MIAMI — The teams, the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, were the same ones that played in last year’s NBA Finals.
But this was not that matchup.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra made note of that with his first postgame comments.
“No, it did not feel like the NBA Finals,” he said.
Despite that, there were numerous positives for Miami, which got guard Dwyane Wade back from the injured list, was able to rest forward LeBron James in the fourth quarter and still had enough to easily defeat the Spurs 113-101 on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Heat forward Chris Bosh (24 points) starred as Miami improved its home record to 19-3.
Bosh made 9 of 10 shots from the floor, including his 32nd 3-pointer of the season, which is already a career high. He also made 5 of 5 from the foul line in 28 minutes.
James added 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 26 minutes.
The rest he got Sunday was no doubt important in the mind of Spoelstra, but James had a different take on the subject.
“I’ve had a huge responsibility on me for a long time,” James said. “I have gone seven or eight years having a huge load. It doesn’t change for me. I’m happy to be that leader and carry that load, no matter how big it is.”
Wade, who had missed four straight games due to knee soreness, came in off the bench for the first time since 2008 and had eight points for Miami (32-12), which extended its modest win streak to three games.
Spoelstra said Wade, who played 24 minutes, came to him with the idea of coming in off the bench as he tried to regain his flow after the time off. The coach would not commit to starting Wade in the Heat’s next game, which is at home Wednesday against Oklahoma City.
“I understand that everybody is going to use this as a ‘lightning rod’ subject to talk about for the next three days,” Spoelstra said of Wade. “I’m just glad he was able to play. We will take everything day to day, but as he gets back into the mix, I’d like to get him more minutes.”
As a team, the Heat shot 58 percent from the floor and were never seriously challenged.
“It’s a bad combination if we are not disciplined defensively, and they are making shots,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
San Antonio (33-11) was led by center Tim Duncan, who had 23 points. Forward Boris Diaw added 15 points.
Popovich said he was pleased with the job Diaw did defensively on James.
“Boris doesn’t look the part, but he plays the part,” Popovich said. “Boris has done a good job defensively on a variety of guys. He takes pride in it, and we’re going to continue to use him.”
Before the game, James said the Spurs’ arrival in Miami brought back memories from the Heat’s win over San Antonio in last year’s NBA Finals.
“It was one of the greatest Finals the NBA has ever seen,” James said. “I was ecstatic, excited, humbled and blessed to be a part of it.”
The Heat on Sunday, playing with all 15 of its players healthy for the first time all season, came out firing, leading 8-0 two minutes into the game. The Heat shot 72 percent in the first quarter and took a 34-28 lead heading into the second.
Miami increased its lead to 58-50 at the half, overcoming 17 points by Duncan. The third quarter was more of the same as the Heat outscored San Antonio 33-21 to take a 91-71 lead.
Bosh was perfect in the third quarter, scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from the floor and 5 of 5 on the foul line.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker, who jammed one of his fingers early in the game, was held to 11 points and seven assists.
“(The finger) bothered me a little bit on my shot,” said Parker, who made 4 of 9 from the floor. “It happens.”
NOTES: G Toney Douglas and F James Jones were the Heat’s healthy scratches. … The wife of Heat G Ray Allen had a mural painted of his memorable shot that helped beat the Spurs in Game 6 of last year’s NBA Finals. It hangs above their fireplace, and Allen has called the shot the greatest of his career. … Injuries have forced the Spurs to use 15 different starting lineups in 44 games. On Sunday, the Spurs were without three starters: C Tiago Splitter (shoulder), F Kawhi Leonard (broken right hand) and G Danny Green (broken left hand). … The Heat have used 12 different starting lineups. Their preferred lineup — Gs Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, Fs LeBron James and Shane Battier and C Chris Bosh — has been together for just 17 games. … The Spurs visit the Houston Rockets on Tuesday.
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.