NEW ORLEANS — The injury-depleted San Antonio Spurs have been in survival mode for the last two weeks, trying to hang tough with veteran smarts until they get some therapeutic rest during the All-Star break and possibly a full roster after that.
In a 102-95 comeback victory over the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night, the Spurs relied on their two future Hall of Fame veterans — point guard Tony Parker and forward Tim Duncan — to erase a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 38-19 blitz.
Parker scored 21 of his game-high 32 points in the second half and Duncan rebounded from a rough first half to score 21 points to lift the Spurs (35-13) to the win.
“Obviously, down the stretch, Tony Parker was a monster, just a monster,” coach Gregg Popovich said as the Spurs defeated the Pelicans for the 10th time in 11 meetings. “Tony started the sideline pick-and-roll, and Tony pretty much carved them up.”
The Pelicans (20-27) led by as many as 14 points one minute into the fourth quarter, but the Spurs exploded for 21 of the next 25 points in a 6:08 span to take an 87-84 lead.
After guard Marco Belinelli got things started with a layup and foul shot, reserve guard Patty Mills nailed a 20-foot jumper and a 3-pointer.
Then forward Danny Green, playing for the first time in 10 games, hit five straight points as the Spurs drew within 82-80. Parker tied the game at 82 with a floater in the lane, but guard Eric Gordon nailed a right-hand hook in the lane to give the Pelicans their final lead, 84-82.
San Antonio took the lead for good on Matt Bonner’s 3-pointer from the right wing to put San Antonio ahead, 85-84 with 5:26 left, part of a 20-11 closing spurt. The 38 points were the most allowed in a quarter by the Pelicans this year.
“It’s a team thing,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said of the fourth-quarter collapse in which the Pelicans shot just 38 percent and committed five turnovers while allowing the Spurs to hit 60 percent from the field and make 11 of 13 free throws. “It’s easy to point fingers at the guys who were in those situations tonight, but I thought our team defense really struggled. We couldn’t keep the ball in front of us, especially in the fourth quarter.”
The Pelicans couldn’t stop the ball because Parker, the 12-year veteran, blew past every guard New Orleans tried to throw in his way. In the third quarter, Parker hit 10 consecutive points to cut a nine-point deficit to three. He closed with 11 points and two assists in the fourth quarter.
“In the fourth quarter, we finally got some stops and got our transition going and we made some 3s,” Parker said. “We were more physical and played better defense — and we just know how to win. In the fourth quarter, when it’s tight, we know how to execute and we know what we want to do on offense.”
“Parker got it going and we didn’t corral him enough when he got in the paint, and he made a lot of plays,” said Pelicans reserve guard Anthony Morrow, who led New Orleans with 20 points in 22 minutes.
After losing the lead, the Pelicans got within 91-89 on a rebound dunk by center Alexis Ajinca with 2:46 left. But just as quickly, Parker drove into the lane past Ajinca for an easy layup, Duncan slammed home a dunk and then hit a layup on a sweet feed from Parker.
Gordon scored 19 points for the Pelicans, but just seven came in the second half on 3-of-9. Forward Anthony Davis scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, but he struggled from the field, hitting only 5 of 21 shots.
“Nobody just stops a guy like that,” Popovich said. “He had a tough night finding the basket, and we did a pretty good job on him.”
NOTES: Spurs PG Tony Parker and F Tim Duncan each picked up a technical late in the third quarter. Parker said he said only, “Come on, man” to referee J.T Orr, and Duncan picked up his technical trying to get a clarification. “I don’t curse out referees,” Parker said. “It’s not my style.” … Spurs G/F Danny Green, who missed the previous 10 games with a fractured left index finger, returned to the starting lineup. … F Kawhi Leonard (broken finger) is still two or three weeks away. … Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he has been impressed with Pelicans F Anthony Davis’ improvement. “He’s starting to figure out what he can do and how talented he is and how he can have an effect on the game on both ends of the court,” Popovich said. … Pelicans C Jason Smith will miss the rest of the season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery to remove loose cartilage in his right knee. Smith, who averaged 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in 31 games, is expected to recover fully. … Despite major injuries to PG Jrue Holiday and F Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans entered the game having won five of their previous seven. “We’ve always been fighting,” said New Orleans coach Monty Williams. “It’s just a matter of closing games out.”
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.