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Mills fill the bill as Spurs top Clippers



LOS ANGELES — With injured San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker sitting out Tuesday night, Patty Mills filled the void in a big way.

Mills came off the bench to score 16 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and the Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 113-103 at Staples Center.

“He killed us, I mean really,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We started blitzing, and even then he made shots. I don’t know if Parker could’ve been much better, when you look at it. He played terrific.”

The Spurs (39-15) snapped a three-game winning streak by the Clippers (37-19) and handed Los Angeles a rare home defeat. Los Angeles is 23-5 at Staples. San Antonio has the NBA’s best road mark, 21-7.

“(Mills) was great for us,” said forward Tim Duncan, who finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists. “That fourth quarter there, he took over for five minutes and gave us the lead that we needed. We were struggling trying to find points and trying to keep the pressure on. He just took the ballgame over. It was great for us and a great stretch for him.”

Mills connected on nine of 15 shots from the floor. He also had five rebounds and five assists. Guard Marco Belinelli added 20 points, and forward Danny Green chipped in 14 points. Mills outscored the entire Clippers’ bench, which accounted for 20 points.

“You can’t replace a Tony Parker, that’s for sure,” said Mills, who shot 6-for-8 from the field in the final period, hitting two 3-pointers. “It’s collectively, doing the job collectively, and I think that’s what we (did) tonight. We (threw) the ball around like a hot potato and found open shooters. That opened stuff up in the lane.”

Forward Blake Griffin led the Clippers with 35 points and 12 rebounds, while guard Jamal Crawford finished with 25 points. Chris Paul scored 11 points and handed out nine assists, but the point guard missed nine of his 10 shots from the field. Center DeAndre Jordan added 18 rebounds and six blocks.

Despite his performance, Griffin said he was weary from all of the activities and playing at last weekend’s All-Star Game in New Orleans.

“Don’t quite have the legs. Not feeling refreshed,” said Griffin, who topped 6,000 points in his career in the first half, becoming the eighth active player to do so before the end of his fourth season. “It happens to a lot of guys. It’s not an excuse, and I don’t want to act like it is. We just have to find a way to be better.”

The Spurs took an 86-76 lead on a jumper by Mills less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. Mills’ 3-pointer with 8:46 left pushed the advantage to 93-81. Los Angeles cut the lead to six on a Crawford trey with 5:17 remaining, but they got no closer as Mills and the Spurs pulled away.

“I think everybody tonight was great,” Belinelli said. “Patty Mills was fantastic in the fourth quarter.”

The Spurs converted nine of 20 attempts from behind the arc, with Belinelli hitting three of six. The Clippers made only six of 21 from 3-point range. San Antonio also outrebounded the Clippers 48-38.

San Antonio took a 56-51 lead at the break, ending the half on a 14-3 run.

The clubs split their previous meetings, with Los Angeles rolling to a 115-92 victory on Dec. 16 and the Spurs coasting to a 116-92 win on Jan. 4. That was the Clippers’ worst defeat this season.

NOTES: After former coach George Karl said on ESPN he heard this might be the final season for Tim Duncan, the Spurs power forward shot down the speculation. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, so I don’t know how he knows what I’m going to do,” Duncan said. . … San Antonio PG Tony Parker, who played 11 minutes in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, is out indefinitely with a variety of injuries. Popovich, who said the wear and tear of the past three seasons took a toll on Parker, wouldn’t speculate when the All-Star would return. … San Antonio F Kawhi Leonard, out since Jan. 22 with a non-displaced fracture in his right hand, performed shooting drills before the contest but isn’t expected to play during the final two games of the road trip. … Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he doesn’t know when G J.J. Redick, who has a bulging disk, will return. “I guess the word would be (when it) calms down so he can get his movement,” Rivers said. “That could be three days, two weeks, three weeks, no one knows.”

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

NBA News Wire

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.

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NBA News Wire

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.

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NBA News Wire

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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