MINNEAPOLIS — It was a prizefight kind of game. Contact, pushing, shoving, elbows. So tough that Wolves forward Kevin Love struggled to even run during the final two quarters after turning his right ankle and physical enough that injured Memphis point guard Mike Conley watched the final six minutes from the bench.
Memphis was the last team standing.
Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead Memphis to a 94-90 victory over a Minnesota Timberwolves team that had seized momentum in the third quarter.
Randolph scored on three consecutive possessions, the second time a 6-footer with 2:06 left that put the Grizzlies up for good on their way to their fifth straight win and their 10th in 11 games.
This after Love, hobbled, scored 18 of his 28 points in the third quarter. The Timberwolves (23-23) turned a 13-point deficit into a 67-66 lead on Love’s jumper in the closing seconds of the quarter — only to have Randolph return the favor.
“They made a run,” Randolph said. “They made a hell of a run. But we just withstood it, then went ahead and made plays.”
For Memphis (25-20), it truly was a team effort, with shooting guards Courtney Lee (16 points), Mike Miller and Tayshaun Prince (11 points) taking turns at the point with Conley (12 points) out with a turned ankle of his own.
Up one entering the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves — who also got 14 points from guard Kevin Martin and 12 each off the bench from guard J.J. Barea and forward Dante Cunningham — still led 83-80 after Love scored on a layup with 5:13 left. After that, it was all Grizzlies, who scored 11 of the next 13 points, with Randolph delivering six and Prince hitting a dagger 3-pointer from the corner that made it 91-85 with 59.6 seconds left.
“Just two different halves,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said of his team, which committed 12 turnovers while falling behind by 13 points at halftime. “For whatever reason, everyone was trying to make the play themselves. We didn’t have near the movement we needed to have until the second half.”
That is when the Timberwolves made it a game, with Love leading the way, scoring 10 straight Minnesota points during one stretch.
It appeared the Timberwolves had seized the momentum, and they brought it with them into the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 12 twice before the Grizzlies reasserted themselves, mainly in the form of Randolph, who led a powerful inside attack that accounted for 56 points in the paint.
“They were more in an attack mode in the third quarter and the shots started to go down for them,” Memphis coach David Joerger said. “I was proud of our guys that they took that punch, ’cause it was a pretty healthy punch.”
And punched back, with Randolph leading the way.
“He’s the man,” Joerger said. “He’s a go-to player. He’s a very proud man and he’s an extremely competitive man. He got down there and he got it done.”
Love said, “(Randolph) has one of the best touches in the league. He’s left-handed, which makes him a little unorthodox. But he’s been doing this his whole career. I think he saw me limping around out there and so they just threw the ball into him and let him go.”
So the Grizzlies remain the hot team. The Timberwolves entered the game having won two straight and five of six. Now they have to wonder if Love’s ankle will allow him to play Saturday night in Atlanta.
NOTES: It was a homecoming for Memphis coach Dave Joerger. Joerger grew up in Staples, Minn., not far from Minneapolis. It took him awhile to get back. A veteran of pro basketball’s minor leagues, Joerger got to the NBA as a Memphis assistant in 2007. Last summer, he was promoted to head coach after the Grizzlies and Lionel Hollins parted ways. “It’s certainly a dream come true to be able to coach here,” Joerger said. “I remember coming to games here, just the biggest deal in the world.” Joerger had between 40 and 50 family and friends in attendance, including his old high school coach. … Timberwolves F Kevin Love (27) and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (16) are first and fifth, respectively, in the league in games with 20 points and 10 rebounds. … It may be difficult with center Nikola Pekovic out with an injury, but Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said he has to make sure not to play Love too many minutes. Love played a season-high 43:26 on Wednesday. … Memphis G/F Tony Allen, who missed his 13th game with a wrist injury, took part in a shootaround and could return in a game or two.
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.