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Pacers shut down Wizards in second half to take 2-1 series lead

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WASHINGTON — Even the winning Indiana Pacers recognized the unsightly nature of their latest game against the Washington Wizards. All-Star forward Paul George and company would be happy if the remainder of the series continued in a similar slogging manner.

George scored 23 points and the Pacers held the Wizards to 30 points in the second half, pulling away for a 85-63 victory on Friday night to take a 2-1 lead in the second-round playoff series.

“This was probably the ugliest game of the postseason thus far,” George said unapologetically after Indiana held Washington to its fewest points in franchise history. “This is our style of basketball. Every now and then this team is fortunate to get hot offensively, but what we do is play defense.”

Center Roy Hibbert added 14 points for the top-seeded Pacers, who began taking control with a second-quarter run and outscored the Wizards 26-12 in the third quarter.

The NBA’s biggest curiosity because of their inexplicable laboring in recent weeks, the Pacers have won two straight in the best-of-seven series after losing Game 1 102-96 on Monday night.

Indiana led 34-33 at halftime thanks to a 13-1 spurt late in the second quarter. After the Wizards briefly pulled ahead at 37-36, Indiana ripped off 12 straight points starting with guard George Hill’s 3-pointer. The run ballooned to 23-7 as the Pacers’ staunch defense stymied Washington from all angles.

“I didn’t feel comfortable playing in that because they were slowing the ball down a little bit,” said guard Bradley Beal. The 20-year-old led the Wizards with 16 points, but finished 6-for-19 from the field. Power forward Nene missed 11 of 14 attempts as Washington shot 32.9 percent from the field.

“We had the worst offensive night,” Nene said. “It looked like we tried to miss shots.”

Washington’s two lowest scoring games of the regular season came against Indiana. Inability to push the pace certainly played a factor. Both teams scored eight fast-break points. Both parts of that statistic favor the grinding Pacers.

“We’re building habits,” George said.”

Wizards guard John Wall scored 15 points but committed seven turnovers — one more than his combined total in the previous five games.

“He’s got to stay aggressive,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “I thought he had some hesitation in his game tonight. He’s got to fight through it. We all do.”

Indiana converted 18 Washington turnovers into 21 points.

Though George continued to struggle this series from the field, finishing 6-for-15 in Game 3, he added eight rebounds and four assists while making nine of 10 free throws. Indiana was 16 of 21 from the line and Washington went 11 of 21 after going 5-for-12 in Wednesday’s Game 2 road loss.

Slow to start, Hibbert made six of nine shots from the field and finished with three blocks in his return to the arena where he played during his college career with Georgetown.

“His contributions during that (mid-game) run and really the whole night were maybe as important as anybody’s on our team,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said.

Hibbert starred in Indiana’s 86-82 Game 2 win on Wednesday with 28 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field with nine rebounds.

Trailing 27-20, Indiana took the lead with a 13-1 run. Hibbert and George combined for 13 of the Pacers’ final 14 points.

Forward Trevor Ariza had 15 rebounds and scored all 12 of his points in the first half, during which he was 4-for-5 from the field. His teammates went nine of 36.

“We’ve struggled along the way, but I honestly feel like we’re getting back,” George said. “We’ve gotten to this point because of defense and that’s what we did tonight.”

NOTES: The Wizards previous low of 64 points came on Jan. 11, 2012. … F David West added 12 points for the Pacers. … Indiana F Luis Scola received a technical foul in the second quarter for shoving Wizards F Martell Webster in the back. … Washington starters Bradley Beal, Nene and Marcin Gortat shot a combined 4-for-22 from the field in the first half. … Among those in attendance included NBA commissioner Adam Silver. … Washington’s last home win in the second round or later came in the 1979 NBA Finals against the Seattle Supersonics. … At 22-19, the Wizards had the worst regular-season home record among the Eastern Conference playoff teams. Indiana went 21-20 on the road and 2-1 at Atlanta in the first season versus the Hawks. … Game 4 tips at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday in Washington with Game 5 at Indiana on Tuesday.

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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