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Shorthanded Spurs make Pop proud



WASHINGTON — Gregg Popovich’s coaching career includes four NBA championships and five finals appearances. With that resume, the San Antonio Spurs’ coach knows what a tough victory looks like. Rallying, surviving and eventually downing the Washington Wizards in double overtime without any of the team’s stars counts high on his list.

Forward Tim Duncan had a season-high 31 points and 11 rebounds and guard Patty Mills scored 23 points as the Spurs defeated the Wizards for a 16th straight time, 125-118, in double overtime on Wednesday night.

Mills scored 11 in the two extra sessions for the Spurs (36-13), who survived without guard Tony Parker the entire second half and minus Duncan after the big man fouled out in the second overtime. Forward Kawhi Leonard (fractured hand) and guard Manu Ginobili (left hamstring tightness) never suited up, meaning the Spurs were without their top four scorers for the final 4:13.

“That’s one of the finest wins I’ve ever been associated with, and I’m saying that truthfully,” Popovich said after San Antonio’s third straight win. “For these guys, I couldn’t be prouder of what they did with Kawhi, Manu and Tony not out there.”

Popovich said Parker would not play Thursday at the Brooklyn Nets due to back stiffness.

The wild game Wednesday featured both teams making frantic comebacks before Washington faltered in the final period, missing all 11 of its field-goal attempts.

Guard Marco Belinelli scored 14, and his layup with 2:02 remaining gave the Spurs the lead for good at 119-117. This came after San Antonio trailed by 17 points in the first half, scored the final five points of regulation to force the first overtime and then blew a seven-point lead in that session.

Guard John Wall scored 29 points for the Wizards, including six in the final 10.9 seconds of the first overtime to force the second extra period. Seven players for Washington (24-24) scored in double figures, including guard Bradley Beal with 19.

The Wizards last defeated San Antonio 110-95 on Nov. 12, 2005. Washington has lost nine consecutive at home in the series. The Spurs swept the season series, including a 92-79 home victory on Nov. 13.

“It’s a frustrating loss because we had that game,” said center Marcin Gortat, who scored 11 points. “We really thought we (were going to) break history today and finally beat them after nine years. I guess we have to wait another six months.”

The loss came one game after the Wizards’ record crossed into winning territory for the first time since 2009.

Forward Danny Green had 22 points for the Spurs, including a 3-pointer with 1:16 left in the second overtime for a 122-117 lead.

Behind 14 first-quarter points from Wall and 13 San Antonio turnovers, Washington led 62-48 at halftime.

Duncan scored San Antonio’s first six points of a 9-0 run and 14 of San Antonio’s first 21 points in the third. Washington entered the fourth leading 83-82 before the crowd of 15,791.

“I knew Pop was going to pull the plug at some point if we didn’t make a run, especially having another game tomorrow,” said Duncan, who played 41 minutes.

The Spurs trailed 99-94 with 90 seconds remaining in regulation when Mills made a 3-pointer. Duncan’s floater tied the game at 99-99 with 1:02 left.

Trailing 111-104 lead with 2:01 remaining in the first overtime, Washington closed the period with 11-4 run.

Wall scored the last eight, including six inside the final 11 seconds. Coming out of a timeout down 115-113 with 6.1 seconds left, Wall intercepted Duncan’s pass across halfcourt. He quickly dribbled the 65 feet back for the tying layup with 1.9 seconds remaining. It turned out to be Washington’s final basket.

“John made three plays to get us to another overtime and we laid an egg in the second overtime,” said forward Trevor Ariza, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Beal, who missed several games this season with a leg injury, did not play in either overtime due to a minutes restriction.

Another limited roster awaits Popovich on Thursday, which is why he joked that the 37-year-old Duncan would play 48 minutes after logging 41 against the Wizards.

Upon hearing his coach’s plan, Duncan said, “I am absolutely up for that. It sounds like fun.”

NOTES: Wizards F Trevor Booker returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s game for personal reasons. … The Wizards had two straight — double-digit victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers. … San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, a Russian history major at Air Force, talked pregame about the Winter Olympics in Sochi, including his anxiety when watching figure skating. “I can’t stand it when they fall. I feel awful for them. It’s like missing two free throws at the end of a basketball game,” he said. … The third game of San Antonio’s nine-game “rodeo road trip” comes Thursday at the Brooklyn Nets. Washington’s fourth straight home game comes Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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



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



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



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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