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Irving guides East to record-setting All-Star win

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NEW ORLEANS — Defense in an NBA All-Star Game is such a missing commodity it probably belongs on a milk carton, but this was video-game scoring gone wild.

Behind 31 points and 14 assists by Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving and 30 points on a record eight 3-pointers by New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, the East All-Stars obliterated a flurry of scoring records on their way to a 163-155 comeback victory over the West in the 63rd All-Star Game on Sunday night at the Smoothie King Center.

Playing in his second All-Star Game, Irving, just 21, poured in 24 points during the East’s 87-point second half. He was voted the game’s most valuable player.

“I didn’t give it any thought,” Irving said of any pregame expectations of winning the MVP. “I just wanted to make the game competitive — go out there and compete. I feel like that’s what all the fans want to see us do — just compete at the highest level.”

The 163 points broke the all-time scoring record for points in an All-Star Game — 155 by the West in a double-overtime victory in 2003. The previous high score in a regulation game was 153 points, accomplished in 1961, 1992 and 2007.

The teams also combined for 318 points, breaking the record of 303 set in 1987.

“I’ve been trying to tell all you guys that great offense beats great defense — everybody knows that, right?” said East coach Frank Vogel, the coach of the defense-oriented Indiana Pacers, with a wide smile.

The East trailed by as many as 18 points in the third quarter but it used an 18-3 run in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the period to close the deficit to 126-123. During that stretch, the West, which shot 51 percent for game, missed 10 of 11 shots.

Irving led the comeback with nine third-quarter points and added 15 in the fourth, when the West outscored the East 40-29.

“Kyrie is special,” said East forward LeBron James of the Miami Heat, who had 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. “It’s just that simple. He’s a very special basketball player. His ability to shoot the ball, get into the lane, make shots around the rim — he has the total package.”

Irving’s 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:18 left gave the East a 153-152 lead, but Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant responded with a 3-pointer to put the West back on top 155-153.

On the next trip, Irving found Indiana Pacers forward Paul George open on the right wing, and George was fouled on a 3-point attempt by Houston Rockets guard James Harden.

George hit all three free throws, and that gave the East the lead for good with 1:41 left. Anthony followed with his eighth 3-pointer of the game, sealing the outcome.

Anthony came into the game frustrated by the Knicks’ struggles this season, but he didn’t let that bother him.

“I’ve been telling you that it was going to be hard for me to try and enjoy this weekend, but I did,” Anthony said. “I found a way. … My teammates kept finding me, so all I had to do was just space the court and make the shot. They made it easy for me.”

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin and Durant paced the West with 38 points each. Griffin led the West to a 89-76 lead at halftime, scoring 18 first-quarter points, with eight of his nine baskets coming either on dunks or layups.

The 89-point total was an All-Star record for a half, eclipsing the 88 points posted by the West in the first half last year.

“It’s fun,” Griffin said. “This game is for the fans and to be able to do the things that they want to see. They don’t really want to see me shooting jump shots, so it’s cool to be able to get up and down and have fun with it.”

Durant led all scorers with 22 first-half points, including a deep 3-pointer from the left wing that capped a 16-4 West run for a 72-60 lead. However, he couldn’t make enough big shots at the end.

“We were up 18, but leads in this game, they come and go,” Durant said. “We got 127 shots, though. That’s a first. It was one of those games where you’re always going to remember it.”

NOTES: Los Angeles Lakers G Kobe Bryant, 35, said he is not sure if his body is finally giving out, which is why the rehab process from his knee injury is so intriguing even for him. “Part of the excitement — of the challenge — is that level of uncertainty,” Bryant said. “It’s (an) ‘Are my best days behind me’ sort of thing. To have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and not succumb to that is part of the challenge.” … Oklahoma City Thunder F Kevin Durant’s 38 points give him a career scoring average of 30.6 points in five All-Star Games. … New York Knicks F Carmelo Anthony’s eight 3-pointers eclipsed the All-Star mark of six, shared by Mark Price (1993) and LeBron James (2012). … Los Angeles Clippers F Blake Griffin hit 19 of 23 shots, the 19 field goals setting an All-Star record.

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

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NBA News Wire

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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NBA News Wire

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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