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Warriors hand 76ers another blowout loss

The Sports Xchange

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Coming off a 45-point drubbing at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers just 24 hours earlier, the last thing the Philadelphia 76ers needed Monday night was a surprise.

Then they ran into the Golden State Warriors’ secret weapon, Marreese Speights, and the rest is unfavorable history.

Getting additional playing time because the Warriors’ first- and second-string centers were injured, Speights exploded for 17 of his career-best 32 points in the second quarter as Golden State built a 33-point halftime lead en route to a 123-80 victory.

The 43-point loss, coupled with Sunday’s 123-78 shellacking in Los Angeles, gave the 76ers the distinction of being just the second team in NBA history to lose consecutive games by 40 or more points. The 1993-94 76ers also suffered the indignity.

The 88-point total margin of the two defeats was the third-largest in NBA history.

“It’s hard for everybody because the reality of it is they have put in so much time, and despite all the turmoil, it’s a group that’s been together, stayed together,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said after his team’s seventh consecutive loss. “At times, you look up and you have to keep going and keep on playing with some level of dignity, and it’s hard doing that.”

In recording their largest margin of the victory since 2002, the Warriors (31-21) outscored the 76ers 37-12 in the second period, with Speights singlehandedly accumulating more points than the visitors.

Philadelphia trailed just 29-21 through one period and was down 33-27 in the third minute of the second quarter before the roof caved in.

Speights, a former 76er who entered the game with a 5.6-point scoring average, poured in 13 in a 14-0 Warriors flurry that produced a 20-point lead.

“I’m happy for him. He deserves this night because he’s put in the time,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of Speights, who watched starting center Andrew Bogut and chief backup Jermaine O’Neal more this season than he has played. “I thought he was fabulous. He waited for his opportunity and took full advantage of it.”

The Warriors extended the lead to 66-33 by halftime and 96-48 late in the third quarter before coasting home for their second consecutive home win. They twice led by 49 points early in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t understand what occurred,” 76ers small forward Evan Turner said. “I just think we need to stick together and not turn on the television or read the paper.”

The 76ers complete a four-day, three-game Western swing Wednesday in Utah against the Jazz.

Speights doubled his previous season high of 16 points. He hit 12 of his 15 shots, including his first seven, inspiring the home crowd to chant, “MVP, MVP,” as he approached — and eventually surpassed — a career-high total of which he was well aware.

“I didn’t want to look forward because my career high was 28 and I didn’t want to keep thinking I’ve got to get 28,” the first-year Warrior said. “I just went out there and the ball kept coming to me, so I kept getting opportunities to score.”

Speights also found time for eight rebounds and a season-best three blocked shots.

“I’ve been working hard,” he said. “I knew one of these days it was going to happen.”

Warriors All-Star point guard Stephen Curry sank six 3-pointers to account for a majority of his 23 points. Starting center David Lee (13 points, 13 rebounds) and power forward Draymond Green (11 points, 11 rebounds) added double-doubles.

In all, six Warriors scored in double figures as the team shot 48.9 percent from the field and made 12 of its 29 3-point attempts.

The 76ers, meanwhile, connected on only two of their 17 3-point attempts and shot just 36.7 percent overall. They also were outrebounded 60-38.

Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams led the 76ers with 24 points, getting 11 in the fourth quarter. Starting forwards Turner and Thaddeus Young chipped in 12 points apiece.

NOTES: On Wilt Chamberlain Bobblehead Night, the Warriors matched their largest margin of victory ever against the 76ers, a mark initially established when Chamberlain scored 55 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 151-108 thumping of the Syracuse Nationals on Nov. 9, 1961. … Before Monday, the Warriors’ largest margin of victory this season was 39 in the first meeting with the 76ers in Philadelphia on Nov. 4. … The Warriors swept the 76ers for the first time since the 2007-08 season. … Philadelphia PG Michael Carter-Williams, already a two-time Rookie of the Month in the Eastern Conference, is attempting to become the first player drafted outside the Top 10 to earn NBA Rookie of the Year honors since Warriors coach Mark Jackson won the award for the New York Knicks as the 18th pick in 1987. Carter-Williams was the No. 11 choice last year. … Warriors SG Klay Thompson played in his 200th consecutive game, just the 10th player in franchise history to reach that mark.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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NBA News Wire

Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair

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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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Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle

The Sports Xchange

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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

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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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