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Pacers heed Vogel’s message in win over Hawks



INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Pacers’ coach Frank Vogel’s message to his team for the second half of the season was simple — start fast.

The Pacers responded with 108-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“The dog days of the NBA are gone,” Vogel said. “The grind from New Years to the All-Star break is always, to me, the biggest grind. Once the All-Star break passes, now it is about the home stretch.”

It did not take long to see that Indiana (41-12) heeded what their coach said when a 25-4 run during the middle of the first quarter put the Pacers on course to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time this season.

“I thought we did a good job coming out and hitting first,” forward David West said. “We were able to build a pretty good lead. It was a good win for us.”

The run began when All-Star forward Paul George found guard Lance Stephenson open in the right corner for a 3-pointer with 8:57 to go in the first quarter for a 9-5 lead. Nearly 4 1/2 minutes later, the Pacers were up 31-9.

George finished with 26 points on 8 of 18 shooting from the field and forward David West had 17 points and six rebounds.

During the spurt, Indiana made 10 of 11 shots from the field, including 3 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Pacers finished the quarter shooting 66.7 percent from the floor (14-of-21) and led 35-23.

“We started the game fast and went up 22 (points) early,” Pacers forward Luis Scola said. “It’s hard to maintain that. They reacted, they came back, they have pride.”

The Hawks did not go away quietly. They charged back with a 14-4 run to close the first quarter, trimming their 22-point deficit to 12.

Atlanta then managed to get within three at 52-49 with 1:02 left in the second quarter when All-Star forward Paul Millsap passed to guard Kyle Korver on the left wing for a 3-pointer. Korver extended his streak of games with a 3-pointer to 121, longest in NBA history.

“Right now what we need to do is we need to play better in longer stretches,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Sometimes it’s how we start the game, it isn’t where we want to be and how we want to start. Other times, its different periods in the game, but I think our group battled despite the poor start.”

Indiana scored the final five points of the first half and led 57-49.

Indiana’s defensive pressure led to 22 Atlanta turnovers, which the Pacers were able to convert into 35 points. Seven of the Hawks turnovers and 14 of the Pacers turnover points came in the first quarter.

“We had a rough start,” Atlanta guard Shelvin Mack said. “We have to come out and be more professional. It’s kind of hard to win a game when you have 22 turnovers, especially against one of the best teams in the NBA.”

Mack and fellow guard Jeff Teague committed a team-high four turnovers apiece.

Millsap, the Hawks’ leading scorer this season at 17.6 points per game, made 3 of 10 shots from the field and finished with seven points, continuing his struggles against the Pacers. He was a combined 3 of 21 from the field in the teams’ first two meetings.

Korver led Atlanta with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range. Guard Lou Williams came off the bench to score 18 points.

Atlanta (25-27) has lost a season-high six consecutive games. The skid began with an 89-85 home loss to the Pacers on Feb. 4.

“If you want to make it to the Finals and win a ring, you have to do it a lot of times,” Scola said of playing well consistently. “You have to do it every day. That’s what we are looking for, we’re looking for the consistency.”

NOTES: The Hawks dropped five straight heading into the All-Star break, scoring 85 points or fewer in four of the five games. … The Pacers and Hawks split their two previous meetings this season, both at Atlanta’s Phillips Arena. Pacers C Roy Hibbert scored a season-low two points in the Hawks’ 97-87 win Jan. 8. … The Hawks began the night ranked first in the NBA in assists with 25.6 per game. Indiana led the NBA in team defense, allowing 90.3 points per game. … F DeMarre Carroll was not in the Hawks’ starting lineup due to a left hamstring injury. F Cartier Martin made his third start of the season. … Pacers recalled G Orlando Johnson from Fort Wayne of the NBA Development League. … Including Tuesday’s game, the Hawks play four games in five days, and the Pacers have three games in five days.

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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