LOS ANGELES — Coach Mike Budenholzer handed the keys to the Atlanta Hawks’ offense to Dennis Schroder, and the second-year point guard responded with one of his best performances of the season.
Schroder scored a career-high 24 points and handed out 10 assists, guiding the Hawks to a 91-86 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
“This shows me that Coach trusts me a lot,” said Schroder, who tied his career best in assists. “He keeps talking to me every day. I think that’s because of my improvement. He trusts me, and I love it. He told me before the beginning of the game, ‘This is your game and just play your game. Don’t change anything.'”
Budenholzer adjusted his starting lineup, resting point guard Jeff Teague and forwards Paul Millsap and DeMarre Carroll and inserting Schroder and forwards Kent Bazemore and Pero Antic. Shooting guard Kyle Korver started but sustained a broken nose in the second quarter and did not return.
Still, the Hawks (52-14) had enough to contain the Lakers (17-48).
“This was a good win for us,” said center Al Horford, who scored 21 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field and also had five steals. “I feel like this team really tested us, and our guys on the bench worked hard all year and waited for opportunities. They came out and showed it tonight.”
Reserve guard Shelvin Mack contributed 18 points for Atlanta, which earned its ninth win in 11 games.
It took 42 minutes for reserve forward Ryan Kelly to become the first Los Angeles player to reach double figures. Kelly and forward Carlos Boozer each finished with 13 points to lead the Lakers, who fell for the seventh time in eight games.
Atlanta was in front by 16 points in the fourth quarter before the Lakers rallied. A 13-1 surge pulled Los Angeles within 84-80 after the second of back-to-back buckets by Boozer with 1:03 remaining in the game.
After Horford made one of two foul shots, forward Wesley Johnson hit a 3-pointer to slice the Lakers’ deficit to 85-83 with 30.1 seconds remaining.
Schroder scored on a drive for a four-point advantage with 13.9 seconds left, and that turned out to be the difference.
“We weren’t great executing down the stretch, but I thought Dennis had the big basket late,” Budenholzer said. “Dennis and Al in the two-man game, the pick-and-roll game, was good all night.”
Two free throws by Bazemore, a former Laker who had 13 points and nine rebounds, made it 89-83 with nine seconds remaining.
Kelly’s 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left cut the gap to 89-86, but two foul shots by Schroder with 5.3 seconds remaining sealed the decision.
“We did a terrible job of moving the ball and setting screens,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “That has been something we’ve had trouble doing all season long … setting screens. We just don’t do a good job of that for some reason.”
The Lakers trailed by as much as 15 late in the first quarter before making a 17-2 run to tie the score at 25 on a jumper by guard Jabari Brown midway through the second quarter.
The Hawks went up 37-30 after a basket by Horford, but the Lakers closed the margin to 41-38 after a runner by point guard Jordan Clarkson ended the half.
By the end of the third quarter, the Hawks increased the margin to 68-58. Eight turnovers to three for the Hawks hurt the Lakers in the third. Overall, Los Angeles committed 22 turnovers to 13 for Atlanta.
Atlanta’s versatility dictated the outcome, Los Angeles forward Ed Davis said.
“They don’t care who scores, they have good balance,” said Davis, who finished with 13 rebounds and seven points. “At one point, they had (four) guys in double figures, so they just don’t care who gets the glory. … They’re one of the better teams in the NBA for a reason.”
NOTES: Lakers G Nick Young will have a CT scan on his troublesome left knee Monday. Young missed his 10th game due to the injury. He was averaging 13.4 points per game before getting hurt. “It’s slow (to heal). They don’t understand why,” said coach Byron Scott, referring to the club’s medical staff. … Atlanta signed F Austin Daye to a 10-day contract, though he didn’t play Sunday. Daye, who played 25 games with the San Antonio Spurs earlier this season, averaged 16 points and seven rebounds for the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League. … The Lakers defeated the Hawks 114-109 on Nov. 18 at Atlanta. … The Hawks resume their six-game road swing Monday at the Sacramento Kings. … The Lakers visit the Golden State Warriors on Monday.
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.