NEW YORK — Wednesday night proved to be retro night for Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce as his team earned its fourth win in five games.
Pierce did not attempt an overwhelming amount of shots during the Nets’ 105-89 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, but he was efficient. He scored 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, exhibiting a style of play that gained him the reputation as an elite player with the Boston Celtics for years.
“I’ve been a product of great ball movement we’ve been having,” Pierce said. “We’re taking advantage of the opportunity when we make that extra pass. The ball is going to find the open man when that happens.”
The Nets (24-26) improved to 10-2 at home in 2014 and 14-5 overall since Jan. 1. They play the Bulls in Chicago on Thursday in their final game before the All-Star break.
“This is a chance for us to get better,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “A veteran ballclub understands that the games right before break are important. And our guys handled tonight well.”
The Nets opened the second half with a 10-0 run, and they outscored the Bobcats 35-19 in the third quarter to pull away. Pierce scored 14 in the quarter as Charlotte finally faded after being unfazed by prior Brooklyn runs.
“Ball movement was key,” Kidd said. “Everybody was touching it. It all started on the defensive end, getting stops and making a play for their teammates.”
While Pierce played primary scorer, Brooklyn forwards Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche provided secondary options. They scored 10 and 13 points, respectively, to help carry an offense whose key players struggled for a majority of the evening.
“The key is to gather some momentum going into the All-Star break,” Pierce said. “Once you get past the All-Star break, it’s a stretch run. We have 31 games left, and there is going to be a lot of positioning going on.”
Nets All-Star guard Joe Johnson started the game 0-for-6 from the field, but he made two open 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished with eight points.
Coming into Wednesday night, Bobcats center Al Jefferson averaged 29 points per game and recorded 30 points in five of his past seven outings. He was held to just 12 points by Brooklyn.
“The guys executed the game plan,” Kidd said. “We kind of double-teamed him a little bit early to not let him get a rhythm. Al has been playing at a high level, and for him to have 12 points is a great job by our guys.”
Bobcats guard Kemba Walker was a lone bright spot, scoring 16 points and adding three assists. Forward Josh McRoberts scored 13 points, but Charlotte’s third-leading scorer on the season, guard Gerald Henderson, was held to seven points.
“The starting group came out in the third quarter and we just had nothing,” Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. “No energy. No focus. No concentration. Brooklyn’s lead went from six to 15 quickly.”
For every Nets action, there was an equal and opposite Bobcats reaction up until the end of the second quarter as a see-saw of runs dictated the first half.
Pierce and Blatche had a nine points apiece in the first quarter, but Jefferson had 11 for the Bobcats. Brooklyn led as many as nine in the quarter, but Charlotte was quick with a reply.
The Nets used an 8-0 run to start the second quarter to re-open its lead, but with both offenses sputtering, the Bobcats found a way to slow the game down and climb back again by going on a 7-0 run.
“The bottom line is we have to play better in these games,” Clifford said. “We weren’t great in the first half, but we were right there at halftime.”
A 10-2 stretch put the Nets back up nine as they took a 50-44 lead into halftime. After starting the game shooting 10 of 17, the Nets shot just 10 of 26 for the rest of the half.
“There’s never any panic, and you can see that in their play,” Kidd said. “The guys are playing at a high level.”
Brooklyn ended the night shooting 50 percent from the field, while Charlotte shot 41.4 percent.
NOTES: The Nets and Bobcats are currently neighbors in the Eastern Conference standings. Brooklyn is in seventh, and Charlotte sits in eighth. … Bobcats C Al Jefferson is averaging a double-double this season, 20.3 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game. … The Bobcats are off until after the All-Star break. They resume play Tuesday in Detroit against the Pistons.
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.