LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Lakers suffered another injury, and the Chicago Bulls added to the Lakers’ woes on Sunday.
The Bulls extended the Lakers’ misery at Staples Center with a 92-86 victory over Los Angeles before an announced crowd of 18,997.
Guard Kirk Hinrich led the Bulls with 19 points, while center Joakim Noah and forward Taj Gibson scored 18 apiece. Noah had a game-high 13 rebounds.
In addition to the loss, the injury bug that has hurt the Lakers also season struck again. Point guard Steve Nash left the game in the third quarter with nerve irritation in his left leg and did not return. Nash will be re-evaluated Monday.
“It was just getting worst lately,” said Nash, who had been ailing all season with back and leg problems and had not played since November before returning Feb. 4 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I wanted to play, especially when we are losing, you want to try to fight through it. I have been through that before and I know where it goes, so I didn’t want to risk it. I think it was the smartest decision to come out.”
Nash, who finished with eight points and two assists in 21:14 of playing time, suffered a fracture near the same area of the leg last season.
“I hope tomorrow I can wake up and jump right back into it,” he said. “Hopefully, that nerve will just settle down and I’ll be OK. It’s been a tough road, so I won’t take anything for granted, but I think tomorrow I should be much better.”
Chicago (25-25) handed the Lakers their fifth consecutive loss at home. The Lakers (18-33) have dropped eight of their past 10 games, and the Bulls defeated the Lakers for the fifth time in the last six meetings.
Noah was particularly effective in the second half, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
“I thought he started the game slow but he just kept working the game,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Then he got it going his way the second half. He played tough and smart. He was terrific.”
So were the rest of the Bulls, particularly Hinrich, who also had three steals, and point guard D.J. Augustin, who came off the Bulls bench to score 15 points and record six assists.
“I thought a lot of guys stepped up,” Thibodeau said. “Taj Gibson got some points in the paint in the first half. I thought Mike Dunleavy made some big plays, Jimmy (Butler) was solid. He guarded everybody and made some big plays down the stretch. Tony (Snell) was really good in his minutes. We needed everybody.”
Reserve center Chris Kaman scored a season-high 27 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Lakers. Reserve forward Jordan Hill had 15 points, while point guard Kendall Marshall added 13 points and 11 assists.
“Ultimately, the most important thing is to try to win,” said Kaman, who connected on 13-of-23 field-goal attempts. “We’ve struggled lately and we’re trying to get some sort of level ground where we can come out with some W’s.”
Los Angeles closed to within 88-84 after a dunk by forward Wesley Johnson with 48.3 seconds remaining. But Augustin stole a pass by Lakers guard Steve Blake with 23.9 seconds left and was fouled.
Augustin hit two free throws with 21.1 seconds remaining and added two more with 9.3 seconds left to secure the win for the Bulls.
“They were hitting shots. We have to do a better job as a team, just being ready,” Marshall said.
The Bulls swept the season series between the two clubs. They also posted a 102-100 win in overtime on Jan. 20.
NOTES: Bulls F Carlos Boozer missed his third game with a left calf injury. He is listed as day-to-day. … Lakers PG Jordan Farmar, who did not play, is day-to-day with hamstring soreness, but probably will not return until after the All-Star break. … Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, on the firing of Detroit Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks: “Obviously a close friend of mine. Disappointed. It’s one of the bad parts of the business.” … Chicago C Joakim Noah had 38 rebounds and 35 points in the past two games against the Lakers entering Sunday’s contest. He had 21 boards (seven offensive) in the Bulls’ victory over the Lakers on Jan. 20. … The Bulls visit the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday before capping the first half of the season at home Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets. … Los Angeles hosts the Utah Jazz on Tuesday and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday.
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.