Associated Press

Jamal Crawford’s hot stretch helps Clippers beat Celtics 116-102

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — For a few minutes, Jamal Crawford made the NBA look like nothing more than schoolyard basketball.

Crawford hit three 3-pointers in 70 seconds late in the third quarter, scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, and lifted the Los Angeles Clippers to a 116-102 victory over the Boston Celtics on Monday night.

“I think I’m at my best whenever I’m just not thinking,” Crawford said. “I’m just relaxed. I’m just playing, just hooping. It’s just basketball. I’ve done it my whole life. I’ve always said when you’re at your best in the NBA it feels like you’re like high school because your true game comes out.”

Blake Griffin scored 26 points and Chris Paul added 23, but it was Crawford’s electric display that shook up the Celtics.

“It’s hard to stop a guy, especially a guy like him,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “He’s known for that. He can get hot real quick. When he gets hot, gets going, it’s going to be a long night for you.”

Down by as many as 13 points and still trailing 71-64, the Clippers ran off the 11 unanswered points in the final 1:41 of the third quarter. Crawford’s three 3-pointers sparked the run, the last of which put Los Angeles up 75-71 with 31 seconds left.

“Obviously he made some tremendous shots, that’s what he does,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “And then we weren’t scoring on the other end. So obviously they kind of flipped the script there at the end of the third. You know from watching the NBA, 13 is nothing when you’ve got a team like that.”

Behind Crawford, the Clippers made 23 of 37 shots in the second half (62 percent).

Up 75-74 early in the fourth, the Clippers ran off a 24-8 spurt, taking a 99-82 lead on Austin Rivers‘ 3-pointer.

DeAndre Jordan added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who won their second in a row and remained 1 1/2 games behind Utah in the race for fourth place in the Western Conference.

“I thought they outplayed us in the first half,” said Clippers coach Doc Rivers. “They were more physical. And then I thought we turned that, and we became the more physical team in the second half.”

Isaiah Thomas scored 31 points and Smart added 21 for the Celtics, who had one of their worst shooting performances of the season, shooting just 41 percent from the field after being in the high 30s most of the game.

“I don’t think our shot selection has been great for a couple of games now, but I also think they really defended us well and took some things away,” said Stevens.

Boston has lost two in a row and five of its last eight games. The Celtics remained in the second place in the Eastern Conference, three games behind Cleveland.

TIP-INS

Celtics: With his 3-pointer with 4:24 left in the fourth quarter, Thomas eclipsed 8,000 points for his NBA career. … F Jonas Jerebko sat out the game with the flu.

Clippers: Jordan made his first free throw with 3:03 left in the second quarter, on his eighth attempt. … For 19-year vet Paul Pierce, who played his first 15 seasons in Boston and was the MVP of the 2008 NBA Finals, this was the final game against his former team. The Clippers ran a tribute video highlighting Pierce’s career midway through the first quarter, and the crowd responded with a standing ovation. Pierce plans to retire at the end of the season. He did not play in the game.

HOPEFUL ON HORFORD

Al Horford, who sat out Boston’s loss in Phoenix on Sunday, tested his sprained right elbow, sustained blocking a shot against the Lakers on Friday night, with a pregame shooting session.

“First time since (the injury),” Stevens said. “Feel like sooner rather than later he’ll be back, but I don’t want to put a specific timetable on him.”

ROAD WEARY

For the Clippers, Monday night’s game sat sandwiched between a pair of back-to-backs in the Central time zone. Fresh off games in Milwaukee and Chicago on Friday and Saturday night, the Clippers play road games against Minnesota and Memphis on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

“I would have loved to have just gone straight to Minnesota from Chicago,” Doc Rivers said. “That would have made a lot of sense.”

 

Blazers beat Lakers 97-81, tie Denver for final spot in West

Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 22 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-81 on Sunday night to pull even with Denver in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Both the Blazers and Nuggets are 35-38 with nine games left in the regular season. They play each other Tuesday in Portland.

Denver lost at home to the New Orleans Pelicans earlier Sunday night.

Portland took control by outscoring the Lakers 37-24 in the third quarter and led by as many as 26 points. Los Angeles shot 39 percent from the field and was outrebounded 61-42.

Allen Crabbe added 18 points off the bench for the Blazers, and Noah Vonleh grabbed 14 rebounds.

D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 22 points, and reserve Tyler Ennis scored 14.

Portland led 40-32 at the break after an unsightly half in which the teams took turns struggling from the field. At halftime, both were shooting exactly 32.6 percent.

The Lakers won their previous game against the Timberwolves but have won consecutive games only once since mid-November.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Shot 62.4 percent against Minnesota on Saturday, their best mark since hitting 64.1 percent on March 12, 2003. Coming into Sunday, they had shot 50.6 percent over their last five games.

Lakers: Rookie forward Brandon Ingram, who started the previous 19 games and averaged 12.1 points on 48.4 percent shooting, did not play because of right patellar tendinitis. Said coach Luke Walton: “He was out there warming up and it’s not right.” Corey Brewer got his first start for the Lakers.

 

Watch Russell Westbrook drop a triple-double in epic battle with James Harden (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) Lou Williams scored 31 points off the bench, James Harden finished with 22 points and 12 assists, and the Houston Rockets never trailed while cruising to a 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Russell Westbrook had 39 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his second straight triple-double and his 36th this season, but Harden led the Rockets to a 25-point lead through three quarters in the matchup between top MVP candidates.

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon added 24 points apiece for the Rockets, whose lead was trimmed to eight on a 3-pointer by Westbrook with about 90 seconds left. The Rockets scored four quick points after that to secure the victory.

Harden left late in the game after crashing into the court and appearing to injure his left wrist but said in a TV interview he expected to be OK.

Houston jumped out to a 9-0 lead and was up by at least 20 for most of the game. It was a stark change from the first three games between these teams this season, which were decided by a combined seven points.

Williams made 11 of 15 shots, going 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. He didn’t miss a shot until his layup was blocked by Jerami Grant early in the fourth quarter.

Houston won its fourth straight overall and has won nine of their past 12 games against the Thunder.

The Rockets shot 71 percent in the first half, and Harden made a layup before grabbing a rebound and hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Houston’s lead to 113-88 entering the fourth quarter.

The Thunder chipped away with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 126-114 with 4 minutes left. Williams hit a 3-pointer after that to slow down the Thunder the team’s late run.

The Rockets had a 16-point lead in the third quarter before they used a 13-4 run to make it 108-83 with about 90 seconds left in the quarter. Williams had two 3-pointers in that stretch and a highlight came when Houston stripped the ball from Westbrook and Harden dished to Ariza, who finished with another 3. The run wrapped up with an alley-oop dunk from Harden to Clint Capela, but Capela received a technical on the play for hanging on the rim.

Mike D’Antoni received a technical seconds later for arguing that call.

Houston had built a 79-59 lead by halftime thanks in part to nearly perfect 3-point shooting by Trevor Ariza and Williams. Ariza made four of five attempts and had 16 points at the break, and Williams was a perfect 6 for 6 overall, with four 3-pointers to pile up 18 points in the first two quarters.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo finished with 15 points. … Steven Adams and Alex Abrines scored 11 points apiece.

Rockets: Houston’s 79 points were the most the team has scored in a half this season. … Sunday was the 12th time this season where the Rockets had 100 points before the fourth quarter. … Williams had at least 20 points off the bench for the 29th time this season.

ANDERSON’S HEALTH

Houston’s Ryan Anderson will miss about two weeks after spraining his right ankle on Friday night against the Pelicans. D’Antoni hopes Anderson will recover in time to play the last couple of regular-season games and be at full strength for the start of the playoffs.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Dallas on Monday.

Rockets: Host Golden State on Tuesday.

Watch every one of Jimmy Butler’s career-high 14 assists in win over Bucks (VIDEO)

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler seems to be thriving without backcourt teammate Dwyane Wade. On Sunday in a win against the Milwaukee Bucks, Butler dished out a career-high 14 assists to go along with 20 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

Butler, 27, helped Chicago to a 109-94 win over the Bucks. He looked good doing it, dropping dimes off of both the pick-and-roll and while coming off screens.

The NBA put together a handy little video to be able to check out all of Butler’s assists.

Clippers blow 18-point lead, lose in final 2 seconds on putback to Kings (VIDEO)

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The Los Angeles Clippers had a rough go of things against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Up by 18 with more than five minutes to go, LA blew their lead and were left to watch as the Kings sealed the game late.

The final possession for Sacramento came on a missed corner 3-pointer by Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. The Kings got the outlet pass out on the rebound, but Ben McLemore took it to the rack and missed. That’s when Willie Cauley-Stein stepped in, cleaned up the board, and put the game-winning shot home with less than two seconds left.

Los Angeles lost in spectacular fashion, and became the only team this season to lose given their game situation.

Here’s a compilation the NBA put together of Sacramento’s epic comeback:

Meanwhile, Chris Paul called it the worst regular season loss of his career.

The Clippers peaked too soon. Like, the first 20 games of the season too soon.