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Pelicans’ Davis makes case for All-Star spot

The Sports Xchange

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NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis will find out officially Thursday if NBA coaches voted him into his first All-Star Game.

The way his coach, Monty Williams, sees it, the league should launch a criminal investigation if the vote doesn’t go in favor of the New Orleans Pelicans’ second-year forward.

The young superstar poured in 22 points, grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds and blocked seven shots Sunday in a 100-92 victory over the Orlando Magic. Davis, 20, served notice to the rest of the league that he feels very comfortable dominating the game on both ends of the court.

“If he hasn’t done enough, I don’t know what else you can do,” Williams said after the Pelicans (18-25) won for the third time in four games. “Every night he carries our team. Even when he doesn’t have a great offensive night, he’s there on defense, he rebounding, he’s blocking shots. When the moment was there tonight, he took over, and that’s what All-Stars do.”

The Pelicans saw their 10-point, fourth-quarter lead nearly evaporate, and they were clinging to 92-88 advantage with 2:55 left.

That was when Davis took over. He took a feed from guard Tyreke Evans on the baseline and slammed home a dunk over Magic forward Glen Davis. Then, after guard Brian Roberts hit a runner in the lane to put New Orleans up 96-90, the Pelicans forward made another monster, right-handed jam over Glen Davis’ head, and the lead was 98-90 with 1:24 left.

Asked if he thought he did enough to merit his first All-Star berth, Davis said he was not focusing on that. In 36 games this season, Davis is averaging 20.1 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks.

“I’m just going to keep playing hard, and hopefully they see my energy and effort, and hopefully they decide to vote me in,” Davis said. “I’m not really worried about that. We’re not where we want to be record-wise. That’s what I’ve got to focus on.

“If (an All-Star berth) happens, it happens. I’m trying to get more wins for the team.”

Evans, rebounding from an illness that kept him out of a road victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, scored 13 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter. He also had seven rebounds and seven assists, and the Magic could not keep him from getting to the basket.

“He has that ability,” Williams said of Evans. “He’s just got to continue to improve. One thing he does better than most guys in the NBA is he gets to the basket. He’s got to understand that when he goes and when three or four guys show up, he’s got to find (someone else).”

The Pelicans forced the Magic (12-33) into 17 turnovers. New Orleans also pulled down 16 offensive rebounds and turned them into 14 second-chance points. That blunted Orlando forward Arron Afflalo’s game-high 25 points.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn had said before the game he was worried about Anthony Davis running wild against his injury-riddled front line, which again was without center Nikola Vucevic (concussion).

“I prefer not to be proven correct, if that’s OK,” Vaughn said. “(Davis is) a great talent, and he … was trouble for us throughout the course of the night.”

It took Anthony Davis less than two quarters to compile his 20th double-double of the season, scoring 10 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking four shots while leading New Orleans to 54-44 halftime lead.

Anthony Davis said he came out more aggressively on the boards after having just 14 total rebounds the previous two games.

“I just tried to bring that energy and effort and get the team going early,” he said. “That’s what I got to do. It starts with me.”

Orlando forward Kyle O’Quinn said, “He’s athletic and long. He’s very active. We’ve slowed him down before on the offensive glass, but tonight he had his way with us.”

NOTES: Pelicans F Anthony Davis is on pace to become the first NBA player since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000 to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. … Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said Davis has made steady improvement from year one. “His ability to make the perimeter shot coupled with his length and athleticism to get to the rim make him a pretty special talent,” Vaughn said. … The Magic fell to 2-13 in January after losing their eighth consecutive road game.

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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