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Raptors hand Hawks fifth straight loss

The Sports Xchange



TORONTO — The way both teams waltzed through the first half, they looked as if they already were on the All-Star Game break.

The Toronto Raptors were able to pick their game up in the second half though to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 104-83 on Wednesday.

Guard DeMar DeRozan scored 14 of his game-high 31 points in the third quarter as the Raptors stretched a one-point halftime lead to 13 entering the fourth quarter.

The Raptors (28-24) head into the break with two consecutive wins while the Hawks (25-26) have lost five in a row.

“I think both teams were on vacation before the game started,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “This is the toughest time of the year, the weeks leading to the All-Star break. I commend our guys for coming out and focusing on the second half, getting defense into the game, getting physicality into the game and making sure we paid attention to detail on the defensive end.”

“We really like our group. It’s been a tough stretch,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “We’re going to take a break. We’ll recharge, we’ll re-energize and we’ll come back and build on a lot of the positives we had in this first 50 games. I don’t think tonight, or even the last few games, are reflective of our group.”

The Raptors improved to 9-2 at home since Jan. 1 while ending a five-game losing streak against the Hawks in games played at Air Canada Centre. Their previous home win over the Hawks was on March 17, 2010.

Guard Kyle Lowry added 16 points, 13 assists and six rebounds for the Raptors.

“He’s been an All-Star on and off the court,” said DeRozan, who is going to the All-Star Game while Lowry was overlooked. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him. And I wouldn’t be where I’m at now, to be honest.”

Forward Patrick Patterson contributed 14 points and six rebounds, guard/forward Terrence Ross scored 13 points and guard Greivis Vasquez had 12 coming off the bench. Center Jonas Valanciunas grabbed 14 rebounds and had two points.

“This is a good team and we’re becoming a great team because we’re so tight,” Vasquez said. “That’s going to help us in the long run. There’s a lot of trust between the coaches and the players and between the players. We’ve got a great group.”

Center Gustavo Ayon led the Hawks with 18 points and 10 rebounds while forward Paul Millsap added 17 points, guard Jeff Teague scored 13 and forward Cartier Martin came off the bench to score 10.

Guard/forward Kyle Korver, who extended his NBA record to 120 games with at least one 3-pointer by going 2-for-4 from beyond the arc, finished with eight points.

“We need a break mentally. The guys just don’t have it right now,” Teague said. “We’ve got to play with a lot more pace. Defensively we’ve got to be a lot more aggressive. Maybe guys are a little tired, maybe their legs are a little heavy. The break, we need it.”

The Raptors scored the first seven points of the third quarter to stretch a one-point halftime lead to eight. The lead never dropped below five after that and, when Lowry closed out the third by making one of two free throws, the Raptors led 78-65.

“DeRozan got hot in the third quarter,” Teague said. “It was hard to keep him off the free-throw line and when he’s making shots like that he’s a tough guy to cover.”

DeRozan was 11-for-19 from the field and 7-for-7 in free throws.

Vasquez opened the scoring in the fourth quarter with a driving layup and forward Steve Novak hit a 3-pointer to give the Raptors an 83-65 lead. The lead reached 21 points after a 3-pointer by Vasquez with 7:15 to play. Novak’s 3-pointer bumped the lead to 25.

The Raptors, who trailed by as many as eight points early, took their first lead, 29-28, with 5:26 to play in the first half on two free throws by DeRozan. A turnaround jumper by DeRozan increased the lead to three points. After the Hawks regained a three-point lead, the Raptors led 45-44 at the half.

“The first half, first quarter, we didn’t have it; neither team had it,” Casey said. “We had to get into the game. Like I told our guys, the second half it’s going to be a grind; it’s not going to be pretty. We don’t want it to be pretty, it’s going to be a grind it’s going to be hard and everybody has to be committed in the locker room.”

Said Budenholzer: “Our challenge is to come back and get back to doing a lot of the things we were doing earlier.”

NOTES: Atlanta F DeMarre Carroll (left hamstring) was not in the lineup after straining his hamstring in the Hawks’ 100-85 loss to the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday. G Lou Williams started at shooting guard to allow G/F Kyle Korver to move to small forward in place of Carroll against the Raptors. … Toronto was without F Amir Johnson (right ankle) for the second game in a row. F Patrick Patterson again started in his place. Patterson scored 22 points in his first start as a Raptor in a 108-101 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Monday. … The Raptors resume play after the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Washington against the Wizards. … The Hawks return from the break with a Tuesday road game against the Indiana Pacers.

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

The Sports Xchange



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

The Sports Xchange



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

The Sports Xchange



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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