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Hibbert, Pacers bounce back in Game 2

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INDIANAPOLIS — After being held scoreless in three of his last four playoff games, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert did the only thing he could think of. He went fishing with teammate Paul George.

On Wednesday, Hibbert hooked the big one. He scored 28 points, just one shy of career playoff best, hit all eight free throws and grabbed a team-high nine rebounds in the Pacers’ 86-82 win over the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Indiana leveled the best-of-seven series at a game apiece. Washington’s Verizon Center will be the venue for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday.

“I haven’t been in the flow of the offense as much, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out there and do things,” said Hibbert, whose previous playoff high this season was 13 points against the Atlanta Hawks. “This is just a start.”

Hibbert began the game by scoring two baskets in the first minute, and he finished it by grabbing a rebound of Washington forward Trevor Ariza’s 3-point attempt in the final seconds.

“Roy came out and had a heck of a game, one we all know he’s capable of having,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

Despite trailing 84-79 with 21.4 seconds left, the Wizards still had a shot at pulling off their fifth consecutive win in the playoffs. Ariza hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left, but Pacers forward David West sealed the outcome by sinking two free throws with 10.1 seconds to go. Ariza then missed the final shot.

Indiana guard George Hill scored 14 points. Guard Lance Stephenson, who hit a 3-pointer with 21.4 seconds left, giving the Pacers a five-point lead, finished with 12 points.

George, whose primary assignment was to defend Washington guard Bradley Beal, scored 11 and had six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Center Marcin Gortat led Washington with 21 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. Beal added 17 points, and forward Nene scored 14.

Hibbert, who was held scoreless Monday in the opening game of the series, established himself immediately. He scored on his first jump shot 30 seconds into the game, then added a three-point play 26 seconds later. Those two plays helped send Indiana to an early 7-0 lead.

By halftime, Hibbert had 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting, more than twice the points of any other player on either team.

“Give him credit for shaking off a tough performance in Game 1 and a lot of criticism and coming out and responding,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “He had a big-time night and gave us a big lift. It’s a big reason why we won the game.”

That, and a fishing trip. George invited Hibbert aboard his boat Tuesday at an Indianapolis-area lake to fish for bass.

“We fished for about two hours and just relaxed and didn’t talk about basketball,” Hibbert said. “We just talked about life and tried to catch some bass. He reached out and took my mind off things. Hopefully something I can build on. I really appreciate him reaching out because he didn’t have to.”

George said, “After all he’s been through, everything that’s going on, him day after day just getting killed by the media, I’m happy he was able to come through despite all of that.”

Even with Hibbert’s memorable night, what bothered Wittman was the Wizards’ trouble at the free-throw line. Washington attempted just 12 free throws and made only five of them, a franchise low in the playoffs.

“We left seven points out there with nobody guarding us,” Wittman said.

Nene missed all four of his free throws.

“We need to be better at our free throws if we want to win in the playoffs,” said Gortat, who made one of two. “We have struggled the whole season. In fact, we lost a few games over the course of the year because of it. We will have to work on it and become more confident.”

NOTES: In the first quarter, Washington F Trevor Ariza missed a 3-point shot for the first time in the series. Ariza hit all six 3-pointers he took in Monday’s 102-96 win. Entering Wednesday’s game, he ranked third among all NBA players with a 3-point shooting percentage of .559 in the playoffs. He made two of eight attempts from beyond the arc Wednesday. … Washington G Bradley Beal, 20, is the youngest player in NBA history to score at least 25 points in three playoffs games in one postseason. … Indiana C Andrew Bynum, who played in just two regular-season games after being signed to a one-season deal as a free agent Feb. 1 as a backup to starting C Roy Hibbert, will not be with the team in the playoffs, the Pacers announced Wednesday. Bynum, 26, could not recover from a knee injury. He last played March 15. “He made multiple efforts to try and get out on the court, and his knee wasn’t responding,” coach Frank Vogel said.

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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