BOSTON — San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan put on a big man clinic in the second half at TD Garden on Wednesday night, scoring 23 of his 25 points in the second half, including eight straight for his team in the fourth quarter.
Duncan’s effort was enough to lead the banged-up Spurs to a 104-92 victory over the Boston Celtics in the final game for each team before the All-Star break.
“He had a tough first half but in the second half he was a monster,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said.
The Spurs, winning for the fourth time in six games on this road trip, were without point guard Tony Parker (rested), injured guard Manu Ginobili and forward Tiago Splitter.
Duncan was quiet in the first half, scoring two points and grabbing six rebounds, but then dominated. He finished with nine rebounds and led the way in the fourth quarter, when San Antonio (38-15) broke the game open with a 13-1 run.
“I think a lot of it had to do with Duncan,” Popovich said when asked about the team’s play in the fourth. “More than anything, Tim really led the way for us, as he has for 16, 17 years.”
And also he always has, Duncan was in a shrugging-it-off mood after the game.
“I just made a shot, man, there wasn’t anything different about it,” he said of the second-half turnaround. “I had the same shots in the first half but just couldn’t get them to fall. I started out in the second half the same way, finally got some of them to fall. They kept coming to me. I just put it in the hole more than anything. It wasn’t anything special, anything I changed.”
Duncan will be 38 in April.
“He changed,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens.”He went back to being really aggressive on the blocks … he wasn’t going to be denied. And we don’t have great matchups for him. There’s not many great matchups for him when he’s going like that, in the NBA or the world.”
Popovich said he was prepared to go longer with Duncan, who is often rested, as Parker was Wednesday. With the All-Star break coming up, the coach knew the future Hall of Famer had time to rest.
“It is a very long season and we’re very banged up,” Duncan said.
Center/forward Marcus Diaw had 18 points and four assists, guard Marco Belinelli had 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and guard Patty Mills came off the bench with 16 points in 20 minutes. Guard Cory Joseph, starting for Parker, had 11 points, five assists and four rebounds.
The Celtics got 16 points from point guard Rajon Rondo, while forward Kris Humphries came off the bench with 15 points and six rebounds and rookie forward Kelly Olynyk, also coming off the bench, had 15 points and 10 boards, his second straight double-double. Six Celtics finished in double figures.
Boston forward Jared Sullinger, who had six straight double-doubles entering the game, played sparingly after the midway point of the third quarter because of illness and finished with four points and seven rebounds.
Parker, Ginobili and Splitter are averaging a combined 37.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and 11.8 assists per game.
The Celtics (19-35) can use this rest, with Sullinger and Olynyk playing in the Rising Stars Challenge in New Orleans.
“I want them to get rest,” said Stevens. “If they’re dinged up, I want them to get healthy.”
NOTES: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he sent G Tony Parker home, but that Parker will be at the All-Star Game this weekend. “He wasn’t himself, mentally or physically,” said the coach, who was also without G Manu Ginoboli (hamstring) and C Tiago Splitter (calf contusion). Parker played less than 21 minutes at Detroit Monday night and had 11 points, three assists and one turnover. … The Spurs signed G Shannon Brown to a second 10-day contract. … The Celtics were again missing G Avery Bradley, out again (ankle) and C Vitor Faverani (knee), but F Brandon Bass played despite a corneal abrasion suffered Monday night. He had 12 points. … The Celtics come out of the break with a western trip, visiting Phoenix next Wednesday. Tuesday night, the Spurs resume their nine-game trip with a game in Los Angeles against the Clippers.
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.