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West, Pacers rally late to force Game 7

The Sports Xchange

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ATLANTA — The top-seeded Indiana Pacers were on the ropes. Down five to the upstart Atlanta Hawks with three minutes to play, the Pacers’ late-season collapse looked complete.

Indiana forward David West would have none of it.

The Pacers fought off the Hawks and an electric crowd at Philips Arena to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoffs with a 95-88 win Thursday in Game 6.

West scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, and Indiana forward Paul George added 24 points and came up with a big steal in the game’s final minute to force Game 7.

The teams alternated wins through the first six games of the first-round series. Game 7 will be Saturday in Indianapolis.

“We’ve played all year for this, to get to Game 7s in our building,” West said. “The energy is going to be great. We just have to handle our business.”

The Pacers were 41-12 at the All-Star break, but they unraveled in the final months of the regular season and were in danger of becoming the sixth No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed in the first round of the playoffs.

Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague hit a jumper that put the Hawks up 84-79 with 3:13 to play, but West scored eight points in the final three minutes, and Indiana closed out the game with a 16-4 run.

“We’ve responded well all year when we’ve been in difficult situations,” Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Part of our response is going to have to be better execution. That’s the challenge for us going into Game 7 — to execute on both ends of the court and have the activity, the competitiveness, the togetherness that it’s going to take. That’s what playoff basketball is about.”

Indiana was in control in the third quarter and had quieted the crowd before a thunderous one-handed dunk by Atlanta forward Mike Scott electrified Philips Arena and completely changed the momentum. The Hawks closed the quarter on a 13-5 run and took a 67-64 lead into the fourth quarter. Teague scored the Hawks’ last six points of the quarter, including a dazzling spin move and layup that gave Atlanta its first lead since early in the second quarter.

“This was a gutsy win for our guys,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “I’m very proud of them. They overcame a few furious runs by the Hawks, especially late in the third quarter. Paul George was in foul trouble, and they just brought down the house with a few plays. Our guys could have wilted at that point, but they didn’t.”

In a back-and-forth first half, Indiana withstood an early surge by the Hawks before grabbing the lead in the second quarter. Pacers point guard George Hill hit a deep 3-pointer as time expired on the second quarter, sending Indiana to locker room up 44-39.

Indiana forward Lance Stephenson finished the night with 21 points, and Hill added 14 points.

Teague led all scorers with 29 points. Atlanta forward Paul Millsap scored 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, and guard Lou Williams added 16 points.

The Hawks set a franchise record by making 15 3-pointers in their win at Indiana on Monday, but made just nine of 35 attempts from beyond the arc in Game 6.

Atlanta won three of its last four games in Indiana, and the Hawks were up big in the third quarter of their Game 2 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“We’re a confident bunch,” Teague said. “We’ve won on that floor before, so we know we can do it. We just have to go out there and do what we do and play our style of basketball, and it will take care of itself.”

The winner of Saturday’s Game 7 will face the Washington Wizards in the second round.

NOTES: Indiana PG George Hill and Atlanta F Mike Scott got into a physical altercation late in the first half. Both received technical fouls. … Pacers coach Frank Vogel inserted reserve F Chris Copeland into the game in the first quarter. Copeland rewarded his coach with a 3-pointer that cut Atlanta’s lead to 22-20 at the end of the quarter, and he finished with five points in 18 minutes. … Indiana C Roy Hibbert, who has struggled throughout the season, picked up two fouls in the first seven minutes and did not play the rest of the first half. He finished with no points and two rebounds in 12 minutes. … Actor and hip-hop artist Ludacris was among an announced sellout crowd at Philips Arena. … A moment of silence was observed before the game to honor longtime NBA coach and analyst Jack Ramsay, who died Monday. … The Hawks are in the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, the longest streak in the Eastern Conference. Their last playoff series win came in 2010-11.

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

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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

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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 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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