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Nets ‘hold down home court’ vs. Heat

The Sports Xchange

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NEW YORK — Paul Pierce said he heard whispers with the Brooklyn Nets in an 0-2 hole against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Nets responded with a roar, pulling out a 104-90 victory in Game 3 at Barclays Center on Saturday night. Miami leads the best-of-three series, 2-1, with Game 4 on Monday back in Brooklyn.

“We weren’t going to panic. We wanted to show them we’re not scared of them,” said veteran forward Pierce, who had 14 points. “Everybody was talking about us getting swept, whispers and stuff, but all they did was hold down home court. It’s our job to hold down home court.”

Led by guard Joe Johnson, who scored a team-high 19 points, six different players scored in double figures for Brooklyn, which shot 60 percent (15-of-25) from 3-point range in its first-ever playoff win over Miami.

Brooklyn attacked from the outset and made the extra pass, which resulted in open shots, especially from beyond the arc. The attack was led by point guard Deron Williams, who bounced back from a scoreless Game 2 to score nine points and dish out 11 assists.

“The way they are playing me with two on the ball and coming up at me, I need to make the right plays and get people the ball — I think I did that,” Williams said.

The Nets also had huge contributions off the bench from forwards Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic as Brooklyn had a 40-25 edge in bench points.

“You can’t game plan for that,” Johnson said. “We got guys coming off the bench and playing with a lot of energy and effort. It helps us out as a team and gives us that extra boost.”

After just four points and four rebounds in first two games of the series, Blatche erupted with playoff career highs in points (15) and rebounds (10). Teletovic scored 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.

“The big thing about this team is that we trust everyone and when you look at (Blatche) and what Mirza did for us off the bench was big,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “D-Will set the tone by being aggressive and attacking. Again, it’s not just Mirza we trust, we trust everybody and the last two games Mirza has shot the ball extremely well.”

While Blatche was solid throughout the first three quarters, Teletovic heated up in the third quarter, burying three 3-pointers as part of an 18-5 run that gave the Nets a 74-61 lead, its largest margin to that point.

“We didn’t want to let them off the hook taking bad shots, not driving the ball,” said guard Shaun Livingston, who had 12 points and five assists. “We just wanted to attack. We had to be the aggressors tonight.”

Brooklyn didn’t let off the gas in the fourth quarter, leading by as many as 20 on a Pierce 3-pointer with 4:52 left.

“A lot of the threes they made were contested, so you clap your hands and pat them on the back for the ones they made because that’s just our scheme,” Miami forward LeBron James said.

James came out firing early, scoring 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field in the first quarter. But he was just 2-of-8 the rest of the way en route to a game-high 28 points.

“Our defense was better in the second half, especially in the third quarter,” Williams said. “I think LeBron had 16 in the first (quarter), and in the third quarter I do not think he had a field goal. I think we locked down defensively and I think that was the difference.”

Guard Dwayne Wade had 20 points and forward Chris Bosh 12 for Miami, which lost its first game of the playoffs.

“They played a better game than us, simple as that,” Wade said. “It is 2-1 and we have to move on. We have to start preparing for the next one.”

NOTES: The Nets set a single-game franchise playoff record with 15 3-pointers Saturday. … F Andray Blatche is the first Nets player since Armen Gilliam on April 29, 1994, to record a double-double off the bench in a playoff game. … With two 3-pointers, Nets F Paul Pierce moved into a tie with Jason Kidd for eighth place in NBA playoff history with 228 made 3-pointers. … Miami G Ray Allen and Nets G Alan Anderson were involved in a brief skirmish with 9:34 left. Each player was issued a technical foul. … Miami F Shane Battier competed in his 100th career playoff game. … Heat F LeBron James scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting from the field in the first quarter, his highest scoring output in a single quarter this postseason.

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

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Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

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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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Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

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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 notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return

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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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