Chris Paul powers Clippers to 112-100 victory over 76ers

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Once Chris Paul stepped up his play for the Los Angeles Clippers, it was all over for the pesky Philadelphia 76ers.

Paul scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half, leading Los Angeles to a 112-100 victory Saturday.

“We were just trying to figure things out, because all game long we couldn’t get much separation from them. They’re a gritty team,” Paul said. “It’s going to be like that some nights, and luckily we started to get some stops and made some big shots down the stretch to get separation.”

DeAndre Jordan had 19 points and 20 rebounds, helping the Clippers (40-26) to their fourth win in five games. Paul also had seven assists, and Blake Griffin added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“If you show up and expect to beat them like you did three years ago, you are going to get beat,” Griffin said.

The Clippers trailed 79-75 after three quarters but opened the final period with a 10-0 run. Los Angeles has beaten Philadelphia in 10 of their last 11 meetings.

“We were able to get stops when we needed to and then we executed offensively,” Jordan said. “It was energy and effort down the stretch and throughout the game that got us back in it and spread the lead out for us.”

Richaun Holmes led Philadelphia with 24 points and nine rebounds. Dario Saric added 16 points, and Jahlil Okafor had 14.

The Sixers (23-42) have lost four in a row and seven of eight overall. They haven’t beaten the Clippers in Los Angeles since March 2011.

“CP showed his veteran leadership and pretty much took over the game,” said T.J. McConnell, who had nine points and 10 assists for Philadelphia. “We’re playing hard but we couldn’t get stops.”

Both teams had 41 rebounds, and Los Angeles improved to 31-8 this season when it equals or outrebounds its opponent.

The Sixers, who shot 47.6 percent from the field, fell to 8-23 on the road this season.

“We competed, I thought at a high standard,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “We were ahead at halftime. We were ahead going into the fourth period. We stuck with a nine-man rotation and I thought our guys fought to the end. We came up short these last two games but we’re competing and that’s what we have to do the rest of the season.”

With the win and Utah’s loss to Oklahoma City on Saturday, Los Angeles trails the Jazz by one game for the fourth playoff spot. The teams play Monday night at Utah.

TIP-INS

Sixers: In 13 games dating to Feb. 8, Saric is averaging 19.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists and shooting 48.6 percent. Only Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook have registered similar numbers during that span. … Robert Covington had 13 points.

Clippers: After starting the season 14-2, the Clippers are 26-24. They are just 5-5 since the All-Star break.

ROOKIE SENSATION

Saric has nine 20-point games to his credit this season, second among NBA rookies, trailing only his teammate Joel Embiid. Entering Saturday’s game, Saric led all rookies with 403 rebounds.

“He’s had an excellent year,” Brown said.

CAMEROON CONNECTION

Embiid and Clippers forward Luc Mbah a Moute are two of three active NBA players from Cameroon. Countryman Pascal Siakam plays for Toronto.

EMBIID UPDATE

Embiid met with doctors in Los Angeles on Friday to discuss options on repairing his torn meniscus in his left knee.

 

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?

Hawks’ DeAndre’ Bembry out with fractured wrist

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In their season opener Wednesday, Atlanta second-year man DeAndre’ Bembry came off the bench and played 17:45, scored six points and was +13 on the night. It was a good start to his career.

But now he is going to miss some time with a fractured wrist.

Bembry underwent an MRI, which revealed a fracture in his right wrist, the Hawks announced Friday. He will return to Atlanta with the team (the Hawks lost to the Hornets Friday night) and will meet with team doctors at the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center on Monday. His status will be updated after that.

“We just may play some other guys more, we may use some of the young guys,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told the AP before Friday night’s game. “We’ll just figure it out tonight and as we move forward. I don’t think there’s anything guaranteed for anybody, it’s unfortunate for DeAndre’ and for us.”

 

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.