DALLAS — LeBron James received very little down time during a busy All-Star weekend, and he had just one day off between Sunday’s All-Star Game and the resumption of the season Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.
It didn’t matter. The Miami forward was at his best, posting 42 points, nine rebounds and six assists while carrying the Heat past the Dallas Mavericks, 117-106.
The Heat earned their third consecutive road win and their fourth victory in five games on a six-game road trip.
“It took a little time for us this season to get back to that mental toughness,” James said. “You can’t take it for granted just because you were able to do it last year. You have to learn how to win on the road once again. We have been able to get some very key road wins on this trip.”
Dallas led 95-92 when swingman Vince Carter completed a four-point play with 7:47 left in the game. Miami then turned to a swarming defense that was missing for most of a very entertaining offensive game. The Heat produced a 16-0 run, extending the lead to 106-95 with 3:21 to go. Dallas finally ended its drought when center Samuel Dalembert hit the second of two free throws with 2:29 to go to make it 106-96.
The Mavericks went five minutes without scoring and six minutes between field goals as Miami closed out the game with a 25-8 run that included an 8-0 spurt — all from James.
“At that point you’re watching him make good plays,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Throughout the course of the game, he made a lot of two-way, impactful plays, setting guys up for easy baskets, scoring himself when he needed to, and at the other end, he was guarding literally one through five tonight. He did it on both ends, and that one stretch at the end gave us a lot of confidence going down the stretch.”
Dallas had a chance to record a big home win in its first game since defeating the East-leading Indiana Pacers on the road in the final game before the All-Star break. However, the Mavericks’ opportunity slipped away during the opening four minutes of the final quarter.
James took a breather while Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki, who finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, was hard at work trying to extend Dallas’ small lead.
However, Dallas could only extend the lead by three by the time James returned. James scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and wound up hitting 16 of 23 shots.
“He was great,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He was great in all areas. He is great and we know he is great. He scored a bundle of points on us last time, and he was even better tonight. But that’s him, and I thought we played extremely hard and our heart was in the right place all night.
“We just had some untimely misses, some untimely turnovers, and that really hurt us. They are a team that takes advantage of those, and they make you pay an exponential price. That’s what happened in the fourth quarter.”
Miami guard Dwyane Wade was limited to 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting. He also had seven assists. Heat forward Chris Bosh added 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting, plus five rebounds. Forward Chris Andersen scored 18 points, and guard Mario Chalmers added 10 points and nine assists.
Dallas got 15 points from Carter off the bench. Mavericks guard Monta Ellis, guard Jose Calderon and backup center Brandan Wright each scored 12 points, but they combined to shoot 13-for-35 from the floor. It just wasn’t enough to overcome James’ huge night that included 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
“When we turned it off, he was gone,” Mavs forward Shawn Marion said. “He’s one of the fastest guys in the league in the open court. After his fourth open-court dunk, the matchups started to get bigger on him. Then he started pulling up for 3s and started hitting some. It just opened the game up.”
Heat backup center Greg Oden had an impact at both ends in the first half. He scored five points on a finger roll and a dunk that became a three-point play with the foul. He also helped quiet Wright, who had a fast run of three thunderous dunks before the insertion of the 7-foot Oden.
In five minutes of action, Oden finished with the five points and one rebound.
NOTES: Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki requested limited minutes in Sunday’s All-Star Game and played just eight. The league’s 13th-leading scorer all time was the only player on either team not to score in a game that set an All-Star record for total scoring. … The Heat played their fourth game of a six-game road trip against all Western Conference teams. They wrap it up against the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Thursday. … Mavericks owner Mark Cuban squashed a trade rumor earlier in the day that suggested Dallas was attempting to put together a package for Minnesota PF Kevin Love.
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.
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