PHILADELPHIA — On his 40th birthday, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash showed he still has something left in the tank.
He was beginning to wonder himself.
Playing just his eighth game of the season and his second since Nov. 10, the veteran scored a season-high 19 points on Friday night to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to 112-98 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
“After 18 years, it’s very sweet because I thought it was gone,” said Nash, who has been bothered by back and hamstring issues. “I had a blast, just being a part of the team and contributing.”
Center Chris Kaman and guard-forward Wesley Johnson added 17 points for Los Angeles (18-32), which won its second straight game. Before beating the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, they had dropped seven in a row.
Forward Ryan Kelly scored 15 points and guard Steve Blake and forward Jordan Hill had 14 each for the Lakers.
Nash, the NBA’s oldest player and the fourth guard in league history to play at 40, made 8 of 15 shots from the floor and had five assists. It was his first time scoring 19 or more since he had 21 against Golden State on March 25, 2013. It was also the greatest output by a 40-year-old since Karl Malone had 20 for the Lakers against Houston on April 1, 2004.
“I marvel at what he does to get himself ready to play,” said Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who also coached Nash in Phoenix. “He has great passion and love for it, and it’s nice to be around. … He’s not the same speed he was at 30 years old, but he knows how to play.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown had hoped his young, long perimeter defenders could bother Nash, but that was not the case.
“I see just a poised, prideful point guard,” Brown said, “that takes immaculate care of his body and understands game tempo and is comfortable with somebody on his hip. He understands (defensive) rotations. I really didn’t see much of a let-up physically, as I thought I was going to.”
The Lakers were without six other players because of injury, notably All-Star guard Kobe Bryant, who has been out since Dec. 17 with a fractured left knee.
Reserve guard Tony Wroten scored 16 points to pace the Sixers (15-36), who have lost five straight. They have also dropped their last six at home. Center Spencer Hawes had 15 points and 11 rebounds and guard-forward Evan Turner scored 15.
The Lakers, who took the lead for good on a 3-pointer by backup guard Kendall Marshall with 3:52 left in the third quarter, put the game away by outscoring the Sixers 25-13 in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles’ reserve big men, Kaman and Hill, did most of the damage for the Lakers in the quarter, scoring eight points apiece.
The Sixers made 4 of 19 shots from the field in the quarter and committed five of their 22 turnovers.
The Sixers went on a 10-2 run early in the game — a flurry featuring 3-pointers by guard-forward James Anderson and forward Thaddeus Young — to open a 19-11 lead. By quarter’s end, they stretched their advantage to 35-26.
Philadelphia was still leading by nine at 64-55 with a minute left in the half before Blake made two 3-pointers to cut the gap to 64-61 at the end of the quarter.
Kelly led Los Angeles with 11 points at the half. Nash and Johnson had 10 each.
Hawes scored 11 in the opening half for Philadelphia. Center-forward Lavoy Allen chipped in 10 off the bench.
Blake added another 3-pointer as the Lakers reeled off seven of the first 10 points in the third quarter to go ahead 68-67, their first lead since it was 2-0.
Later in the quarter, Marshall scored five points and Nash four in a 11-3 spree, pushing the Los Angeles advantage to 83-76.
With the Lakers leading 87-82 in the closing seconds of the quarter, Wroten rebounded a missed 3-pointer by Lakers forward Shawne Williams and from his own foul line heaved in a 3-pointer, a 62-footer that cut the gap to 87-85.
It was the second straight game in which Wroten made a shot from beyond midcourt. He had also done so at the end of the third quarter in Wednesday’s loss to Boston.
NOTES: The Sixers made a season-high 15 3-pointers. … Lakers guard Kendall Marshall contributed 10 assists in just under 20 minutes off the bench. … Besides G Kobe Bryant, the Lakers were without G Jordan Farmar (calf strain), G Jodie Meeks (sprained right ankle), G Nick Young (left knee fracture/bone bruise), F Pau Gasol (strained right groin) and G-F Xavier Henry (right knee bone bruise). … Earlier in the day, Los Angeles called up F Shawne Williams from the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the Development League. … Sixers coach Brett Brown said Lakers G Steve Nash is “one of (his) personal all-time favorites” and added that when he talked to rookie G Michael Carter-Williams about the veteran, he told him the following: “I don’t care if he’s 60; he’s Steve Nash.” Brown also said that when he was an assistant in San Antonio, “We sort of likened him to (Wayne) Gretzky, where he would get behind the goal and Steve would probe the baseline, just baiting people to get sucked in and then he would pick you apart with his 3-point shooters.” … Retired 76ers C Darryl Dawkins, known as “Chocolate Thunder” in his playing days, attended the game.
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.