DENVER — Faced with another improbable loss to an underachieving team, forward Wilson Chandler put the Denver Nuggets on his back and took them to the finish line.
Chandler scored 24 points, and guard Randy Foye had 20 points and a career-high four blocked shots as the Nuggets held on to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 110-100 Wednesday.
Center J.J. Hickson scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and guard Ty Lawson added 18 points and 13 assists for the Nuggets, who avoided another loss to a lesser team.
“We continue to not learn from the mistakes that we make over and over again,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. “But in this case, we are still happy to come away with a win.”
Milwaukee center Larry Sanders scored a season-high 25 points and grabbed a season-best 15 rebounds. Forward Khris Middleton and also scored 25 points for Bucks, who fell to 2-16 in 2014.
Milwaukee (9-40) has not won two straight this season, a stat the players wanted to erase Wednesday.
“We wanted to win a second in a row,” Sanders said. “We didn’t adjust to the atmosphere. That is not an excuse.”
Both teams were coming off thrilling finishes Monday night. Guard Brandon Knight’s 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left gave the Bucks a 101-98 win over New York.
Foye hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift Denver over the Los Angeles Clippers, 116-115.
Shaw said after that game a loss to Milwaukee would wipe out the win over the Clippers. The Nuggets (24-23) have struggled against sub-.500 teams, losing home games to the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Bobcats.
For a half, it looked as if the lowly Bucks would join that list. They led 57-53 early in the third quarter before the Nuggets answered. Five straight points by Lawson got Denver going, and two three-point plays by forward Kenneth Faried and a dunk and layup by Hickson made it 77-65 Nuggets with 4:10 remaining in the third.
Milwaukee got within nine, but Foye hit a 3-pointer — his fifth of the game — and two free throws to give the Nuggets an 82-70 lead heading into the fourth.
Forward Quincy Miller hit a bucket and a 3-pointer to push the lead to 18 in the first 1:05 of the fourth.
Milwaukee had only nine available players to start the game and lost guard Luke Ridnour to back tightness in the second quarter. In the third, Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova suffered a back injury, and he didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
“We kind of ran out of bodies,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said.
They had enough to make a last push, going on a 17-5 run to cut the deficit to 99-96 with 2:13 remaining.
“It would have been a sad day had we lost this one, especially when Milwaukee was down (18) and on the road,” Lawson said.
Chandler hit a layup and jumper around a Sanders miss to give Denver a seven-point lead with 90 seconds left.
Chandler scored seven points in the final 1:52.
“We didn’t play to the best to our ability, but we won the game,” Chandler said. “You figure a team like that would give up, but give them credit, they kept fighting and made it a game.”
Sanders shook off an early technical that seemed to ignite the Nuggets, and he scored 15 points in the first half. He had four rebounds and four points in the last 3:46 of the second quarter to help the Bucks erase an eight-point deficit and take a 52-51 lead at intermission.
Lawson had 10 assists on Denver’s first 14 made baskets.
NOTES: Milwaukee G Gary Neal did not play because of back spasms. Bucks G Nate Wolters missed the shootaround because of an illness but was able to start. He scored four points in 28 minutes. … Nuggets G Ty Lawson played a season-high 44:47 Monday in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers. It was his first game back after missing two with a strained left rotator cuff. … Bucks C John Henson returned to the lineup after missing three games with a sprained right wrist. … The Nuggets did not conduct a shootaround Wednesday because of the extremely cold temperatures and an extended team event Tuesday. Instead, the players arrived at Pepsi Center an hour early to have a walkthrough. … Bucks F Caron Butler (sprained left ankle) did not make the trip.
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.