on the road since losing to the Suns in Phoenix on Dec. 15.
The Warriors pulled within two points at 102-100 on a tip-in by center Jermaine O’Neal with 7:55 left. But Dragic followed a Tucker hook shot with a 3-pointer, then followed a Tucker free throw with a 25-footer with 4:23 left.
Golden State never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“It wasn’t like we played bad defense on any of those shots,” Curry said of Dragic’s 3-pointers down the stretch. “They were dagger shots. A big-time player made big-time shots, so we’ll tip our cap to him.”
Dragic had 10 points in the first quarter and put the Suns up 16-8 with a step-back 17-footer with 6:31 to go. They still led 27-20 after a dunk by Green off a Dragic feed with 2:42 left, but the Warriors ended the quarter on an 8-2 run to cut the Phoenix lead to one.
With the score tied at 39, the Suns reeled off an 11-2 run with a 3-pointer by Dragic, boosting the Phoenix lead to 50-41 with 5:07 left.
But Curry, who had 10 points in the quarter, followed a 19-foot jumper with two 3-pointers, the second one cutting the Phoenix lead to 57-54 with 2:00 left. Green had Phoenix’s final six points of the quarter and his free throw with three-tenths of a second left gave the Suns a 63-59 lead at the half.
The Suns led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, but the Warriors chopped the lead to five at 95-90 on two free throws for guard Jordan Crawford with 1.6 seconds left.
NOTES: The Suns have more home wins against Golden State (86) than any other team. … Bogut and Lee combine to average 27.1 points and 20.4 rebounds per game. … Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said he did not sense any concern from his team after losing two straight, including the club’s fourth loss by double digits, in Houston on Wednesday. “All of a sudden everybody else thinks you’re going to win every game,” he said. “It’s the NBA. All these teams have a tendency to lose a few. We had a hard practice (Friday) and it was a good practice. I don’t think our guys think that much about it.” … Suns F Markieff Morris came in with 12 consecutive double-figure scoring efforts, the longest run of his career. He is a big reason the Suns rank fifth in bench scoring (37.7 ppg). Morris struggled on Saturday, going scoreless in 17 minutes.
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.