National Basketball Association
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  • Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Trail Blazers rout Suns, clinch playoff berth
    By The Sports Xchange

    PORTLAND, Ore. -- There was no whooping it up or champagne showers in the locker room after the Portland Trail Blazers clinched a spot in the NBA's Western Conference playoffs Monday night.

    • "Our goals are beyond just making the playoffs," Portland coach Terry Stotts said after his team's 109-86 drubbing of the Phoenix Suns at the Moda Center. "With the magic number at one, it was inevitable. It's nice to clinch a spot, but we still have a few games to go that are important to us."

      Guard Damian Lillard scored 19 points and handed out seven assists as the Trail Blazers (48-25) swept to their fourth consecutive victory. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points and seven rebounds, and forward Nicolas Batum and guard Arron Afflalo each had 16 points for Portland.

      Guards Gerald Green and T.J. Warren came off the bench to score 13 points apiece for the Suns, who lost their fourth consecutive game.

      Green sparked a run to get the Suns, who trailed by 16 points late in the second quarter, to within 55-49 at halftime. However, Portland outscored Phoenix 37-16 in the third quarter to blow things open.

      "We let them back into the game in the second quarter," Lillard said. "We came out and did what we needed to do to win after halftime.

      "We cranked up our defense. We really got after them. We pressured the ball and got steals. We moved the ball well offensively. We got good looks and we shot well. It was a great quarter of basketball."

      The Blazers scored the first seven points of the second half to move back in front 62-49. Aldridge's dunk made it 77-55 with 6:40 left in the third quarter. The difference was 90-61 with 2:55 remaining in the quarter, and the Blazers took a 92-65 advantage into the final period.

      One minute into the fourth quarter, the Blazers' bulge was 96-65.

      Portland shot 51.2 percent from the field, knocking down 12 of 27 attempts (44.4 percent) from 3-point range.

      "You can't always have nights like that," Stotts said. "But when the ball is moving and you're making shots, it's fun to watch and it's fun to play like that."

      The Suns (38-37) looked like a team just playing out the season. They are struggling to keep alive their dwindling playoff hopes, as they fell 4 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference.

      Phoenix made 43.7 percent of its field-goal attempts, including just three of 16 tries (18.8 percent) from 3-point range.

      "(The Blazers) are a good team, and they shot the ball well, and if you don't get stops, you can't beat them," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. "It's not like we weren't trying, but we just weren't doing it very well, I guess."

      Portland spotted Phoenix a 15-8 lead, then ran off a 13-3 spurt for a 21-18 advantage. The Blazers took a 31-22 edge into the second quarter.

      The Blazers increased the margin to 53-37 with three minutes to go in the half, but the Suns closed with a rush, outscoring Portland 12-2 the rest of the way to go into intermission trailing by only six. Soon after, the outcome was decided as the Suns fell to 6-10 in the second of back-to-back games.

      "No excuses," said Phoenix forward Marcus Morris, who scored 11 points. "We're not the only team that plays back-to-backs. Got to give (the Blazers) a lot of credit. They were able to run away from us and win. They're a good team."

      NOTES: Portland's magic number to clinch the Northwest Division championship is two (combined Blazers wins or Thunder defeats). ... The Blazers advanced to the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 2009-10 and 2010-11. ... Portland's Terry Stotts recorded his 250th victory as an NBA head coach. ... The Blazers are 30-7 at home this season. ... The Blazers claimed the season series with the Suns 3-1. ... Phoenix was without G Brandon Knight, who aggravated an ankle injury in Sunday's 109-97 loss to Oklahoma City. Knight missed the previous eight games with the injury. ... The Suns are 4 1/2 games behind Oklahoma City in the battle for the eighth and final playoff berth in the West. "We're not mathematically out of it," Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said. "You can never give up. Even when you're out of it, you have to play as hard as you can. If we don't get into the playoffs, we can build and get a couple of our young guys ready for next season."

  • Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    NBA roundup: DeRozan scores 42 in Raptors' win
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO - Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan had a career-high 42 points, leading the Raptors to a 99-96 win over the Houston Rockets at Air Canada Centre Monday night.

    • DeRozan went 14 for 27 from the field and 12 of 17 from the foul line to go along with 11 rebounds.

      Toronto (44-30) has now won eight straight games at home against Houston (50-24) dating back to 2007.

      Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and nine rebounds, while guard Lou Williams had 13 points off the bench.

      Guard James Harden had a team-high 31 points, five rebounds and five assists for Houston, which had its five-game win streak snapped.

      Rockets forward Corey Brewer added 13 points and five rebounds off the bench, while rookie center Clint Capela added eight points, including a couple highlight-reel dunks.

      Harden, who had 13 points through two quarters, went off in the third quarter, scoring 15 points while going 5 for 9 from the field and 3 for 3 from the free-throw line, giving the Rockets a 76-74 lead heading into the fourth.

      Hawks 101, Bucks 88

      ATLANTA -- Forward DeMarre Carroll paced a typical balanced attack for Atlanta, which handed the Bucks their 11th straight road loss.

      Carroll finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists, helping the Hawks improve to 32-5 at home. Carroll's 3-pointer with 2:30 to play in the fourth quarter pushed the Hawks' lead to 92-77 and finally put away the pesky Bucks.

      Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 18 points to lead the Bucks, whose last road win came on Jan. 29 at Orlando.

      Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with a left ankle sprain. Teague played 29 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out nine assists.

      Celtics 116, Hornets 104

      CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Celtics' win moved them back into a tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference standings along with the Brooklyn Nets.

      Guard Avery Bradley led the way with 30 points, and the Celtics clicked offensively from the start. They opened the game by hitting eight of their first nine shots and went on to shoot 50.6 percent from the field with only seven turnovers -- three through three quarters, when they built a 22-point lead.

      Guard Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 28 points and 12 assists.

      Jazz 104, Timberwolves 84

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Utah started the second half on a 14-0 run to build a 24-point lead and coast home with the victory.

      Minnesota has now lost 15 of its last 18 games, and the Jazz have won two straight after snapping a four-game losing streak.

      Utah forward Gordon Hayward led all scorers with 22 points, and he was one of four Jazz players in double figures. Second-year guard Trey Burke chipped in 19 points off the bench.

      Timberwolves rookie guard Zach LaVine led Minnesota with 21 points. Timberwolves rookie forward Andrew Wiggins finished with 17 points, including a one-handed dunk over 7-foot-1 Jazz center Rudy Gobert.

      Grizzlies 97, Kings 83

      MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Point guard Mike Conley scored 18 points to help Memphis snap a three-game losing streak.

      The Grizzlies had lost three straight games by double-digit margins -- at home to Cleveland and Golden State and at San Antonio in a span of five days.

      Memphis (51-24) got well against the Kings (26-47), as Sacramento played without All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, who was rested.

      Kings forward Rudy Gay scored a game-high 24 points but his night ended with 2:23 left in the third quarter when he collided with former teammate Marc Gasol (eight points, 11 rebounds and six assists) going for a loose ball. He was tested for a concussion.

      Lakers 113, 76ers 111 (OT)

      PHILADELPHIA -- Jordan Clarkson dropped in a layup with seven-10ths of a second left in overtime as the Lakers won a game featuring two of the NBA's worst teams.

      Clarkson, a guard who led all scorers with 26 points, took a pass from guard Wayne Ellington and dropped in his game-winner.

      Philadelphia forward Nerlens Noel, who finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds, had tied it on a hook shot with 12 seconds to play.

      Trail Blazers 109, Suns 86

      PORTLAND, Ore. -- Guard Damian Lillard scored 19 points as the Trail Blazers broke open a close game in the third quarter to record their fourth straight win.

      Forward LaMarcus Aldridge added 17 points and seven rebounds for the Trail Blazers (48-25). Forward Nicolas Batum and guard Arron Afflalo each had 16 points for Portland, which clinched a playoff berth in the NBA's Western Conference.

      Guard Gerald Green came off the bench to score 13 points for the Suns (38-37), who lost for the fourth straight time.

      Portland led by six points at halftime, then outscored Phoenix 37-16 in the third quarter to blow things open.

  • Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Grizzlies end skid with win over Kings
    By The Sports Xchange

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The game was not flashy nor spectacular. But for the Memphis Grizzlies, it was all that they needed: a victory.

    • Defeating the Sacramento Kings 97-83 Monday night at FedExForum, the Grizzlies snapped a three-game losing streak and perhaps took a step toward finding the team that played so well before the All-Star break but that has been little more than a .500 team (12-10) after the break.

      "It's good to win," said center Marc Gasol, who had a full, if unconventional, stat line of eight points, 11 rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block. "It's good to win."

      The Grizzlies had lost three straight games by double-digit margins -- at home to Cleveland and Golden State and at San Antonio in a span of five days. They looked little like themselves, especially in losing by 22 to the Cavs and by 23 to the Warriors.

      On Monday night, Memphis (51-24) got well against the Kings (26-47), as Sacramento played without All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, who was rested.

      "We played Memphis Grizzlies basketball, which is defense," said Kosta Koufos, who is Gasol's backup, and who pulled down a season-high 12 rebounds, scored eight points and had three of the team's season-high 11 blocks. "It's been a tough stretch, but we can't make excuses."

      Kings forward Rudy Gay scored a game-high 24 points but his night ended with 2:23 left in the third quarter when he collided with Gasol going for a loose ball. Gasol's arm caught Gay in the side of the head, and Gay fell to the floor and stayed there for a couple of minutes before walking back to the locker room. After the game, Kings coach George Karl said Gay had a concussion.

      "For him to play again, he has to pass some tests," Karl said.

      Memphis led 75-64 going into the fourth quarter and maintained a double-digit lead most of the way. The Kings never drew closer than 78-70, which they achieved at the 9:04 mark on a 3-pointer from forward Omri Casspi (seven points).

      Point guard Mike Conley led Memphis with 18 points. Forward Jeff Green scored 16 points for Memphis with four rebounds and four assists, and power forward Zach Randolph had 15 points with seven rebounds and three assists. Guard Courtney Lee chipped in 10 points and Vince Carter scored nine points and was 3-for-6 from 3-point range.

      "I thought Memphis was a very hungry team," Karl said. "They knew they were in a bad place after three tough losses and they played with a lot of pride."

      They also slipped back into first place in the Southwest Division, a half-game ahead of Houston.

      Memphis shot 45.8 percent from the floor (38 for 83). The Kings shot 40.7 percent (33 for 81).

      The Grizzlies held the advantage on the boards (45-41) and on points in the paint (44-40). They won fast-break points 15-10.

      Memphis coach Dave Joerger said that during the losing streak, the Grizzlies got away from their defensive principles.

      "Things that are happening against some of those big teams is frustrating," Joerger said. "We are having some breakdowns on the defensive end. It's not that we aren't trying hard; we just can't figure out how to get out of this right now. We've started making up our own system and plays defensively."

      Offensively, Memphis handed out 23 assists on the 38 made field goals. The ball movement was better.

      "It gives everybody a chance to get a feel," Gasol said. "It's a lot less predictable. It gets contagious. It's the way we should always play."

      Guard Ray McCallum finished with 12 points and forward Derrick Williams had 10 points and five rebounds off the bench for the Kings. Sacramento gave up 19 points on its 15 turnovers.

      "We want to win the last 10 or 12 games that we have," Williams said. "Coach is really big on that."

      It also would be quite a trick, given that the Kings only have nine games left in their season.

      NOTES: Memphis swingman Tony Allen remains sidelined with a strained left hamstring. "There is no timetable for his return," coach Dave Joerger said. ... Kings C DeMarcus Cousins was rested. Cousins is averaging 24.1 points (fifth in the NBA) and 12.4 rebounds (third in the NBA). "It gives me an opportunity to experiment a little bit (with lineups)," coach George Karl said. ... Former Grizzlies F Rudy Gay scored 28 points in the last matchup against Memphis, his highest total against his former team.

  • Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Jazz take control in third to defeat Timberwolves
    By The Sports Xchange

    MINNEAPOLIS -- Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins may have gotten the best of Utah center Rudy Gobert once, but Gobert and the Jazz topped Wiggins and Minnesota in the end Monday at Target Center.

    • Less than a minute after Wiggins threw down a one-handed dunk over the 7-foot-1 Gobert in the second quarter, Utah's center got his revenge with a big block of Minnesota's rookie. That block seemed to change the course of the game as it sparked the Jazz to a big second half en route to a lopsided 104-84 win.

      "I think it fired us all up," Utah guard Trey Burke said of Gobert's block. "I think it kind of fueled our defense."

      The Jazz let the wounded Timberwolves hang around for the first half Monday. A big third quarter for Utah, however, put that to rest. The Jazz outscored the Timberwolves by 14 in the third quarter as they topped a Minnesota team that won in overtime in Utah exactly one week earlier.

      The Timberwolves had just nine players dressed for Monday's game, and only eight played.

      "We lost some energy, there's no question," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said of the third quarter. "We've played 12 games with eight guys. That's caught up to us."

      Utah forward Gordon Hayward led all scorers with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He was one of four Jazz players in double figures. Burke chipped in 19 points off the bench.

      The Jazz were without their second-leading scorer in forward Derrick Favors, who did not play due to back spasms. Favors is averaging 16.4 points this season. Guard Rodney Hood left the game with concussion-like symptoms, leaving Utah without two key players.

      It didn't seem to matter for the Jazz as four different players finished in double-figures. Among them was forward Trevor Booker, who had a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds as he made the most of his opportunity for more playing time.

      "We definitely needed somebody to step up," Booker said. "I think we did a great job as a team stepping up."

      Utah (33-41) started the second half on a 14-0 run to build a 24-point lead after leading 50-40 at the break. Hayward scored seven of his 22 points during that stretch.

      Timberwolves rookie guard Zach LaVine snapped the Utah run with a fast-break dunk, but the damage had already been done.

      The Jazz hit 10 of 33 shots from 3-point range Monday and shot 47.6 percent from the floor. Minnesota (16-58) shot just 36.8 percent.

      LaVine led Minnesota with 21 points. It was his sixth game this season with 20 or more points, and the fifth time he's led the Timberwolves in scoring. LaVine also chipped in five rebounds and six assists in the loss. He's averaging 18.1 points in his last nine starts.

      Wiggins finished with 17 points, but none was more memorable than the two points he scored on his second-quarter dunk. Wiggins took a pass from guard Lorenzo Brown, cut into the lane and threw down a one-handed slam over Gobert to cut Utah's lead to 35-34.

      The usually mild-mannered Wiggins flexed his muscles and shouted after the slam, which brought the Target Center crowd to its feet.

      "It was exciting. It was good," Wiggins said. "I got up."

      On Minnesota's next trip down the court, though, Gobert got his payback as he stuffed Wiggins on another dunk attempt. Gobert finished with three of Utah's six blocks in addition to his 15 points and 12 rebounds.

      "I'm going to get dunked on," Gobert said. "Most important is to never be scared. I was ready for him to come back, and he came back pretty quick."

      Minnesota has now lost 15 of its last 18 games.

      The Jazz have won two straight after snapping a four-game losing streak.

      NOTES: Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said that C Nikola Pekovic (right ankle) will not play again this season. Pekovic played in just 31 games in 2014-15, averaging 12.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. ... Pekovic is one of a long list of injured Minnesota players. PG Ricky Rubio (left ankle) and F Kevin Garnett (illness) sat out Monday, and C Gorgui Dieng was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms after getting hit in the head Sunday against the New Orleans Pelicans. Minnesota used its 27th starting lineup of the season, a franchise record. ... Jazz F Derrick Favors was out due to back spasms. "Backs are tricky things," Utah coach Quin Snyder said. ... Saunders wouldn't make a Final Four prediction, he but did have high praise for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, a close friend. "Of all of his years, it's probably the best coaching job he's done," Saunders said.

  • Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    DeRozan pours in 42 as Raptors top Rockets
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- Guards DeMar DeRozan and James Harden have battled on the court since they were 12-year-olds in the Los Angeles area, so for DeRozan to drop a career-high 42 points against Harden's team Monday night was extra special.

    • DeRozan led Toronto to a 99-96 win over Houston, the Raptors' eighth consecutive victory over the Rockets in Air Canada Centre.

      "I mean, it's definitely cool because we've been playing against each other since we were kids," DeRozan said of matching up against Harden, who scored 31 points. "That's one of my close friends in the league to this day. He's close with my family, I'm close with his family, so it's always cool. Now we can cherish this 20 years, 30 years from now, just joking and having fun together."

      DeRozan shot 14-for-27 from the field and 12-for-17 from the foul line. He added 11 rebounds.

      "The most important thing was not the points, but his defense," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who called DeRozan's all-around performance the best in the four years he has coached him. "I thought his defensive rebounding was as solid as anything else, which made it an all around excellent game for him."

      Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and nine rebounds, while guard Lou Williams had 13 points off the bench.

      In addition to his team-high point total, Harden contributed five rebounds and five assists for Houston, which had its five-game winning streak snapped.

      Rockets forward Trevor Ariza had 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists, and forward Corey Brewer added 13 points and five rebounds off the bench. Rookie center Clint Capela added eight points, including a couple highlight-reel dunks, and nine rebounds.

      "We had our opportunities, we just didn't get the job done," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "There were loose balls that we didn't get, some offensive rebounds that hurt us. We couldn't get a couple of key stops when we needed it.

      "We really never got into a great flow tonight."

      Harden, who had 13 points through the first half, went off in the third quarter, scoring 15 points while shooting 5-for-9 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line, giving the Rockets a 76-74 lead heading into the fourth.

      Houston led 52-48 at halftime.

      DeRozan led all players with 17 first-half points on 6-of-12 shooting.

      According to Casey, DeRozan needed to rediscover his game after sitting out from late November to mid-January due to a torn tendon in his groin.

      "Any time you miss 22 games (with) a serious injury that he had, it takes time," Casey said. "Some players it takes the entire season to get over that and get the confidence that you have in your body and the explosiveness to fight through that. I think that's where is, he's getting his conditioning, his legs (and) the confidence."

      DeRozan was not only motivated by playing his childhood friend, but by his team's 98-76 loss in Houston on Feb. 21.

      "I just wanted to go out there and win. I'm proud we were into it," he said. "The last time we played these guys, they kind of got us pretty good. We're really just trying to go out there and just be ourselves and understand that we've got to use these next couple games to get ready for the playoffs."

      With the loss, the Rockets (50-24) slipped a half-game behind the Grizzlies in the race for the Southwest Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. Memphis defeated the Sacramento Kings 97-83 Monday.

      The Raptors (44-30) climbed within a game of the idle Chicago Bulls for the third seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

      NOTES: Raptors G Kyle Lowry missed his third consecutive game due to back spasms. ... Houston announced G Patrick Beverley will undergo season-ending surgery on his left wrist Tuesday. ... Houston C Dwight Howard, who played in his third game since returning from a right knee injury Sunday, was rested Monday. ... Houston was also without F Terrence Jones, who is dealing with a partially collapsed lung. ... Toronto clinched its second consecutive Atlantic Division title with a 94-83 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

  • Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Clarkson layup lifts Lakers past 76ers in OT
    By The Sports Xchange

    PHILADELPHIA -- This is getting to be a habit for Los Angeles Lakers rookie guard Jordan Clarkson.

    • Less than a week after he was a hero in a victory at the Minnesota Timberwolves, Clarkson again made the decisive play Monday night, dropping in the game-winning layup with 0.9 of a second left in overtime to lift the Lakers to a 113-111 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.

      "He's not scared of the moment," Los Angeles coach Byron Scott said. "He's not afraid to fail. He's not afraid to be the goat or the hero. You've got to like that."

      Clarkson, who led all scorers with 26 points, also notched six points in the final 49.9 seconds of regulation, including two free throws with 11.1 seconds left that tied the game at 102-all and forced overtime.

      "I'm just trying to continue to get better, continue to play and compete," he said. "It's just happened that the ball has kind of rolled my way."

      Jabari Brown, like Clarkson a rookie guard from Missouri, scored a career-high 22 points for the Lakers, who at 20-53 have the NBA's fourth-worst record. Guard Wayne Ellington contributed 20.

      Center/forward Nerlens Noel had 19 points and 14 rebounds for the Sixers, who at 18-57 have the league's third-worst mark. Guards Isaiah Canaan and Ish Smith added 18 and 17 points, respectively.

      Ellington scored seven of his points in the extra period, and his 3-pointer with 1:41 left gave the Lakers a 111-105 lead. The Sixers reeled off the next six points, all by Noel, and it was his hook shot with 12.9 seconds left that knotted the game at 111-111.

      On the night's last possession, Ellington had the ball on the left wing and was looking to shoot. Clarkson cut from the right wing to the basket in anticipation of an offensive rebound.

      "He made a heck of a cut, and he was wide open," Ellington said. "I turned and saw him wide open under the rim."

      Clarkson also made two free throws with 0.3 of a second left in overtime to beat the Timberwolves on March 25.

      The Sixers lost for the fifth time in six games, and afterward coach Brett Brown fended off a question about how a defeat to another poor team will actually benefit them in the draft lottery.

      "Just look at the effort the guys give defensively," he said. "I don't have much more to say. We had that bad second period with 34 points. Short of that, we competed. Give their guards credit. You look at what Ellington, Clarkson and Jabari Brown did, we shake their hand. We give them credit."

      The Sixers burst out to an early 24-11 lead, as guard JaKarr Sampson hit a pair of 3-pointers and forward Robert Covington also connected from the arc. In the early going, Noel dived on the floor for a loose ball and while seated, fed center Furkan Aldemir for a dunk.

      After Philadelphia led 32-19 in the second quarter, the Lakers went on a 17-4 run that included a 3-pointer and a three-point play by Brown. That left the game tied at 36-36.

      Los Angeles went ahead for the first time all night, 47-46, on a jumper by forward Wesley Johnson. The teams exchanged the lead four more times after that, with Johnson's dunk with 1:11 remaining in the second quarter giving the Lakers a 51-50 halftime lead.

      The Lakers made it 62-55 on Clarkson's two free throws five minutes into the third quarter, and by the end of the period, held a 76-71 advantage.

      The Sixers trailed 81-76 early in the fourth quarter, but reserve forward Thomas Robinson packed seven of his 13 points into a 16-3 flurry that gave Philadelphia 92-84 lead with 5:18 left.

      The Lakers clawed back, tying it at 98-all on Clarkson's drive with 49.9 seconds left. Clarkson also countered a basket by Smith with two free throws, and he answered two foul shots by Noel with the two that came with 11.1 seconds to play.

      NOTES: Lakers F Carlos Boozer sat out due to an upper-respiratory infection, while Los Angeles G Jeremy Lin sat out a second consecutive game with that ailment. ... The Sixers were without G Jason Richardson (left knee injury), F Jerami Grant (upper respiratory infection) and F Luc Mbah a Moute (shoulder soreness). Coach Brett Brown said Richardson, who missed two years with injuries to his left knee and right foot before returning last month, might miss as many as two more games. ... Monday's game marked the second straight that Philadelphia F/C Nerlens Noel started at power forward. Brown said he made the move with the idea that Noel will have to play that position next year, when C Joel Embiid returns after missing this season following foot surgery. "Out of 48 minutes, there's enough minutes where we can see him play (center)," Brown said of Noel, "but I think his blocked shots will take a hit as I move him more toward a perimeter defensive (role)."

  • Tuesday, March 31, 2015
    Hawks hand Bucks an 11th straight road loss
    By The Sports Xchange

    ATLANTA -- The Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks have different objectives in the final two weeks of the regular season.

    • With the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference locked up, the Hawks want to stay healthy and sharp. The Bucks need every win they can get to secure a playoff spot.

      The team with less to play for prevailed Monday night at Philips Arena.

      Forward DeMarre Carroll paced a typical balanced attack for Atlanta, lifting the Hawks to a 101-88 win over the Bucks, who lost their 11th consecutive road game.

      Carroll finished with 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists, helping the Hawks improve 32-5 at home. Carroll's 3-pointer with 2:30 to play in the fourth quarter pushed the Hawks' lead to 92-77 and finally put away the pesky Bucks.

      Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 18 points to lead the Bucks, whose last road win came on Jan. 29 at Orlando. Milwaukee center Zaza Pachulia, a former Hawk, added 17 points and 13 rebounds.

      "We didn't play hard enough tonight," Milwaukee coach Jason Kidd said. "When you play against the best in the East, you have to compete. We didn't do that tonight."

      Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague returned to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a left ankle sprain. Teague played 29 minutes, scoring eight points and handing out nine assists.

      Hawks center Al Horford added 18 points, and guard Kyle Korver scored all 11 of his points during a 65-second span in the third quarter that included three 3-pointers.

      Korver, wearing a facemask to protect his broken nose, missed his first four 3-point attempts before connecting from straight on midway through the third quarter. He then hit two more treys and a deep 2-pointer in a stretch that saw the Hawks extend their lead to 14.

      "I just needed one to go in, and then one finally did," Korver said. "I've been so frustrated with shooting with this mask on my face, and it's something that I have to get past. But it saved me tonight, because I took a shot to the nose, and I would have been back to square one."

      With nine games remaining, the Bucks (36-38) are trying to hold off the Miami Heat for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Including the Heat, there are five teams within 4 1/2 games of the Bucks.

      "We all should be concerned," Kidd said. "We have one or two guys fighting, but at the end of the day, we need everybody on the same page. We're not getting that right now. For us, we're a young team. There's nothing that's solid. It's still up in the air. Everybody is still fighting for a playoff a spot, and we are, too."

      The Hawks (56-18) are one win short of tying the franchise record, but the latest victory came at a cost. Atlanta backup point guard Dennis Schroder injured his left toe early the second quarter, went straight to the locker room and did not return. Coach Mike Budenholzer said Schroder would not travel with the team to Detroit for Tuesday's game against the Pistons.

      Schroder's injury epitomizes the challenge Budenholzer faces in the final two weeks of the regular season. With the No. 1 seed secured, the second-year coach will try to walk the line of keeping his players rested and healthy while also keeping them sharp.

      "We try to be honest," Budenholzer said of his late-season approach. "We try to be critical of ourselves."

      The Hawks led by as many as 14 in the second quarter and went to halftime up 46-39, but Milwaukee stayed within striking distance until midway through the fourth quarter.

      Atlanta forward Paul Millsap finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, one of five Hawks to score in double figures. Forward Thabo Sefolosha scored 11 points.

      NOTES: Atlanta F Mike Scott missed his 10th consecutive game due to a left toe sprain. Scott did work out pregame and had good mobility. ... Milwaukee F Jared Dudley sat out to rest a lower back ailment. ... The Hawks clinched the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference on Friday. It is the first time Atlanta will be the top seed in the playoffs since the 1993-94 season.

  • Monday, March 30, 2015
    Celtics dump Hornets, move into tie for eighth
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Boston Celtics are in the middle of a fierce battle for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth, and they clearly played with a sense of urgency Monday night.

    • The Celtics outworked the Charlotte Hornets en route to a 116-104 victory that moved them back into a tie for eighth in the Eastern Conference standings along with the Brooklyn Nets.

      Guard Avery Bradley led the way with 30 points, and the Celtics clicked offensively from the start. They opened the game by hitting eight of their first nine shots and went on to shoot 50.6 percent from the field with only seven turnovers -- three through three quarters, when they built a 22-point lead.

      Celtics coach Brad Stevens was even more pleased with his team's defense, which was dominant until the Hornets made a late surge to get within six in the final minute.

      "We were really locked in tonight," Stevens said. "We emphasized getting back to a defensive identity today. That was our only focus. We said if we do that, the offense will take care of itself. It makes you feel better when shots are going down like they were tonight, but we were locked in on what we were trying to do."

      Bradley shot 12-for-23 from the field with three 3-pointers to finish two points shy of his career high, set earlier this season against the Dallas Mavericks.

      "I feel like we were just moving the ball well," Bradley said. "Not only that, but we were executing our plays and making shots, and that makes it easier on everybody because you're not out there thinking, you're just out there playing. That's what we did tonight. I think we had like 16 assists in the first half, and that shows, whenever we're playing that way, we're playing great basketball."

      The win moved the Celtics to 33-41, in a virtual tie with Brooklyn (32-40). The Indiana Pacers, who play at Boston on Wednesday night, are in 10th place, a half-game back at 32-41. The Hornets (31-42) are 1 1/2 games out of eighth.

      "Obviously, we understood we needed this game," said Boston forward Evan Turner, who finished with 15 points, six rebounds and five assists. "Every game is important now, and we just toughed it out. We came out and played great team ball. Now we just need to string a few games like this together. We got off to a good start, and we maintained it throughout the game."

      The Celtics, clearly playing with more passion than the Hornets, pulled out to quick a 17-6 lead. They led 26-24 after one quarter, 56-44 at halftime, then pushed the lead up to 83-61 late in the third quarter before settling for an 85-69 lead after three.

      Charlotte guards Kemba Walker and Mo Williams got hot down the stretch, and the Hornets got as close as 104-100 with 34.7 seconds left, but then the Celtics scored the last six points of the game.

      Coach Steve Clifford defended the Hornets' effort but said that his team didn't play with focus and purpose.

      "In the bigger picture, we just couldn't guard them," Clifford said. "Frankly, we just take too many plays off. I told the guys, I like our team. I like the way we work, but I don't like the way we play every night. You have to be locked in. Every guy that steps on the court has to be locked in. We have to play with intensity, purpose and mistake-free. That first half, it's not good enough."

      Besides Bradley's 30 points and Turner's 15, the Celtics got 14 points from guard Marcus Smart and forward Jae Crowder, 11 from center Kelly Olynyk and 10 from guard Isaiah Thomas.

      Walker led the Hornets with 28 points and 12 assists. Mo Williams scored 19, guard Gerald Henderson scored 17, center Al Jefferson had 12, and forward Marvin Williams added 10.

      "We're pretty disappointed, especially because we had to play catch-up throughout the whole game," Walker said. "That was a huge game for us. It's definitely disappointing. We've got to be better from the start."

      NOTES: The teams wound up splitting the season's series, each winning twice. ... The Hornets were without F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (left ankle sprain) and F Cody Zeller (right shoulder soreness). ... Over the weekend, Hornets C Al Jefferson had fluid drained from his right knee for the second time in two weeks. ... The Celtics were without F Jared Sullinger (left metatarsal stress fracture). ... The Celtics were playing the second night of a back-to-back after losing to the Los Angeles Clippers 119-106 in Boston on Sunday night. .... Hornets G Lance Stephenson never got off the bench, as coach Steve Clifford used G P.J. Hairston in the rotation instead. Clifford said he was just trying to shake things up with Kidd-Gilchrist out. ... The Hornets close out a three-game home stand Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons. Charlotte has four home games and five road games remaining in the regular season... The Celtics have four home games and four road games left.

  • Monday, March 30, 2015
    NBA notebook: Bulls' Rose resumes contact practice
    By The Sports Xchange

    Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose participated in a full-contact practice Monday for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in February.

    • "He was a little winded, but we expected that," coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. "Overall I thought it was good."

      Rose had a meniscectomy on his right knee Feb. 27 and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

      Last week, Rose said his knee was pain-free and he remained optimistic about returning before the playoffs.

      Rose is averaging 18.4 points and 5.0 assists in 46 games this season.

      ---Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley will have surgery on his left wrist and miss the rest of the season.

      The 26-year-old guard will undergo surgery Tuesday, ESPN.com reported.

      Beverley suffered torn ligaments in the wrist March 23 in a victory over the Indiana Pacers. He saw a doctor in Houston last Wednesday and sought a second opinion before deciding on surgery Monday.

      In his third year with the Rockets, Beverley is averaging 10.1 points and 3.4 assists per game this season.

      Jason Terry, 37, will step in as the starter and Pablo Prigioni will back up Terry.

  • Monday, March 30, 2015
    Rockets' Beverley out for season
    By The Sports Xchange

    Houston Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley will have surgery on his left wrist and miss the rest of the season.

    • The 26-year-old guard will undergo surgery Tuesday, ESPN.com reported.

      Beverley suffered torn ligaments in the wrist March 23 in a victory over the Indiana Pacers. He saw a doctor in Houston last Wednesday and sought a second opinion before deciding on surgery Monday.

      In his third year with the Rockets, Beverley is averaging 10.1 points and 3.4 assists per game this season.

      Jason Terry, 37, will step in as the starter and Pablo Prigioni will back up Terry.

  • Monday, March 30, 2015
    Bulls' Rose resumes contact practice
    By The Sports Xchange

    Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose participated in a full-contact practice Monday for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in February.

    • "He was a little winded, but we expected that," coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. "Overall I thought it was good."

      Rose had a meniscectomy on his right knee Feb. 27 and was expected to miss 4-6 weeks.

      Last week, Rose said his knee was pain-free and he remained optimistic about returning before the playoffs.

      Rose had two previous knee injuries -- a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in April 2012 and a torn medial meniscus in his right knee in November 2013.

      Rose is averaging 18.4 points and 5.0 assists in 46 games this season.

  • Monday, March 30, 2015
    Short-handed Thunder bury Suns
    By The Sports Xchange

    PHOENIX -- Down by 20 points in the second quarter and in danger of a second loss in as many nights, the injury-riddled Oklahoma City Thunder needed every available body to pitch in and push the Phoenix Suns all but out of the Western Conference playoff race.

    • And the Thunder had more than enough volunteers to get the job done.

      Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin and Anthony Morrow all hit 3-pointers during a 13-0 Oklahoma City run early the fourth quarter Sunday, and the Thunder held the Suns to 35 second-half points to win going away, 109-97.

      "We played a scrappy brand of basketball," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We have to do that. We're short-handed. We have a lot of good players (Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison) who are out. That first half, we played too relaxed. If you do that, you get beat.

      "But then we fought for every loose ball, we fought for every pass, we started making some threes, and that was the ballgame."

      The Thunder (42-32) trailed 54-34 with 6:27 left in the first half, but tjey outscored Phoenix 75-43 the rest of the way to complete their largest comeback of the year. The win moved them four full games ahead of the Suns (38-36) and kept them 2 1/2 games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans in the fight for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.

      Guard Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 33 points, but he scored just four in the fourth quarter and was on the bench resting when his teammates took control of the game. Center Steven Adams had a huge game with 13 points and 16 rebounds, his fourth straight double-double.

      "Once they got up, we made the decision to defend or go home," said Westbrook, made only 10 of 29 shots from the floor but contributed nine rebounds and seven assists. "It was great to sit there and watch guys make huge shots -- D.J., A-Mo, Kyle -- that really fueled our run.

      "It was a huge game, and we played with a mindset as if the playoffs were today. That's what we need to do for the rest of the season."

      With a small lineup on the floor, Morrow, a guard, hit two 3-pointers and forward Singler and guard Augustin one each to turn an 83-82 Suns lead into a 95-83 Thunder advantage with 6:45 left.

      Augustin finished with 19 points, and guard Dion Waiters scored nine of his 18 in the third quarter. The Thunder shot 4-for-14 from 3-point range in the first three quarters but hit six of 12 in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

      "We were able to leave the guys on the floor that were playing well, and we caught a rhythm," Singler said. "We were knocking down shots and getting stops on defense. That small lineup was good for us. We had to do it out of necessity, and it opened up the floor for our playmakers.

      The Suns scored 62 points in the first half but managed just 13 baskets and 35 points in the second half. Forward Markieff Morris had 24 points to lead the Suns, but he scored only four in the second half as Phoenix all but gave away its last chance to stay in the postseason race.

      "They made five threes in a row, contested," Morris said. "We were up 20 points. When you get up like that, you've got to really crush them, and we didn't do it. It's been happening all year. We have to find a way to finish teams off.

      "We just have to stick together and finish the season strong. We're still not out of it. Anything is possible. Just got to keep fighting."

      Rookie forward T.J. Warren had 18 points, and forward Marcus Morris and guard Eric Bledsoe had 15 each for the Suns, who lost guard Brandon Knight when he re-injured his right ankle in the third quarter.

      "We were good in the first half. We really moved the ball," Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. "Then for whatever reason, we looked like we ran out of gas. We had turnovers and they were getting easy baskets. I don't know if the guys felt demoralized when that happened, but you've got to keep playing.

      "We've had stretches all year when we miss two or three (shots) and all of sudden it becomes five, eight, 10, 12 and guys are tentative about shooting."

      Markieff Morris got the Suns off to a fast start, scoring the first 11 Phoenix points in 2:26. He finished with 16 points in the quarter, and his dunk off a Marcus Morris feed gave the Suns a 21-10 lead.

      Westbrook was just the opposite. He picked up a technical foul 57 seconds into the game, missed his first five shots from the field and finished 2-for-9 in the quarter.

      Up 35-24 after one quarter, the Suns outscored Oklahoma City 19-10 in the first 5:33 of the second quarter and pushed their lead to 54-34 on two Marcus Morris free throws.

      However, Westbrook finished the half with a flourish. He scored Oklahoma City's final 15 points, starting with a 3-pointer and ending with a 14-foot jumper to pull the Thunder within 62-54 at the half. He finished the half with 23 points but needed 19 shots to get them.

      The Suns missed 17 of 24 shots in the third quarter, while Waiters had nine points for the Thunder and capped a 16-6 run with a fastbreak layup to tie the game at 71. Westbrook was 2-for-7 in the quarter, but his teammates were 7-for-13, and Oklahoma City trailed just 79-76 heading to the final 12 minutes.

      NOTES: Phoenix G Brandon Knight played for the first time since spraining his left ankle March 9. He scored six points in 16 minutes before he was re-injured. ... Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks on having C Steven Adams face athletic players such as Suns F Markieff Morris and F Marcus Morris with several Thunder big men injured: "We have no other choice right now," Brooks said. "Steven is going to have to learn how to guard perimeter players while we're down a few guys. These are all new experience for him, (but) I think he's done a pretty good job." ... The Suns were struggling offensively, but their defense was strong over the previous six games. Phoenix held opponents to an average of 91.7 points per game, and its 93.4 points allowed per 100 possessions over that span was the best in the NBA.

  • Monday, March 30, 2015
    NBA roundup: Cavs slip past Sixers
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and the Cavaliers survived a scare from the Philadelphia 76ers for an 87-86 victory Sunday, although Cleveland lost two key players to injury.

    • Cleveland forward Kevin Love, who has battled back problems throughout the season, took an elbow to his lower back in the fourth quarter and had to leave the game soon after. Cavs guard Iman Shumpert jammed his ankle going up for a dunk in the second quarter and left the game immediately. Neither player returned, but neither injury is considered serious.

      The Cavs began the day with everyone available, yet they only survived when Philadelphia's Nerlens Noel missed a contested shot in the lane in the game's final seconds.

      Neither team scored a basket for the final 3:57. The Sixers missed their final five shots and their last four free throws, while the Cavs missed their last six shots. Philadelphia guard Ish Smith missed a pair of open 3-pointers, and forward Robert Covington (team-high 19 points) missed two free throws, all in the final 90 seconds,

      Rockets 99, Wizards 91

      WASHINGTON -- Guard James Harden scored 24 points, and Houston fended off a second-half rally for a win over Washington.

      Forward Corey Brewer scored 15 points and forward Josh Smith had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, who won their fourth straight. Center Dwight Howard had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

      Guard John Wall finished with 25 points for the Wizards, coming up short of his third straight game with 30 or more points. The All-Star also had 12 assists and made 11 of 12 free throws. Washington lost for the fifth time in six games.

      Pelicans 110, Timberwolves 88

      NEW ORLEANS -- Forward Anthony Davis scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and center Omer Asik added 15 points to lead New Orleans past injury-riddled Minnesota.

      Davis struggled with his outside shot, going 10-for-21 from the floor, but he made eight of 10 free throws. Guard Eric Gordon added 12 points, and forward Quincy Pondexter, guard Norris Cole and center Alexis Ajinca had 10 each for New Orleans.

      Minnesota got a team-high 20 points from forward Andrew Wiggins, but the Timberwolves killed their chances with 21 turnovers.

      Nets 107, Lakers 99

      NEW YORK -- Center Brook Lopez collected 30 points and 11 rebounds, and Brooklyn held on for a victory over Los Angeles.

      Forward Joe Johnson added 18 points and rookie guard Markel Brown contributed a career-high 17 points for Brooklyn, which equaled a season high with three consecutive wins. Lopez posted his sixth straight game with at least 20 points and reached 30 points for the fourth time in six games, helping Brooklyn win for the seventh time in nine games.

      Center Jordan Hill returned to the Los Angeles lineup after sitting out three games and collected 22 points and 16 rebounds. The Lakers lost for the 12th time in 15 games.

      Pacers 104, Mavericks 99

      INDIANAPOLIS -- C.J. Miles scored 28 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with one minute remaining and two free throws with 1.7 seconds to go, leading Indiana past Dallas. It was the first time in 34 games this season that the Mavericks lost when leading after three quarters. Indiana snapped a four-game home losing streak.

      Two free throws from center Roy Hibbert broke a tie and gave the Pacers a 99-97 lead with 1:30 remaining. Miles followed with the 3-pointer 30 seconds later for a 102-97 lead. Dallas forward Chandler Parson made a layup with 55 second to go to slice the deficit to 102-99, but the Mavericks, who managed only 38 second-half points, did not score again.

      Hibbert and guard George Hill each added 14 for Indiana. Parsons led Dallas with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Forward Dirk Nowitzki had 19 points and five rebounds, and guard Rajon Rondo added 17 points and 10 assists.

      Spurs 103, Grizzlies 89

      SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points as San Antonio defeated Memphis. The Spurs forward scored the team's first 15 points of the fourth quarter and helped doom the Grizzlies to their third consecutive loss, matching their longest slump of the season.

      Leonard shot 11-for-17 from the field and finished one point shy of tying his career high.

      San Antonio forward Tiago Splitter added 15 points and guard Tony Parker scored 17. Forward Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting while forward Jeff Green chipped in with 19.

      Thunder 109, Suns 97

      PHOENIX -- Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin and Anthony Morrow all hit 3-pointers during a 13-0 Oklahoma City run early the fourth quarter, and the Thunder rallied from a 20-point, first-half deficit to beat Phoenix.

      Guard Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 33 points, but he scored just four in the fourth quarter and was on the bench resting when his teammates took control of the game. He made only 10 of 29 shots from the floor.

      Augustin finished with 19 points, and guard Dion Waiters scored nine of his 18 in the third quarter. Thunder center Steven Adams added 13 points and 16 rebounds. Forward Markieff Morris had 24 points to lead the Suns, but he scored only four in the second half.

      Heat 109, Pistons 102

      MIAMI -- Undersized and undermanned Miami stretched its home winning streak to a season-best five. Shooting guard Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 40 points to lead the Heat, who had just nine healthy players available in the second half.

      Wade scored 19 of his points in the fourth quarter. Miami's Udonis Haslem, playing center, had a season-high 18 points to go with a season-high 13 rebounds, and rookie forward James Ennis came off the bench to score a career-high 16 points. Center Drummond led Detroit with 32 points and 14 rebounds, and guard Reggie Jackson added 31 points.

      Miami, playing without four injured 6-foot-10 or taller big men, Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, Hassan Whiteside and Chris Andersen, lost forwards Luol Deng (knee) and Michael Beasley (elbow) to injuries.

      Clippers 119, Celtics 106

      BOSTON -- Los Angeles saw its 35-point lead slip to 14 in the fourth quarter Sunday, but the Clippers held on to beat Boston.

      Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, missed 12 of 15 free throws. Los Angeles guard J.J. Redick hit five of six attempts from behind the 3-point arc and scored 24 of his 27 points in the first three quarters. Guard Chris Paul had 21 points and 10 assists, and forward Blake Griffin added 21 points and nine rebounds.

      Guard Isaiah Thomas came off the bench to lead six Celtics (four of them reserves) in double figures with 19 points. Thomas added seven assists. Boston center Tyler Zeller delivered 16 points.

  • Monday, March 30, 2015
    Pacers stay alive with win over Mavs
    By The Sports Xchange

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Certainly, beating the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night had special significance for Dallas native and Indiana Pacers guard/forward CJ Miles, a graduate of Skyline High School.

    • But it also was significant in that it kept the Pacers alive in the chase for one of the final playoff slots in the East.

      Miles scored 28 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with one minute remaining and two free throws with 1.7 seconds to go, leading Indiana to a 104-99 victory over Dallas in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

      The left-hander made 9 of 12 field goal attempts, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range, and 5 of 6 from the free throw line.

      "It was a great game playing against a great team with great players that made plays," Miles said. "I think it was a fun game from a fan's perspective, us going at each other and making big plays. We're in a time right now where we need to win all of our games. Everything is a must.

      "For us to step up and beat a team like that feels good. We came out with a lot of energy. We beat a great team with a great coach."

      It was the first time in 34 games this season that the Mavericks (45-29) lost when leading after three quarters. Indiana (32-41) snapped a four-game home losing streak.

      Two free throws from center Roy Hibbert broke a tie and gave the Pacers a 99-97 lead with 1:30 remaining. Miles followed with the 3-pointer 30 seconds later for a 102-97 lead.

      Dallas forward Chandler Parson made a layup with 55 second to go to slice the deficit to 102-99, but the Mavericks, who managed only 38 second-half points, did not score again.

      Hibbert and guard George Hill each added 14 for Indiana, which shot 50 percent from the field (38-for-76).

      Parsons led Dallas with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Forward Dirk Nowitzki had 19 points and five rebounds, and guard Rajon Rondo added 17 points and 10 assists. The Mavericks shot 44.4 percent (40-for-90).

      "I think we really badly needed a win and wanted a win," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "Our guys raised their level. George Hill made a lot of big plays for us, and we have good shooters. The ball was moving well."

      The Pacers are Boston Celtics are both a half-game behind the Brooklyn Nets in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East. The Charlotte Hornets are one game behind the Nets.

      Dallas remains in seventh place in the Western Conference.

      "The game got more physical in the second half," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "And they did a better job defensively. We had more turnovers in the second half, and we didn't execute well. Indiana got the ball in the paint a lot, and they made big shots in the second half. They got us scrambling, and we didn't do a very good job on their 3-point shooters in the second half."

      Consecutive baskets from forward Luis Scola and guard C.J. Watson gave Indiana an 86-84 lead with 8:18 remaining. A Stuckey 3-pointer with 6:08 to go gave the Pacers an 89-86 advantage, but Rondo countered with a three-point play eight seconds later that tied it at 89.

      A free throw by guard Devin Harris with 4.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave Dallas a 79-78 lead through 36 minutes. The Mavericks led by as many as seven in the period, but at one point, Dallas missed eight consecutive field-goal attempts. The Pacers shot 56.3 percent in the quarter (9-for-16), getting seven points from Miles.

      "The difference in the second half was that they scored," Rondo said. "When we got stops in the first half, we pushed the pace. Even when they scored, we pushed the pace. In the second half, it seemed like every shot they made took a blow out of us. Offense is not the problem, but tonight, you have to give their defense some credit."

      The Mavericks shot 70 percent (14-for-20) during the second quarter, outscored Indiana 34-22 and seized a 61-55 lead through 24 minutes.

      NOTES: Dallas played without G Monta Ellis (lower leg). He is the team's leading scorer at 19.1 points a game. ... Pacers F David West (allergic reaction) was in the starting lineup. ... Mavericks C Tyson Chandler entered Sunday ranked fifth in NBA rebounding at 11.4. He grabbed 11 boards at

      Indiana. ... Dallas' G Rajon Rondo ranks fifth in assists at eight a game. ... Indiana was 1-7 in its previous eight game before Sunday's win. ... The Pacers began the day tied for third in opponents' field-goal percentage (43.6) and fifth in opponents' scoring (97.3). ... Dallas was ranked third in scoring (104.2) and sixth in field-goal percentage (46.0). ... Indiana defeated Dallas 111-100 on Nov. 24 in Texas in the only other meeting between the teams this season.

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Spurs hand Grizzlies a third consecutive loss
    By The Sports Xchange

    SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard couldn't quite set a career scoring high against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, but the reigning NBA Finals MVP still led the San Antonio Spurs to a win over one of the best teams in the Western Conference.

    • Leonard scored 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as San Antonio defeated Memphis 103-89 at the AT&T Center.

      The Spurs forward scored the team's first 15 points of the fourth quarter and helped keep Memphis gaining momentum in the second half. The Grizzlies (50-24) lost their third game in a row, matching their longest slump of the season.

      "We went to him and he went to himself," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "It was a little bit of both. He was rolling, and he felt it."

      Leonard's last bucket of the game was a 3-pointer with 7:37 left. He was 11-for-17 shooting from the field and finished one point shy of tying his career high. He twice scored 26 in games earlier this season.

      "Some shots went down, so they started calling my number and I started to carry us a little bit," Leonard said.

      The Spurs (47-26) led by as many as 16 points in the fourth quarter as they pulled away. Since a loss to the New York Knicks on March 17, the Spurs have six wins in seven games, with the latest three coming during a short homestand.

      San Antonio guard Tony Parker scored 17 points, and forward Tiago Splitter added 15 points and eight rebounds.

      Forward Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with 20 points (on 9-of-16 shooting) and 13 rebounds, while forward Jeff Green chipped in with 19.

      The loss dropped Memphis a half-game behind the Houston Rockets for the top spot in the Southwest Division and second place in the Western Conference standings. The Rockets beat the Washington Wizards 99-91 Sunday.

      The Spurs remain fifth in the West.

      Memphis trailed by four entering the fourth quarter before being buried by Leonard's quick start to the period. Coming into the game, the Grizzlies dropped home games to Cleveland and Golden State. They are now 9-10 since beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Feb. 23.

      Memphis coach David Joerger said the 48 minutes played Sunday was some of the team's best this season. Joerger said the offense looked good and he was happy the team committed only 10 turnovers, but the Grizzlies didn't have an answer for the Spurs forward tandem of Leonard and Boris Diaw, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

      "In the fourth quarter, Kawhi Leonard was a load," Joerger said. "We ran different guys at him. It was a good move on their part. We just didn't have a guy to match up both Diaw and (Leonard) at the same time."

      The Spurs started the game shooting well from the floor and opened up an early 10-point lead before the Grizzlies countered.

      Memphis cut the lead down to two points with 4:41 left in the first half. Behind a quick spurt from Splitter, the Spurs went on a 10-2 run late in the quarter to push the margin back to what it looked like earlier in the half.

      San Antonio led 51-42 at halftime despite only shooting 39.1 in the second quarter. Memphis never led in the first half.

      That margin was briefly over 10 points at the start of the second half before Memphis went on a 9-2 run and eventually pulled to within three points of the defending NBA champions. However, the Grizzlies came no closer than that.

      "We made some shots late and got to the rim a couple of times, but we didn't make enough shots," Joerger said.

      NOTES: F Aron Baynes returned to action after missing the previous three games with a sprained right ankle. He finished with four points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes. ... Memphis G Tony Allen missed the final regular-season meeting against San Antonio because of a strained left hamstring. Allen, who is averaging 8.6 points and 26.2 a game this season, has not played since a win at Dallas on March 20. ... Since clinching the team's fifth straight playoff berth and third consecutive 50-win season, the Grizzles are 0-3. Memphis had one other three-game losing streak this season (Dec. 19-22).

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Craig Sager battling leukemia again
    By The Sports Xchange

    Turner Broadcasting sideline analyst Craig Sager's leukemia re-emerged at some point last week, his son Craig Sage Jr. wrote on his Twitter account Sunday.

    • Last April, Sager took an absence from his position after he was diagnosed with the disease. Sager, 63, returned to his job in early March after he was cleared by his doctors.

      "(Sager Sr.) is battling his newest set of obstacles, but unlike the first time, when everything was new, there is a blueprint in place and all focus is on one checkpoint at a time," Sager Jr. wrote on his Twitter account. "(His) leukemia returned last week and he is undergoing treatment that will be much like this time last year when he got rounds of chemo and prepared his body for a bone marrow transplant."

      In last spring's NBA playoffs, Sager Jr. filled in for his father at Game 1 of the San Antonio Spurs' opening-round playoff series against the Mavericks. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who has developed a reputation for losing his patience with reporters easily, wished Sager a speedy return during a touching interview with Sager Jr.

      Last July, Sager Jr. competed in the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, less than 24 hours after he donated more than a liter of bone marrow to his father. It marked the first time the elder Sager missed the race in more than 30 years.

      Earlier this month, Sager planned to travel to Nebraska to work on the sidelines during the Omaha subregional at the NCAA tournament. The popular broadcaster, though, had to call off the trip at the urging of his doctors.

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Undermanned Heat outlast Pistons
    By The Sports Xchange

    MIAMI -- The Miami Heat were without their four tallest players, all of them 6-foot-10 or taller and all of them injured.

    • Then, in the second quarter, the Heat got even smaller when they lost two more players to injuries -- 6-9 starting forward Luol Deng and his 6-9 backup Michael Beasley.

      But the Heat, with just nine healthy players available in the second half, got 40 points from shooting guard Dwyane Wade and held off the Detroit Pistons 109-102 on Sunday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

      The Heat also got 18 points and 13 rebounds -- both season highs -- from 6-8 forward Udonis Haslem, who was forced to play center due to Miami's injury issues.

      In keeping with the Heat's injury-plagued theme, Wade was banged up, too. He had fluid drained from his knee Saturday, and it was only minutes before tip-off when he notified Miami coach Erik Spoelstra that he would give it a try.

      "I didn't know," Spoelstra said when asked what he was expecting from Wade. "I texted with him (Saturday, an off day), and he didn't know either.

      "When he came in today, I said: 'Talk to me.' He said he would go through the walk-through and test it after that. After he did all that, he said he was ready, and he looked fantastic."

      Wade scored 19 of his points in the fourth quarter and fell just two points shy of his season high.

      "I'm not feeling 100 percent," Wade said. "But I'm feeling good enough to help my team win."

      Said Detroit guard Jodie Meeks of the 33-year-old Wade: "That was kind of a throw-back game."

      Miami, playing without 6-11 forward Chris Bosh, 6-10 forward Josh McRoberts, 7-0 center Hassan Whiteside and 6-10 center Chris Andersen, somehow managed to outrebound Detroit 46-37.

      "The most disappointing thing," Pistons Coach Stan Van Gundy said, "was getting our butts kicked on the boards by a smaller team."

      Another good development for Miami was that the Heat (34-39) finally squared its home record at 18-18.

      Detroit (28-45) had its four-game win streak snapped.

      Spoelstra said the injuries to Deng (right knee contusion) and Beasley (stinger on his left elbow) were not serious.

      But it did leave Miami massively short-handed and undersized against Detroit's 6-11, 280-pound center Andre Drummond, who is second in the NBA in rebounds. Drummond outweighs Haslem by 45 pounds.

      Besides Wade and Haslem, the Heat got a key contribution from rookie forward James Ennis, who came off the bench to score a career-high 16 points.

      In addition, reserve guard Mario Chalmers, who moved into fourth place on the Heat's all-time assist list, passing Bimbo Coles, grabbed a season-high nine rebounds to go with 11 points.

      Drummond led Detroit with his 41st double-double of the season -- 32 points and 14 rebounds. Guard Reggie Jackson added 31 points and 9 assists.

      "The only two guys who played well for us offensively were Andre and Reggie," Van Gundy said. "We didn't get a lot of help for those two guys."

      Detroit led 27-25 after the first quarter as Joel Anthony scored on a tip-in just before the buzzer.

      Miami took its first lead of the game in the second period and stretched its advantage to nine points before settling for a 49-44 edge at the break.

      The Heat led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, but Detroit rallied by shooting 50 percent in the period. Miami hung on, though, and entered the fourth quarter leading 71-65.

      Miami held off Detroit in the fourth quarter thanks to Wade, who hit 11 free throws and added four field goals in the period.

      "We did a great job of fighting," said Wade, pointing out that 6-6 small forward Henry Walker was Miami's backup center. "We were just strong-willed."

      NOTES: Miami, currently the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, plays host to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday in a matchup of the two teams that played for the 2014 NBA title. ... Heat C Hassan Whiteside has a significant laceration on his right hand that could keep him out for the rest of the regular season. ... Heat C Chris Andersen (bruised left calf) missed his third straight game. ... Detroit F/C Greg Monroe (knee injury) missed his seventh straight game but vows to return before this season ends. Monroe, averaging 16.0 points and 10.4 rebounds this season, will be an unrestricted free agent in July. ... PG Brandon Jennings (torn left Achilles tendon) is out for the season. ... Recently acquired Pistons PG Reggie Jackson will also be a free agent in July. ... Detroit has a heavy ex-Heat flavor, including coach Stan Van Gundy, assistant Tim Hardaway, F Shawne Williams, F Caron Butler and C Joel Anthony.

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Clippers top Celts, complete 3-0 Eastern trip
    By The Sports Xchange

    BOSTON -- Doc Rivers wasn't thrilled when he had to send his starters back into what was supposed to be garbage time Sunday at TD Garden.

    • That aside, the Los Angeles Clippers coach has a team that is playing very well at the right time.

      "If you look around the league, most of the teams right now are gearing up, playing well, finding that rhythm going into the playoffs, and I think we're playing pretty well right now," guard Chris Paul said after his 21 points and 10 assists helped the Clippers to their seventh straight win, a 119-106 decision over the Boston Celtics.

      It really wasn't that close. It did become uncomfortable.

      "I wasn't really happy with how our bench played tonight," Rivers said.

      The win capped a three-game sweep of an Eastern swing that saw Los Angeles (49-25) drub the hapless New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers and the scrappy Celtics by a combined 65 points. The Clippers are winning by an average of 17.7 points during their seven-game run.

      "I don't think we've been a great travel team for the most part; in big games, we seem to play well on the road, but we're up and down," Rivers said. "I thought the guys had an amazing focus when they left (home). You could just tell that they were going to take this trip very seriously."

      Because it is that time of year.

      The Clippers are missing injured guard Jamal Crawford and his scoring off the bench. They hope to get him back.

      With the Celtics purposely fouling center DeAndre Jordan, Boston got as close as 11 late in the game but no closer.

      The loss, the fifth in seven games after Boston won five straight, stalled the Celtics' unlikely playoff bid, dropping them into ninth place in the Eastern Conference heading into a big game at Charlotte on Monday night. Boston (32-41) sits a half-game behind the eighth-place Brooklyn Nets (32-40) and a half-game in front of the Hornets (31-41). The Indiana Pacers have the same record as Charlotte, too.

      The Clippers ran to a 68-47 halftime lead -- the most points against Boston in a first half this season -- and then came out after halftime and drained four consecutive 3-pointers to extend the advantage. Hitting 10 of their first 13 shots of the third quarter, the Clippers took a 35-point lead with 4:42 left in the period.

      "We didn't provide any defensive resistance at all," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "Nobody has against them recently if you look at their scores and watch them play."

      Los Angeles was on top 105-79 after three quarters. All seemed safe.

      The lead was 27 when the Celtics, winning a mini battle of the benches, excited the remaining fans with an 8-0 run to cut it to 19. Rivers called a timeout but didn't bring his starters back. When it got down to 14, the coach made the move.

      Jordan, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, missed eight of 10 free throws from that point on, but his teammates bailed him out with two offensive rebounds that led to four key points. He shot 3-for-15 from the line in the game.

      Clippers guard J.J. Redick hit five of six attempts from behind the 3-point arc and scored 24 of his 27 points in the first three quarters. Forward Blake Griffin had 21 points and nine rebounds, and forward Matt Barnes added 18 points and seven boards as the Los Angeles starters scored 102 of the team's 119 points.

      Guard Isaiah Thomas came off the bench to lead six Celtics (four of them reserves) in double figures with 19 points. Thomas added seven assists. Boston center Tyler Zeller delivered 16 points.

      With 5:10 left and Boston forward Kelly Olynyk at the foul line, there was a commotion in the corner near the Clippers' bench. Paramedics responded, and what looked to be an elderly man was wheeled away. One report was that a fan suffered a seizure, but no details were available.

      After the game, Stevens said, "From everything I was told, it was addressed appropriately and quickly, and hopefully, from what I was told, the person's going to be OK and hopefully they will be. Certainly our thoughts are with them, it puts everything into perspective pretty quickly."

      NOTES: Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers, making his second trip to TD Garden since leaving the Celtics, said he regrets not celebrating with his Celtics after they wrapped up the 2008 title. "I never went into the locker room after the championship, which was the strangest thing," he said. "I don't know why I didn't." ... The Clippers signed G Lester Hudson to a 10-day contract and he got in for 31 seconds. The two-time MVP and three-time All-Star in the Chinese Basketball Association is the only Division I college player to record a quadruple-double, doing it with Tennessee-Martin. He was a second-round draft pick of the Celtics and played 16 games for them. ... Boston G Isaiah Thomas is averaging 19.6 points in 13 games with his new team.

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Cavaliers eke out ugly win over 76ers
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving kept looking up at the scoreboard Sunday and noticing the score wasn't changing. Neither team, in fact, scored a basket for the final 3:57.

    • Somehow, the Cleveland Cavaliers escaped with a victory in one of their ugliest performances of the season.

      Forward LeBron James scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, point guard Irving scored 17 points, and the Cavs survived a scare from the Philadelphia 76ers for an 87-86 victory Sunday despite not scoring a basket over the game's final 4:04.

      "Some days, it's not going to be pretty, and it wasn't pretty tonight," Irving said. "Hands down for me personally, that was one of the ugliest games I've played in."

      Cleveland forward Kevin Love, who has battled back problems throughout the season, took an elbow to his lower back in the fourth quarter and had to leave the game soon after. Cavs guard Iman Shumpert jammed his ankle going up for a dunk in the second quarter and left the game immediately. Neither player returned, but neither injury is considered serious.

      The Cavs will have the rare treat of two days off before reconvening for practice Wednesday. They don't play again until Thursday, when the Miami Heat visit Quicken Loans Arena.

      "We're kind of fortunate with Shump and myself we have these couple days," Love said.

      The Cavaliers survived only when Philadelphia forward Nerlens Noel missed a contested shot in the lane in the game's final seconds.

      "I got a good look, but it went in and out," Noel said. "I just didn't make the shot."

      The Sixers had plenty of chances to steal a victory. However, Philadelphia guard Ish Smith missed a pair of open 3-pointers, and forward Robert Covington missed two free throws, all in the final 90 seconds. The Sixers missed their final five shots and their last four free throws, while the Cavs missed their last six shots.

      Love compiled 10 points and 10 rebounds before getting hurt, and center Timofey Mozgov had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavs, who won their 16th consecutive home game.

      Aside from a brilliant performance against the playoff-bound Grizzlies in Memphis, the Cavs struggled against inferior opponents for the last week. They couldn't put the Milwaukee Bucks away until early in the fourth quarter, they lost to the Brooklyn Nets and dodged another bad loss Sunday.

      The Cavs just completed a grueling stretch of playing 15 of 20 games on the road, but James insists the Cavs are not fatigued and doesn't believe they are in any sort of funk.

      "We was 19-20 at one point, what's our record now?" James asked of the 48-27 Cavs. "That's not much of a funk to me. Not a funk at all. We're playing good ball."

      Sixers coach Brett Brown emphasized improving on defense, and Philadelphia (18-56) certainly has. The 76ers became just the third team to hold the Cavs under 90 points since Jan. 15, which was right about the time the Cavs overhauled their roster. Cleveland has been the hottest team in the league since that date.

      Cavs coach David Blatt thought his defense took away the Sixers' first couple of options on the final play, but Brown said Noel was the target all along.

      "Nerlens got a real good look," Brown said. "That's who we wanted the ball to go to."

      Covington had 19 points, Smith had 11 points and seven assists, and center Furkan Aldemir had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Sixers, who beat the Cavs in early January when Cleveland only had about half of its roster available. They nearly did so again Sunday.

      Brown shifted Noel to power forward so he could start Aldemir at center. The rookies will remain in those spots, Brown said, for the remainder of the regular season.

      NOTES: 76ers coach Brett Brown and a number of his players attended Saturday's Elite Eight game between Kentucky and Notre Dame, which was played at Quicken Loans Arena. ... Rookie F Jerami Grant made his fourth start of the season because Brown wanted to see how he would respond to facing F LeBron James. Grant scored two points in 22 minutes. ... G J.R. Smith reached the 10,000-point scoring plateau in Friday's loss at Brooklyn, while G Kyrie Irving made his 1,000th career free throw and James made his 4,000th free throw as a Cavalier on the same night. ... The 76ers play host to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Pelicans stay in playoff race behind 28 from Davis
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW ORLEANS -- After losing four consecutive games, the New Orleans Pelicans inserted themselves into a personal version of March Madness, where seemingly every game is an exercise in sudden death.

    • But by defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 110-88 Sunday at the Smoothie King Center, the Pelicans (39-34) are taking a two-game winning streak on the road for three critical games that will go a long way in determining whether or not they make the Western Conference playoffs.

      "We understand how close we are to making the playoffs," said forward Anthony Davis, who scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds and got a welcomed eight minutes of rest as the Pelicans built a 22-point fourth-quarter lead. "Tonight's game was big in the playoff push, and we have to continue to play like this every night in order to make it. So, in our eyes, every game now is a playoff game."

      Center Omer Asik scored 15 points, guard Eric Gordon had 12 and three other Pelicans -- forward Quincy Pondexter, center Alexis Ajinca and guard Norris Cole -- had 10 points each as New Orleans remained within striking distance of the Oklahoma City for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

      The Pelicans play road games against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Sacramento Kings and the Portland Trail Blazers in the next week. They probably need to win at least two of three to stay in the race with the Thunder.

      "We've put ourselves in position to be right there, and that's all you can ask for," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said.

      Davis struggled a bit with his outside shot, going 10 of 21 from the floor, but he made 8 of 10 free throws. Minnesota (16-57) was led by forward Andrew Wiggins with 20 points, but the Timberwolves killed their chances with 21 turnovers.

      "We turned it over too much," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "It's difficult to judge because we lost (center) Gorgui (Dieng) early (due to a blow to the head), and we were definitely undermanned."

      New Orleans expanded its lead to 77-63 late in the third quarter on Gordon's 18-foot jumper, but Minnesota scored the final seven points of the period to cut the deficit to 77-70. Wiggins got four of those points from the foul line, and forward Robbie Hummel added a 20-foot jumper.

      But New Orleans iced the game with a strong fourth-quarter start, outscoring the Timberwolves 11-2 in the first 2:35 to take an 88-72 lead. Davis had five points in the spurt.

      "We just ran out of gas," Saunders said. "They kept on going. We've been playing undermanned for three or four weeks. Our schedule's been crazy. I think we've gone 12 straight games now in 12 different cities. When you fall behind as we did, you have to catch up so much, you have to exert too much energy."

      The Pelicans recorded their best defensive quarter of the season, holding the Timberwolves to just 11 points in the first period to take a 25-11 lead. Minnesota shot just 29 percent from the field and had more turnovers (seven) than field goals (five).

      The Timberwolves committed five turnovers on their first seven possessions.

      Guard Tyreke Evans said New Orleans must continue to push the ball on offense and play tough defense. He said the defensive hustle showed by forward Dante Cunningham in diving for a loose ball was symbolic of the team's hard-nosed attitude.

      "He's been in an environment with a playoff team and he knows what it takes to win," Evans said. "That's one of the reasons he's here. He does the little things that people don't see and don't make SportsCenter but just helps us win. We need to play the style that we play at home and take it on the road. We need to take care of the ball on the road, and everything will be all right."

      NOTES: Pelicans coach Monty Williams, who played basketball at Notre Dame, had some fun with former Kentucky standout Anthony Davis before the Kentucky and Notre Dame played down to the wire Saturday night with a trip to the Final Four on the line. Kentucky won 68-66 to advance. "If we (Notre Dame) had won, he would not have wanted to see me today," Williams said. "He had talked more trash than Muhammad Ali in the 1970s." If the Irish had ruined Kentucky's perfect season, Williams said Davis would have "cried like a sissy." ... The Timberwolves started three rookies -- forwards Andrew Wiggins and Adreian Payne and guard Zach LaVine. ... F Kevin Garnett remained back at the team hotel with an unspecified illness, and G Ricky Rubio was out with a sore left ankle. ... Williams said Wiggins, who averaged 26.7 points in the previous three games, is "better than advertised. He's on his way to being a superstar."

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Lopez helps Nets remain in playoff contention
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW YORK -- As the Brooklyn Nets struggled earlier this season, center Brook Lopez dealt with blunt criticism from coach Lionel Hollins about his play and persistent trade rumors.

    • Now the trade rumors are gone and Lopez's play is not leading to criticism as the Nets attempt to make the playoffs for a third straight season.

      On a day when he said his focus was "slightly off", Lopez collected 30 points and 11 rebounds and the Nets held on for a 107-99 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

      "We've been great as a team," Lopez said. "My focus was a little off today, I was a little disappointed in myself but team-wise we've been playing together. We've all been aggressive and confident in each other."

      "He knows where's going to get shots," Hollins said. "We're playing toward him a lot in our game and he's delivered and he's playing big-time basketball. When you get 30-plus points and the way he's doing it night in and night out, that's huge for us."

      Forward Joe Johnson added 18 points and rookie guard Markel Brown contributed a season-high 17 points for Brooklyn, which won for the seventh time in nine games and also equaled a season-high with a third straight win. Point guard Deron Williams added 13 and nine assists as the Nets shot 48 percent (42-of-87).

      It was Lopez, however, who helped the Nets fend off a late a challenge by the Lakers. Los Angeles was within three points at 96-93 on center's Jordan Hill 10-footer with 3:49 remaining which prompted a Brooklyn timeout.

      Coming out of the timeout, Lopez's biggest basket of a 13-of-22 showing was on a pick-and-roll dunk off a feed from Williams on a play that gave the Nets a 98-93 lead.

      "I definitely think he's improved," Williams said. "He's using all his skills to his advantage."

      That gave Lopez 28 points and he finished off a week that saw him average 28.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks by hitting two free throws down the stretch.

      "Brook is just so big and skilled," Los Angeles coach Byron Scott said. "It's hard when you're undersized like we are to play against a guy that good. You have to give him a lot of credit but we made some bonehead mistakes against him."

      Lopez, who was rumored to be traded to Charlotte in January and nearly dealt to Oklahoma City for guard Reggie Jackson at the trading deadline, helped the Nets improve to 32-40. Lopez's only assist led to Johnson's corner 3-pointer with 1:57 remaining that extended the lead to 101-93.

      Brooklyn's record matches the Boston Celtics for eighth place. The Celtics were hosting the Los Angeles Clippers later Sunday and own the head-to-head tiebreaker due to last Monday's win in Brooklyn

      Hill returned to the Los Angeles lineup after sitting out three games and collected 22 and 16 rebounds. Rookie guard Jordan Clarkson added 18 and forward Wesley Johnson contributed 17 for the Lakers, who lost for the 12th time in 15 games.

      The Lakers were swept by the Nets for the first time since the 2005-06 season. After getting to within three, Hill missed a pair of mid-range jumpers before hitting a 21-footer with 62 seconds left for a 101-97 game but Lopez, Williams and Brown sealed it at the line.

      "We just didn't get the stops late in game when it counted most," Los Angeles center Tarik Black said.

      Before needing some big plays down the stretch, the Nets opened a 61-50 lead at halftime and took an 85-74 lead into the fourth quarter. Brooklyn briefly held a 14-point when guard Jarrett Jack hit a 3-pointer on the opening possession of the fourth quarter but the lead never grew beyond that.

      NOTES: Brooklyn G Deron Williams played after sitting out Saturday's practice with an upper-respiratory infection Saturday. ... Brooklyn F Thaddeus Young missed his second straight game with a strained left knee. ... G Jeremy Lin and F Carlos Boozer sat out for the Lakers with upper-respiratory infections. Lin actually averaged 21.2 points and shot 50 percent (28 of 56) while playing the last four games with it, but coach Byron Scott said it seemed to get worse each game and it finally caught up to him Sunday. ... Boozer missed his fourth straight game, but Scott said he might play Monday in Philadelphia. ... Lakers rookie F Julius Randle continued his rehab from a right leg fracture taking pregame jumpers, 3-pointers and attacking the basket under the guidance of assistant coach Mark Madsen. Randle, who was injured in the season opener, has been with the team on this road trip and hopes to appear in Summer League games.

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Harden helps Rockets hold off Wizards
    By The Sports Xchange

    WASHINGTON -- James Harden's offense headlines his NBA Most Valuable Player candidacy. However, the All-Star guard's defense stood out in the closing minute against the Washington Wizards, helping the Rockets to a 99-91 victory over the Wizards on Sunday.

    • The Wizards labored offensively early, trailed by double figures most of the game yet pulled within six points while maintaining possession with 25 seconds remaining. Guard Bradley Beal received the ball on the left wing with plans on shooting a 3-pointer.

      Beal attempted the deep shot, but Harden's hustle ensured the ball never sniffed the basket.

      Ridiculed at times during his career for lack of effort defensively, Harden raced in Beal's direction. His perfectly timed leap led to an emphatic blocked shot and essentially sealed Houston's fourth straight win and seventh in eight games.

      "I'm surprised he got up there," Rockets center Dwight Howard joked about Harden. "He's not known for blocking shots. That's what MVP's do."

      Harden is known for scoring and he led the Rockets (50-23) with 24 points and six assists.

      Houston held Washington (41-33) to 39 percent shooting overall.

      "I think our mindset was go out there and lock down defensively," Harden said. "The second half they went on a run which we knew they were going to do, but wanted to sustain (our defensive effort)."

      Guard John Wall finished with 25 points for the Wizards, coming up short of his third straight game with 30 or more points. The All-Star also had 12 assists and made 11 of 12 free throws.

      Washington has lost five of its last six games, but could have clinched a playoff spot for the second straight season with a win Sunday. The Wizards reached the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2014, but are not showing that form in the final weeks of the regular season.

      "There's a sense of urgency one game and then we take it off," Wall said. "To be where we want to be and as far as we did last year, we have to turn it around or we'll be done quick."

      Forward Corey Brewer scored 15 points and forward Josh Smith had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets. Houston entered Sunday one-half game behind second-place Memphis Grizzlies in the West.

      Howard had 11 points and 10 rebounds in his third game after two months following knee surgery.

      Ex-Wizards forward Trevor Ariza scored 13 points in his first game in Washington since signing with Houston last summer.

      Houston committed 12 of its 20 turnovers in the first half, but shot over 58 percent from the field for a 59-46 lead.

      Forward Otto Porter scored 15 points in 17 minutes and his 3-pointer pulled the Wizards within 79-75 with 8:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. Starting with back-to-back 3-pointers by guard Pablo Prigioni and Brewer, the Rockets countered with a quick 14-2 run for a 93-77 lead.

      Washington's defensive plan limited Harden to 7-of-20 shooting from the field. However, Harden made 9 of 10 free throws.

      "Defensively, we did a pretty good job," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "We made (Harden) take tough shots, but he was able to get 10 free throws. He's a tough cover, but this game wasn't lost defensively."

      The Wizards snapped a four-game losing streak with a 110-107 double-overtime victory over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday. Wall scored 32 points after tallying a career-high 34 in Wednesday's home loss to the Indiana Pacers.

      Washington reached the playoffs four straight seasons, concluding with the 2007-08 campaign, but missed out five consecutive years before returning last season.

      Beal scored 15 points for the Wizards.

      Harden's crucial block came with Houston leading 97-91.

      "I don't think it was pretty at all, but we got the win," Howard said. "That's the most important thing. Our defense stepped up in the fourth quarter late."

      NOTES: Rockets coach Kevin McHale said before the game C Dwight Howard (knee) would play either Sunday or Monday at the Toronto Raptors. Howard has missed 28 games this season. ... F Kris Humphries missed his 15th straight game for the Wizards with a groin injury. G Garrett Temple (hamstring strain) and DeJuan Blair (personal reasons) were also unavailable. ...The Wizards PR staff left Trevor Ariza a pre-game present in the Rockets' locker room: a large black and white picture of the forward in a Wizards uniform along with some roses. ... Wizards G Bradley Beal matched Rockets G James Harden with a season-high 33 points in Washington's 104-103 win on Dec. 29. ... The Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Aldridge powers Blazers past Nuggets
    By The Sports Xchange

    PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Denver Nuggets battled the Portland Trail Blazers tooth and nail for most of 48 minutes on Saturday night at the Moda Center but had no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge.

    • Portland's All-Star forward rained in 32 points on 13-of-20 shooting from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Trail Blazers posted a 120-114 victory.

      "LaMarcus had a groove going," said Portland center Chris Kaman, who contributed 14 points and nine rebounds off the bench. "I've played with and against a lot of great players, but he's the best power forward in the game at this point in his career. Other guys are pretty good, but they don't do everything he does."

      Guard Arron Afflalo scored 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting from the field and forward Nicolas Batum had 15 points and seven assists for the Trail Blazers (47-25), who won their third straight game after suffering through a five-game losing streak.

      Guard Jameer Nelson scored 22 points to lead seven players scoring in double figures for the Nuggets (28-46), who lost for the fifth time in seven games.

      The Blazers shot 56.5 percent from the field, made 8 of 18 shots from 3-point range and were 16 of 18 at the free-throw line in running up their highest scoring total at home this season. They needed all of it against the Nuggets, who hung in there the entire way.

      "It's good to get three (wins) in a row on the heels of that losing streak," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We did a lot of good things tonight. I thought we had a chance to pull away, but Denver kept coming at us.

      "We were in control most of the game. I'd like to have expanded the lead, but (the Nuggets) made shots. They're a potent offensive team. They have a lot of guys capable of creating shots."

      Aldridge had 30 points through three quarters in staking Portland to an 86-78 lead.

      "I got into a good rhythm," he said. "The shot felt good. I was trying to be a playmaker out there and my teammates were coming to me."

      The Nuggets used five different defenders on Aldridge in an attempt to slow him down, to no avail.

      "If you look out there on the corner of our bench, there's probably a kitchen sink sitting there," Denver interim coach Melvin Hunt said. "We threw everything at him. The guy is a great player. He knows it; they know it."

      Afflalo, traded from Denver to Portland on Feb. 19, drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 58-53 lead at halftime. He had 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the floor and Aldridge 14 points and six rebounds at the break for the Blazers, who shot 50 percent in the half.

      Portland improved its lead to 70-61, but guard Randy Foye's fourth 3-pointer of the game sliced the edge to 70-66. Then Aldridge and guard Steve Blake sank consecutive shots from beyond the arc to start an 8-0 run, pushing the Blazers back in front 78-66 with five minutes left in the third quarter.

      Aldridge completed a three-point play to up Portland's advantage to 85-72 three minutes later. The Nuggets used a 6-0 run to draw within 85-78 and the Blazers settled for an 86-78 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

      Three baskets by center Jusuf Nurkic got Denver to within 88-86 with 10:03 remaining. The Blazers jacked the margin to 99-90 with 7:05 to go. Nelson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and the Nuggets were within 101-98 with 5:36 left.

      The Blazers scored the next seven points for a 108-98 lead, but the Nuggets didn't die, closing to 118-114 with nine seconds remaining. Afflalo's two free throws with 7.2 seconds left sealed it.

      NOTES: Portland has won eight in a row over Denver. ... Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge had at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in a game for the 10th time this season. ... G Arron Afflalo's 21 points were his most as a Blazer. ... The Nuggets held out F Dante Gallinari, who missed 13 games earlier in the season with a right knee injury, and F Darrell Arthur, who has missed the last three games with a right calf injury. ... Nuggets interim coach Melvin Hunt is 8-7 since taking over for the fired Brian Shaw on March 4, when the Nuggets were 20-39. ... Former Blazers G Will Barton scored off an old trick play in the first half while inbounding the ball underneath the basket. When Portland F Dorell Wright turned his back, Barton threw it off Wright's back, picked up the ball and dunked it. Barton collected 12 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench. "Will has the kind of heart you want," Hunt said. "He has shown our fans how valuable he can be for us. He's going to make some creative decisions at times, but he's going to make some plays a lot of guys in this league can't make. He's showing the NBA some of the tools in his kit."

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    Ex-teammate's criticism fuels Jazz's fire in win
    By The Sports Xchange

    SALT LAKE CITY -- It isn't often that NBA players offer up bulletin board material to fire up an opponent.

    • Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter didn't miss a chance to rile up his former teammates with pregame comments critical of the Utah Jazz. It left Jazz players with something to prove.

      After trailing the entire first half, Utah overtook Oklahoma City in the second half and held on for a 94-89 victory Saturday night. The win didn't just snap a four-game losing streak, it offered the Jazz a bit of satisfaction at the expense of Kanter.

      Utah dealt the fourth-year center at the NBA trade deadline last month and he criticized the organization as unprofessional to reporters at the morning shootaround before the game. His comments did not sit well with his ex-teammates.

      "We wanted this one bad," Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. "We all heard what that former player said. It's just one of those things that he p----- us off a little bit, honestly. We just wanted to make sure that we won."

      Guard Trey Burke scored 22 points and Hayward added 17 points to lead Utah. Center Rudy Gobert chipped in with 13 points, 14 rebounds and blocked four shots for the Jazz (32-41), who won for just the second time in seven games.

      Guard Russell Westbrook had 37 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Kanter added 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Thunder.

      Oklahoma City (41-32) struggled with sloppy play throughout both halves and had 23 turnovers leading to a 28-8 Utah edge in points off turnovers.

      The Jazz also dominated the glass, getting 16 offensive boards and outscoring the Thunder 20-10 in second-chance points.

      "We let them off the hook," Westbrook said. "We had them up early. We just didn't do a great job, obviously, rebounding the basketball. They got a lot of second-chance points in the game. We just weren't ready to play."

      After trailing the entire first half, Utah went ahead of Oklahoma City early in the third quarter. The Jazz took their first lead at 50-49 on a 3-pointer from guard Dante Exum.

      Utah eventually carved out a seven-point lead, going up 62-55 after forward Trevor Booker drilled a 3-pointer and Hayward drove for a layup on back-to-back possessions.

      The Jazz expanded the margin to double digits before the quarter ended, leading 73-61 on the strength of a 11-2 run capped by a jumper from guard Joe Ingles.

      Westbrook had four baskets during a 10-2 run as the Thunder cut the deficit to 84-79 with 4:33 remaining. Oklahoma City stayed within five until guard Chris Johnson drained a corner 3-pointer to put Utah up 89-81.

      Oklahoma City went more than four minutes without a field goal, but Westbrook broke the streak on a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left that cut Utah's lead to 91-89. But the Thunder drew no closer as Gobert and Hayward both made free throws in the final seconds.

      "We started competing at an even higher level," Burke said. "We took this game personal and came out with a sense of enthusiasm that we needed to win."

      In the second quarter, Utah chipped away at a 16-point deficit.

      The Jazz used a 10-1 run punctuated by a reverse layup from Jeremy Evans to cut Oklahoma City's lead to 38-31. Utah then trimmed the lead to one, making it 46-45 after Booker converted a three-point play and Hayward added a free throw on a technical foul.

      Hayward made two free throws to tie it at 47 with 1:08 left before halftime. Oklahoma City took a two-point lead into the locker room when Kanter made a jumper a few seconds later.

      "We have to do a better job,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “That second quarter was a big part. We jumped out on them -- scored 32 points. We were picking them apart inside and kicking out for open shots. Then we didn't keep our composure.

      "The crowd got into the game and our turnovers were a big part of the game.”

      Kanter's comments played a huge role in firing up his former teammates and Jazz fans. He did not back away from his remarks after the game, welcoming the boos that rained down on him from start to finish.

      "If I would have taken it back, I would've just said it," Kanter said. "That is how I feel. I am not taking nothing back. I still care about a few of my teammates."

      NOTES: Utah Jazz players wore a black stripe on their jersey to honor former team broadcaster Hot Rod Hundley, who passed away on Friday. ... Hundley was the voice of the Jazz from 1974 until 2009. The black stripe will remain on the left shoulder of all Jazz jerseys through the remainder of the season. ... Thunder Fs Nick Collison and Andre Roberson did not play because of sprained left ankles. Collison has missed four straight games and Roberson has missed three in a row. ... Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant is out for the season with a foot injury. ... Jazz F Derrick Favors sat out with back spasms. ... Thunder G Russell Westbrook leads the NBA in scoring (27.8 points per game) and ranks in the Top 5 in the league in both assists and steals. ... Jazz F Gordon Hayward has averaged 21.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.0 steals in three other games against Oklahoma City this season.

  • Sunday, March 29, 2015
    NBA roundup: Knicks set team record with 60th loss
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHICAGO -- Already the NBA's worst team, the New York Knicks set a team record with their 60th loss of the season, falling 111-80 to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.

    • The Knicks (14-60) tied the team record with their 59th loss in a competitive four-point home loss to the Boston Celtics on Friday but were blown out early and trailed by 20 at halftime.

      New York's previous record for losses in a season was set in 1962-63 when it was 21-59. The Knicks also were 23-59 in 2005-06 under Larry Brown and 2007-08 under Isiah Thomas, who was fired after that season by Donnie Walsh.

      While the Knicks continued skidding toward the worst season in team history, the Bulls improved to 45-29 and pulled to within two games of the first-place Cleveland Cavaliers in the Central Division and within 1 1/2 games of the fourth-place Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

      Rookie forward Nikola Mirotic scored 24 points and forward Pau Gasol posted his league-leading 48th double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Guard Jimmy Butler added 18 points for Chicago, which shot 51 percent from the field.

      Center Andrea Bargnani led the Knicks with 14 points.

      Hornets 115, Hawks 100

      CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Guard Kemba Walker scored 21 points and Charlotte picked up a much-needed win over Atlanta, which rested its regular starting lineup.

      Guard Gerald Henderson added 20 for Charlotte, which shot 52 percent from the field and rebounded from a grueling double-overtime loss in Washington on Friday. Forward Marvin Williams added 17 as the Hornets improved to 31-41 and are tied for 10th place in the Eastern Conference with the Indiana Pacers.

      Charlotte is one game behind eighth-seeded Boston (32-40) and a half-game behind Brooklyn. The Celtics host the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday before visiting Charlotte on Monday.

      A night after clinching the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Hawks rested Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, Paul Milsap and Al Horford.

      Forward Kent Bazemore led Atlanta with 20 points. Forward Mike Muscala had 18 points and 10 rebounds, guard Dennis Schroder had 17 points and 11 assists, and guard John Jenkins scored 16.

      Warriors 108, Bucks 95

      MILWAUKEE -- Guard Stephen Curry hit six 3-pointers and finished with 25 points as Golden State defeated Milwaukee and clinched the Western Conference's top seed.

      Guard Klay Thompson scored 17 of his 21 points in the third quarter. He hit 7 of 9 shots from the field and three 3-pointers.

      Forward Harrison Barnes added 13 points and David Lee was one of three players with 12 points for Golden State (60-13).

      Guard Khris Middleton led Milwaukee with 14 points but was just 5 of 14 from the field as the Bucks shot 37.9 percent. Guard Jared Dudley scored 13 points off the bench and center Zaza Pachulia and forward Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 12 points each.

      Jazz 94, Thunder 89

      SALT LAKE CITY -- Guard Trey Burke scored 22 points and forward Gordon Hayward added 17 as Utah held off Oklahoma City.

      Center Rudy Gobert added 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots for the Jazz, who played without forward Derrick Favors and snapped a four-game losing streak.

      Guard Russell Westbrook totaled 37 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Oklahoma City (41-32), which holds a 2 1/2-game lead over the idle New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Thunder center Enes Kanter added 18 points and 11 rebounds in his return to Utah after last month's trade.

      Trail Blazers 120, Nuggets 114

      PORTLAND, Ore. -- Forward LaMarcus Aldridge collected 32 points and 11 rebounds in Portland's victory over Denver.

      Guard Arron Affalo made 8 of 11 shots from the field and added 21 points for the Trail Blazers, who won their third straight game. Forward Nicolas Batum and center Chris Kaman contributed 15 and 14 points, respectively.

      Guard Jameer Nelson led seven Nuggets players in double figures with 22 points as Denver lost for the fifth time in seven games.