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Hawks take 3-2 series lead over Pacers

The Sports Xchange

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Atlanta Hawks did not just put on a 3-point shooting exhibition Monday night. It was a clinic.

Second-year pro Mike Scott, a forward from Virginia, hit a playoff-career-high five 3-pointers and guard Kyle Korver also hit five as the Hawks defeated Indiana 107-97 to bring the top-seeded Pacers to the brink of elimination in Game 5 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series.

The Hawks hit 15-of-27 3-pointers, beating the franchise playoff record for 3-pointers by three. Nine of them came in the second quarter when Atlanta outscored Indiana 41-19, and left the Pacers facing a shower of boos from their home fans. They also face elimination by the No. 8-seeded Hawks if the Pacers do not win the next two games.

“We took some tough shots and made some tough shots,” said Scott, who scored 17 points, a career playoff high. “It gives you confidence when they’re going in.”

Scott did not miss a shot in the second quarter, hitting six in a row and all five of his 3- pointers. His previous playoff bests were 12 points and one 3-pointer.

“If you could explain it, you would bottle it up,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “All coaches wonder. Obviously, I think it helps when you see the ball go in the basket on your first shot. You develop a little bit of confidence. He’s somebody that we have a lot of trust in, a lot of confidence in.”

The Hawks lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, and they can clinch the series by winning Game 6 on Thursday night at Phillips Arena in Atlanta.

“We’ve got to go down and steal one,” said Pacers forward Paul George, who scored a game-high 26 points and had a game-high 12 rebounds. “And win two games in a row.”

If the Pacers win Thursday, the deciding seventh game would be played Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Forward Shelvin Mack led Atlanta with 20 points. Forward Paul Millsap scored 18. Scott came off the bench to score 17. Korver added 16.

Mack and Scott led a 45-point performance by Atlanta’s bench. Five Indiana players off the bench combined for 23 points.

“I thought in the second quarter we played with great pace,” Mack said. “We had fresh legs.”

Indiana had never given up 15 3-pointers in the regular season or playoffs.

“We had a couple of breakdowns in coverage, but we didn’t have nine of them,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said.

“We’re fighting for our lives,” Pacers forward David West said. “It’s just really disappointing.”

West and starting guards Lance Stephenson and George Hill each added 16 points.

Atlanta is trying to become the first No. 8 seed to win a playoff series since the Philadelphia 76ers knocked out the Chicago Bulls in 2012.

The Pacers will attempt to avoid a first-round knockout for the first time since 2011, when the Chicago Bulls eliminated them in five games

Down by one point after the first quarter, the Hawks put the game away with a 25-4 run that was fueled by a 3-point shooting clinic. The Hawks hit eight 3-pointers in the second quarter alone. They hit 13-of-16 shots in the quarter.

The Hawks led by 21 points at halftime, expanded the lead to 30 midway through the third quarter and were never seriously threatened thereafter.

Indiana center Roy Hibbert was on the bench less than six minutes into the game after missing the only shot he took and not getting any rebounds. He did return to the lineup in the second quarter, but finished with zero points and zero rebounds in more than 12 minutes. Those are numbers Hibbert had never seen in a playoff game.

At one point in the third quarter, the Pacers covered the paint with forward David West and rarely used forward Chris Copeland.

Will there be a lineup change for Indiana on Thursday night?

“Consider anything at this point,” Vogel said.

NOTES: Atlanta G Kyle Korver moved into sixth place on the club’s all-time playoff 3-point list when he hit a 3-pointer in the second quarter. It was his 23rd career 3-pointer in the playoffs. … The Hawks have hit at least 10 3-pointers in each of the first five games of the series, totaling 59. … Indiana F Paul George had a double-double in each of the first five games, leading all players in the NBA playoffs. Before Monday, he had also logged 159 minutes of playing time, 17 more minutes than the second-most used player, Atlanta F Paul Millsap. Millsap logged 39 minutes Monday, and George played 43 minutes… Former Pacers coach Jack Ramsey died Monday. He led the Pacers to their first playoff victory in 1987 over the Atlanta Hawks. A moment of silence was held in his memory prior to Monday’s game. “I knew he was a great coach, but once I got to know him, he was a better man,” Donnie Walsh, current Pacers consultant, said in a statement.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

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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.

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Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

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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.

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NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

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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.

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