OAKLAND, Calif. — The Washington Wizards didn’t have a victory over a Western Conference team with a winning record when they boarded a plane and headed west last Thursday.
Five days later, they have two, and they are gunning for more.
Point guard John Wall hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1:28 to go Tuesday night, and the Wizards watched as the Golden State Warriors missed three 3-pointers down the stretch, allowing the Eastern Conference visitors to pull out an 88-85 victory.
In winning for the second time in three games during an ongoing Western trip that tipped off with a victory Friday in Phoenix, the Wizards held the Warriors to two field goals over the final 6:38 of the game. Washington never trailed in that span.
“Today was a different day. It was hot here,” Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza said of the California visit. “Now we go to Los Angeles (to face the Clippers on Wednesday night). I hope it’s the same.”
Ariza made the key defensive stop of the night, switching onto Golden State All-Star point guard Stephen Curry on the Warriors’ final possession of the game and forcing an off-balance, left-handed 3-point attempt that was well off the mark.
“We knew they’d be going for a 3,” Ariza said of a sequence that began with a Warriors timeout with 6.1 seconds left. “It was just a switch. I was glad I got the opportunity (to guard Curry).”
Golden State’s final basket, a layup by power forward David Lee, forged the game’s last tie at 85-85 with 1:47 to go.
Shooting guard Bradley Beal missed a 3-pointer on Washington’s next possession, but Ariza tracked down the rebound and found Wall for the game-winner that improved the Wizards’ road record to 12-11.
“I had amnesia,” Wall said of taking the difference-making shot on a night when he missed 13 of his previous 18 attempts. “I had good looks (earlier). I just kept shooting. I didn’t lose my confidence.”
Golden State small forward Andre Iguodala fired an airball on a 3-point attempt on the Warriors’ first possession after Wall’s hoop, and Curry twice misfired from 3-point range with a chance to tie, including the buzzer-beater under heavy pressure from Ariza.
“They just relied on good defense and put some length on me after the switch,” Curry said of the final play. “I just couldn’t find a good angle and had to throw something up.”
Held to two points while shooting 1-for-7 in the first half, Beal led Washington (22-22) with 20 points. Power forward Nene had 16 and Wall 15 as the Wizards won despite shooting just 37.8 percent from the field.
Beal (four), Wall (three) and backup swingman Martell Webster (two) combined for nine 3-pointers. Washington hit 10 of 22 long-range shots in the game and outscored Golden State 30-21 from beyond the arc.
The Wizards also outrebounded the Warriors 56-47, with center Marcin Gortat grabbing 12 boards and Ariza 11. Golden State had only five offensive rebounds in the game, matching its season low.
“We’re getting better and better each game,” Wall said. “Teams in the West are very good. It’s a tough game every night. We let one get away (Saturday at Utah), but we bounced back. That was a great win against a good Golden State team. Now we need to do it again against the Clippers.”
Curry had 23 points to pace the Warriors, who lost to Washington for the first time in seven meetings. Golden State entered the game 10-3 against Eastern Conference clubs, a record that included a 112-96 win at Washington earlier this month.
Shooting guard Klay Thompson backed Curry with 13 points despite 5-for-17 shooting, as the Warriors (27-19) shot just 37.5 percent in a game that matched teams with the sixth-best records in their respective conferences.
“Right now we are a team that if a championship-caliber team comes in here or an elite team comes in here, we play at that level,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “If a bad team or average team comes in, we play at that level. We are not good enough to allow who comes in here to determine how hard we play.”
Down 10 in the first half, the Wizards held the Warriors to two points over the first 6:24 of the third period and used a 14-2 run to open a 59-51 lead. Beal exploded for nine of Washington’s 14 points in the spurt.
The Warriors awoke to close within 66-65 by period’s end, then used an 11-2 burst early in the fourth period to go up 79-77. Thompson capped the run with a layup off a steal and a 3-pointer.
That was when Washington tightened the defensive screws, holding Golden State without a field goal from the 6:38 mark until Curry nailed a 3-pointer with 2:40 to go. The Wizards outscored the Warriors 8-1 in the meantime, turning the two-point deficit into a 85-80 advantage before Curry’s 3.
NOTES: The Wizards have alternated wins and losses in their past seven games, always winning when they were one game under .500 (as they were entering Tuesday’s game) and then losing every time they had a chance to go above the break-even mark. … Wednesday’s game against the Clippers will mark the sixth time this season the Wizards can go over .500 with a win. They have yet to prevail under those circumstances. … The Wizards promoted SF Glen Rice Jr. from Iowa of the NBA Development League before the game. Rice averaged 2.9 points in 11 games for the Wizards earlier this season before suffering a broken right wrist. He totaled 73 points and 31 rebounds in three games for Iowa over the past week. Rice was in Oakland with the team Tuesday but was not activated for the game. … Warriors SF Andre Iguodala turned 30 Tuesday, and he played on his birthday for the fourth consecutive season. He averaged nearly a triple-double (11.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists) on his previous three birthdays, but he had a triple-single (five points, eight rebounds, three assists) Tuesday.
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.