DALLAS — The hard-luck and short-handed Sacramento Kings could not hold onto a 14-point fourth-quarter lead and lost their sixth game in a row, 107-103 to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night at the American Airlines Center.
Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, selected for his 12th All-Star Game on Thursday, led the Mavs’ comeback with 34 points, including 12 in the decisive fourth quarter. He spoiled Kings forward Rudy Gay’s effort that included 35 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
The Kings (15-31) led 78-64 with 3:44 to go in the third quarter after Gay drove the baseline for a bucket. But again playing without star center and offensive anchor DeMarcus Cousins, who is nursing a sprained left ankle, the Kings’ offense quickly came unglued and the lead began to slip away.
Nowitzki’s fourth-quarter 3-pointer, the Mavs’ first of the game on 15 attempts, cut the deficit to 87-85. Guard Monta Ellis’ two free throws tied it with 7:46 to play.
As the Kings’ offense continued to melt down in the fourth quarter after their torrid third, Dallas (27-21) took the lead, 89-87, on two Nowitzki free throws with 6:54 left. The Kings kept it close, but they never regained the lead.
“He’s our horse and a guy that we rely on,” Mavs forward Brandan Wright said of Nowitzki, who had 38 points and 17 rebounds in Wednesday night’s two-point loss to Houston. “He’s bringing it every night at 35 years old and not leaving a single drop of energy in his body when he is playing. We are riding that momentum and hopefully we can help him out and carry this thing to the playoffs.”
Ellis provided second-half help. He sealed the victory with a three-point play with 12.4 seconds to go and then two free throws with 4.6 seconds left for the final margin.
The victory was huge for Dallas in the Western Conference standings. Had the Mavs lost, the streaking Memphis Grizzlies, winners of five in a row after Friday’s victory at Minnesota, would have knocked Dallas out of a playoff spot for the first time this season.
“Dirk was great, obviously, with 34 points in 34 minutes,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “It was a tough night because our shot-making wasn’t great. It took us almost three-and-a-half quarters to hit a 3.
“On those nights, you’ve got to hang in somehow and Sacramento had a pretty good groove going. Gay had it going early; he had 18 points on six shots in the first half. That’s tough. We got down, but we hung in.”
The Mavs overcame a 2-of-19 night from beyond the arc by going 29 of 36 at the free-throw line, outscoring the Kings by nine, and by committing just four turnovers. Dallas scored 18 points off 15 Sacramento turnovers.
“You look at them, they have four turnovers for four points. Good teams don’t beat themselves,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “And we had (15) turnovers for (18) points. So it’s very hard to win on the road when you beat yourself like we did tonight at times.”
Ellis rebounded from a recent scoring slump to score 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field. He had 16 points in the second half.
Point guard Jose Calderon had 14 points, including a big 3-pointer during the Mavs’ fourth-quarter rally, and backup center Brandan Wright had 10 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought Ellis played probably his best all-around game of the season,” Carlisle said. “He had zero turnovers. He was extremely disciplined at both ends of the floor. He waited for the opportunities to pop and then he got to the rim. He had assists. He made huge free throws at the end. He was fantastic tonight.”
The Kings outshot Dallas 50.7 percent to 47.5 percent from the field but were outscored 32-22 in the fourth quarter.
Point guard Isaiah Thomas had 19 points and six assists for the Kings.
“In the fourth quarter, you allow that team to score 32 points, and we put them on the foul line, we didn’t get loose balls, we didn’t get rebounds,” Malone said. “And if you let that team hang around — Monta started being in attack mode (and) got to the foul line; Dirk, obviously that’s why he’s a Hall of Fame player; but we just had no defensive mindset or presence in that fourth quarter and that’s been our challenge all year long if you’ve watched us play.”
NOTES: Kings C DeMarcus Cousins missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. Kings coach Michael Malone said Cousins will also likely miss Saturday’s game at San Antonio with a possible return Monday at home against Chicago. … Cousins said he was disappointed he wasn’t selected as a reserve to the West All-Star team on Thursday. “I feel like I was pretty deserving of an All-Star spot,” he said. … Mavs F Shawn Marion missed the game with a right shoulder contusion, a recurring injury that forced him out of four games earlier in the season. … Mavs F Dirk Nowitzki was named to his 12th All-Star team as a reserve. In Wednesday night’s game against Houston, Nowitzki became the 13th player in NBA history to surpass 26,000 career points. … Dallas has now won its last 19 home games against Sacramento, the Mavs’ longest ever home winning streak against one opponent. … After the game, the Mavericks assigned rookie Gs Shane Larkin and Ricky Ledo to the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League.
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.