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Pacers 118, Trail Blazers 113 (OT)



INDIANAPOLIS — Point guard George Hill scored a career-high 37 points, including a tying 3-pointer late in regulation, and the Indiana Pacers surged to a 118-113 overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.

Forward David West scored 23 of his season-high 30 points after halftime for Indiana (39-10), which trailed by 12 in the first half but improved to 13-1 in its last 14 home games. All-Star forward Paul George had 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Portland (35-15) received 38 points and 11 assists from point guard Damian Lillard, while center Robin Lopez had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 22 points and nine rebounds and guard Wesley Matthews scored 19.

Portland scored just four points on its first seven trips of overtime and fell behind 101-107 when Aldridge mistakenly threw a pass right to West, who was able to turn and dunk.

After Lillard’s 3 pulled Portland to 113-110 with just under a minute left in the extra session, George made a step-back jumper over Aldridge to stretch Indiana’s lead to five with 17.8 seconds left. That shot proved the dagger in a back-and-forth contest.

With Colts coach Chuck Pagano and wide receiver Reggie Wayne part of Indiana’s 16th sellout, there was a playoff vibe inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers scored on 11 straight possessions down the stretch of regulation, capped by George’s 3-pointer that gave them a 100-99 lead with 1:30 left. But Matthews responded with a jumper, the Pacers turned it over and forward Nicolas Batum made a pair of free throws to give Portland a 103-100 lead.

After a loose-ball scramble, center Roy Hibbert pitched to Hill, who drained a 3 from the left wing to tie it. Batum missed a difficult fallaway at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

On three occasions early in the fourth quarter Indiana got within one possession only to have the Blazers regroup and hit key baskets to re-open the lead they owned much of the night. Forward Rasual Butler nailed a corner 3-pointer before free throws by Luis Scola and George drew the Pacers to 78-77.

Aldridge responded with two free throws and a jumper, Matthews made a corner 3 and Lillard’s change-of-pace drive extended the Blazers’ lead to 87-79 with 6:57 remaining. That forced Indiana coach Frank Vogel to use a timeout.

That preceded a 24-16 run to close regulation for the Pacers, who lost to Portland 106-102 on the road on Dec. 2.

The Pacers led 60-59, their first lead of the game, on a three-point play by West. But the Blazers outscored them 18-11, with Lillard and guard C.J. McCollum each scoring six, to nab a 77-71 lead heading into the fourth.

Lillard sat down for a breather late in the first, when the Blazers pushed ahead 28-16. When other starters returned midway through the second, Lillard scored 14 of the Blazers’ final 20 points, extending their lead to 50-45 at halftime.

Forward Dorell Wright, guard Earl Watson, center Joel Freeland and forward Thomas Robinson started the second quarter for the Blazers along with Lillard. The bench’s lack of firepower hurt as the Pacers scored 11 of the first 13 points to take their first lead since early in the game.

The Blazers raced to a 6-0 lead to open the game before Hill sparked the Pacers offense with a pair of aggressive drives. Aldridge scored 11 of his 15 first-half points in the opening quarter, when he used his quickness against Indiana’s big men.

NOTES: Pacers coach Frank Vogel said backup C Andrew Bynum, who has not played since Dec. 26 when he was still with Cleveland, will be evaluated a week or two after the All-Star break. … Pacers G Lance Stephenson (lower back) sat out, marking just the fifth time a member of Indiana’s starting lineup missed a game this season. … Portland G Mo Williams left the team to be with his sister, who was hospitalized earlier this week. Coach Terry Stotts was unsure how long Williams might be away. … The Trail Blazers conclude their four-game road trip on Saturday in Minnesota.

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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