NBA Capsules: Parker lifts Spurs to 11th straight win - Brownsville Herald

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Even shorthanded, the San Antonio Spurs keep finding ways to win. On Monday night, Richard Jefferson stepped up big. He hit a 3-pointer with 6.5 seconds left — only his second field goal all night — as the Spurs pulled out a 106-102 victory over the Utah Jazz.

It was San Antonio's 11th straight win — the longest streak in the NBA — and the seventh consecutive on this nine-game road trip. San Antonio (23-9) hasn't lost on the road since Jan. 29 in Dallas.

"I haven't been shooting the ball particularly well of late ... and even passed up one shot with about a minute to go," Richard Jefferson said. "But I was blessed the (3) went in."

Tony Parker scored 23 points to lead the Spurs, who were without key players Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter , both expected to miss two weeks because of injury.

"When you have guys that go down, I think sometimes it helps guys re-focus knowing you have less room for error," Jefferson said. "Everybody has to contribute."

Without Splitter to provide a spark off the bench, Matt Bonner came through in the clutch with five 3-pointers. He finished with 20 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

"Matty was great. Matty was key for us tonight," said Spurs forward Tim Duncan, who finished with 20 points. "He was able to spread the floor and hit some shots and continue to score points for us when we really needed it."

Al Jefferson scored 20 points to lead the Jazz (15-16), who fell below .500 for the first time since Jan. 2, but he couldn't get a mid-range jumper to fall with 29 seconds left.

Paul Millsap added 16 for Utah, and Devin Harris 15. Josh Howard, in the starting lineup because of an injury to shooting guard Raja Bell, had 12 points.

San Antonio trailed by as many as eight points in the first half and 10 in the third quarter before rallying.

"Persistence," Duncan said. "We stuck with it. They did make a (13-0) run. We came out in the second half and didn't play well for those first couple of minutes. They got themselves a lead, but we knew there was a lot of game left. It kind of shows the character of this team, how we've been playing over the last 10-15 games. We're really starting to turn that corner."

The Jazz, forced to practice Monday morning despite arriving back from Houston at 12:30 a.m., played with much more intensity than they did in a blowout loss to Houston on Sunday.

In the end, they still lost — and have dropped seven of their past nine.

"Tough loss," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "I thought our guys fought hard, especially after last night. We had a chance at the end. We just didn't get the plays at the end."

The Spurs led 56-53 at halftime, but the Jazz opened the second half on a 13-0 run.

The Spurs fought back, with Bonner hitting his fifth 3-pointer and making three free throws after being fouled on his next 3-point attempt.

And Parker had 11 assists to go with his 23 points.

"Tony's an All-Star," Gregg Popovich said of his veteran guard. "He had another magnificent game — scoring, finding people, playing tough, being a leader. He was good."

The bad continues to be injuries for Ginobili.

"It's killing him," Popovich said. "He just came back, played in a couple of games and was beginning to get in shape, get a rhythm and then he goes down again. He's pretty depressed about it. Hopefully the team can be over it and realize he and Tiago (Splitter) are going to gone for a while."

Ginobili suffered a strained left oblique in Saturday's 103-100 victory at the Los Angeles Clippers. An MRI on Monday confirmed the injury to Ginobili, who had played just his fourth game since missing 22 with a broken left hand. He will remain in San Antonio for the remainder of the Spurs' road trip.

Ginobili led the Spurs against the Jazz in the first meeting with 23 points on 9-of-10 shooting.

Splitter, who had averaged 13 points off the bench in his previous five games, traveled with the team to Salt Lake City but also is out two weeks with a strained right calf.

NOTES: Jazz great Karl Malone attended Monday's game just a few weeks after a very public spat with the organization and CEO Greg Miller. Afterward they met for about an hour in a closed-door session, though neither would discuss what was said.

Earlier this month, Malone went off on the organization. He said he was forced to use a scalper to buy tickets for a game and also blamed the organization for coach Jerry Sloan's abrupt retirement last February, saying the Jazz had given guard Deron Williams — now with the New Jersey Nets — too much power. On Monday, Malone, with his son, shrugged off reporters but sat in the front row under the "home" basket next to a fan holding a colorful "Malone for President" sign. A security guard stood behind him. At halftime, Malone hugged coach Corbin and other members of the Jazz staff in the concourse, but was signing autographs when Miller walked by. Miller looked at him, and kept walking. After the game, Miller went over to Malone and the two chatted briefly before going behind closed doors

''We talked," Malone said. "It's between us." ... Jazz SG Bell was inactive Monday after re-injuring his right adductor. It was the fourth game he missed because of the injury. The Jazz instead activated F DeMarre Carroll for the first time since signing him Feb. 8. ...The Spurs on Monday signed 6-9 rookie F Eric Dawson, a San Antonio native, to a 10-day contract. Dawson was averaging 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds for Austin of the NBA Development League.

Nowitzki's 26 help lead Mavs over Celtics

DALLAS (AP) — Dirk Nowtizki and the defending champion Dallas Mavericks seem to be hitting their stride at the midway point of their season.

The short-handed Boston Celtics are just struggling.

Nowitzki scored 26 points with season-high 16 rebounds while moving into the top 20 on the NBA career scoring list, and the Mavericks never trailed in an 89-73 victory over Boston on Monday night.

"I always say that it'll be great to look back (at milestones) when my career is over. Right now, I feel better and got to keep it going," Nowitzki said. "Ever since I took the week off, I feel better and I've been moving better. I've got to keep attacking."

A night after scoring a season-high 34 points against the New York Knicks, Nowitzki moved to No. 20 on the NBA scoring list with seven points in the first quarter against Boston. That pushed him one past Hall of Famer Robert Parish (23,334), who played 14 of his 21 NBA seasons for the Celtics.

After finishing with his 26 points in 31 minutes, Nowitzki's career total was at 23,354 points. All of those have come the past 14 seasons, all with Dallas. Nowitzki, who is set to play in his 11th consecutive All-Star game this weekend, also eclipsed 1,000 career blocked shots.

"For those people that didn't think he was a top 20 all-time player, this is good evidence of that. You can't have that accomplishment without a remarkable level of sustained excellence," coach Rick Carlisle said. "The other great thing right now, he continues to do better physically. He's moving every game seemingly better. We've got to keep building on that, too."

Since getting a four-game break last month to strengthen his sore right knee and improve his game conditioning, Nowitzki is averaging 21.7 points the last 13 games. The Mavs are 9-4 in that stretch, including a season-best winning streak of six games before Sunday's loss against the Knicks.

Already without suspended Rajon Rondo, absent Kevin Garnett and injured Brandon Bass, the Celtics lost starters Jermaine O'Neal (sprained left wrist) and Chris Wilcox (right adductor strain) in the third quarter.

"It's real tough when you're put in that situation," said Paul Pierce, who led the Celtics with 20 points. "It's just been bad luck lately."

Boston has lost four in a row, and six of seven.

"We've got to get our guys back. At one point, I had had five guards out there. We were just trying to mess up the game," coach Doc Rivers said. "I'm scared to talk to the medical staff because they don't give me good news. We've got to hold the fort until we get bodies back."

Rivers didn't have an update on O'Neal or Wilcox after the game.

Nowitzki scored all of Dallas' points in a 10-2 run midway through the second quarter that pushed the Mavericks ahead by 14. They led by double digits the rest of the way.

At No. 19 on the scoring list is Garnett (23,719), who missed his second consecutive game for personal reasons.

Jason Terry added 16 points with four 3-pointers for Dallas, and Shawn Marion had 11 points.

Jason Kidd, who began the game tied with Michael Jordan for second on the NBA career list for steals, had three against the Celtics to push his career total to 2,517. Kidd is also second in career assists.

"Listen, every week we're going to have records broken with the guys we have on this team. It's like a legends team," Carlisle said. "Jason Kidd's career has been amazing. Think about 18 years, almost two decades, of top-notch excellence."

Ray Allen added 15 points for Boston, and Avery Bradley had 12.

Rondo was suspended two games without pay by the NBA after throwing a ball at an official during Sunday's loss at Detroit. He received two technical fouls and ejected from a game for the first time in his professional career.

Bass, a former Mavericks player who is one of Boston's top reserves, was inactive for the fifth consecutive game because of a sore left knee.

Dallas was already up 44-34 at halftime against the Celtics when Wilcox picked up his fourth foul on Boston's first offensive possession of the second half. It wasn't clear when or how he got hurt, but he was out before the end of the third quarter.

Kidd then hit a 3-pointer before Nowitzki's step-back 13-footer made it 49-34.

The Mavs built as much as a 24-point lead, though Boston cut that to 15 before Marion's left-handed tip-in of a Lamar Odom miss at the end of the third quarter.

"Coming off of (Sunday's loss), the guys were really up for this," Carlisle said. "Sometimes you have a letdown when a team is missing a couple of star players. We did a good job of not letting that happen, playing with consistency from start to finish."

NOTES: Dallas swept the season series against the Celtics for the second season in a row. ... Both teams play their final games before the All-Star break on Wednesday. The Mavericks are home against the Lakers. Boston plays at Oklahoma City.

Lowry scores 24, Rockets hold off Grizzlies

HOUSTON (AP) — After seeing what the Memphis Grizzlies had done in their previous two games, the Houston Rockets knew how important hitting their shots late in the fourth quarter would be on Monday night.

Kyle Lowry scored 24 points, Kevin Martin added 22 and Courtney Lee made four key free throws down the stretch as the Rockets held off the Grizzlies 97-93.

The Grizzlies had won their last two games by one point on tip-ins in the last few seconds, but their late-game magic ran out Monday as their four-game winning streak was snapped.

"Anytime in the fourth quarter in close games like that where you can get a little bit of separation, those plays are huge," Lee said.

Houston led by seven before Memphis went on a 5-0 run to get within 91-89 with 27.4 seconds left. O.J. Mayo grabbed a rebound, took it down the court and finished with a layup to cap that spurt.

Lee made a pair of free throws before Rudy Gay's layup with 19 seconds remaining got Memphis back within two points.

Lee hit two more free throws and Quincy Pondexter's layup cut it to two again before two free throws by Lowry secured the win.

"We played it right to the end," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "We got close, but we couldn't make them flinch or blink at the free throw line."

Gay led the Grizzlies with 23 points and Mike Conley had 16.

"Kyle was the difference," Gay said. "He controlled the game. It's tough when he plays like that, when he drives and shoots like that. He played really well."

Luis Scola scored 10 points for Houston and Lee finished with nine — all in the fourth quarter.

The loss left Memphis without a win in Houston in 11 tries, with its last victory in the city coming in 2006.

The Grizzlies didn't make a basket in the fourth quarter until Tony Allen's layup with 5:44 remaining. He followed with another one seconds later to cut Houston's lead to 86-82.

The Rockets pushed the lead to 91-84 with just under 2½ minutes remaining before Memphis went on the run that cut the lead to two with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Houston opened the fourth quarter by scoring 10 straight points, capped by a 3-pointer from Lee, to break a tie and take an 86-76 lead with about 9 minutes to go.

The Rockets thought they weren't physical enough in two losses to Memphis earlier this season and wanted to change that Monday night.

"We had to go out there and play a little bit tougher than they did," Lowry said. "I think that ... they definitely out-toughed us (before) and tonight we made it a point to out-tough them."

The Rockets led by seven early in the third before the Grizzlies used a 9-2 run to tie it at 63 with 7 minutes left in the quarter. Conley had five points during that spurt.

Memphis took a five-point lead a few minutes later, before Houston outscored the Grizzlies 7-2 at the end of the third quarter to tie it at 76 entering the fourth. Lowry, who finished with nine assists, scored all of Houston's points in that run.

The Grizzlies held Martin scoreless for the first time in six years in a 93-83 win last Tuesday in Memphis.

He outdid his performance in that game when he made his first shot — a 3-pointer with just more than 10 minutes left in the first quarter, and had 18 by halftime.

Houston's Goran Dragic got hit in the nose in a collision with Dante Cunningham while vying for a loose ball late in the third quarter. Dragic, called for a foul on the play, remained on the court for a bit while trainers checked him out. He left the game but returned just a few seconds later.

Houston coach Kevin McHale said Dragic was already feeling bad before being hit in the face because of a stomach ailment and the coach said he was happy Dragic was able to play Monday. Dragic didn't look great after the game, and said he vomited at halftime.

The Rockets led 58-54 at halftime after shooting a season-high 66.7 percent in the first half.

NOTES: Houston recalled F Marcus Morris from Rio Grande Valley of the D-League. ... Rockets C Hasheem Thabeet missed the game with a sore lower back. ... The Grizzlies controlled the paint, outscoring Houston 58-38 in that area. ... Houston's Patrick Patterson had a season-high nine rebounds.

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Spurs' Ginobili out two weeks with strained oblique

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili is expected to miss two weeks with a strained left oblique.

Ginobili was hurt during the second half of San Antonio's 103-100 victory at the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday. The Spurs have won 10 straight heading into Monday night's game at Utah.

Ginobili had an MRI on Monday that confirmed the injury. He will remain in San Antonio for the remainder of the Spurs' road trip.

Forward Tiago Splitter also is expected to miss two weeks with a strained right calf, but he traveled with the team to Salt Lake City and will continue his rehab during the road trip.

Ginobili was playing in just his fourth game since missing 22 with a broken left hand.

Spurs sign F Dawson from developmental league

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The San Antonio Spurs have signed forward Eric Dawson to a 10-day contract off their NBA Development League team in Austin.

Dawson averaged 15.9 points and 10.1 rebounds in 18 games for the Austin Toros. He has played in 67 developmental league games over five seasons.

The San Antonio native also has played in Slovenia, Japan, South Korea and the Dominican Republic.

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Williams helps Nets slow Lin, Knicks

NEW YORK (AP) — Linsanity started against the New Jersey Nets, but this time All-Star guard Deron Williams was determined not to be embarrassed by the Harvard guy again.

Williams scored a season-high 38 points, outplaying Jeremy Lin and leading the Nets to a 100-92 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night.

Lin began his remarkable run against the Nets about two weeks ago, but Williams and the Nets were ready for him this time.

Lin finished with 21 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, but Williams outscored him 36-11 through three quarters, when the Nets led by 18. Lin shot only 7 of 18 and the Knicks lost for the second time in 10 games since his emergence against the Nets on Feb. 4.

Carmelo Anthony, clearly rusty in his return from a seven-game absence with a strained right groin, shot 4 of 11 and scored 11 points.


CHICAGO (AP) — Derrick Rose scored 23 points in his return from a five-game absence because of back pain to lead Chicago over struggling Atlanta.

Rose looked sharp to help the Bulls play more like championship contenders after a brutal loss to New Jersey two days earlier. They led by 18 through the first quarter and were up 55-37 at halftime, but found themselves hanging on in the end after a big push by Atlanta.

Rose also had six assists and five rebounds. Carlos Boozer added 16 points, Ronnie Brewer had 13, and Deng and John Lucas 10 apiece. Joakim Noah chipped in with 16 rebounds.

Pargo had 19 points, and Josh Smith added 17 points and 12 rebounds for Atlanta.


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 31 points apiece to lead Oklahoma City over New Orleans for its 10th straight home win.

One night after a historic performance featuring big scoring nights from All-Stars Durant and Westbrook and a triple-double from Serge Ibaka, the Thunder built a 26-point lead and then had to scrap it out at the end.

Jarrett Jack scored 18 points to lead New Orleans, which had a surprising three-game winning streak after losing 23 of 25.

New Orleans was within six before Westbrook hit four free throws in the final 48 seconds.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant scored 28 points, Andrew Bynum had 14 points and 19 rebounds, and Los Angeles roared to a 30-point lead early in the second quarter before holding off Portland.

Pau Gasol had 16 points and 12 rebounds in his first game since Bryant criticized the Lakers' front office for allowing Gasol to dangle amid trade rumors.

Neither star appeared distracted by the team's latest off-court saga as Los Angeles reeled off a 37-4 run after Raymond Felton's game-opening 3-pointer for Portland.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum scored 18 points apiece but the Blazers couldn't quite recover from the lowest-scoring first quarter in club history.

The Lakers scored 21 consecutive points during that opening surge and went on to their 14th victory in the last 15 home games.


OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Monta Ellis scored 32 points and Ekpe Udoh had a season-high 19 points and eight rebounds in place of ill center Andris Biedrins to lead Golden State past Los Angeles.

Udoh had a layup and a tying dunk with 4:05 remaining that started an 11-2 run to end the game for the Warriors. Golden State snapped a three-game skid and avenged a Christmas night blowout loss to the Clippers. Biedrins missed the game with flulike symptoms.

Chris Paul had 25 points, six assists and five rebounds, and Mo Williams made his first six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points in Los Angeles' second straight loss. The Clippers had 18 turnovers and shot just 42 percent.


MILWAUKEE (AP) — Dwight Howard had 28 points and 16 rebounds, and Jameer Nelson added 15 points to lead Orlando to its third win over Milwaukee in 10 days.

Brandon Jennings had 22 points and Mike Dunleavy added 18 for the Bucks. Ersan Ilyaosova, coming off 29 points and 25 rebounds Sunday against New Jersey, had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

It was the Bucks' sixth straight loss at home, the first time Milwaukee has lost six straight at the Bradley Center since a seven-game slide from Feb. 5-25, 2000.

Ryan Anderson hit a 3-pointer with 18.1 seconds remaining to put Orlando up 91-90 before Nelson was fouled with 10.8 seconds to go and hit both free throws for the final margin.


DENVER (AP) — Arron Afflalo hit a tiebreaking floater in the lane with 33.7 seconds remaining in overtime and reserve Al Harrington scored a season-high 31 points as the short-handed Denver Nuggets beat Minnesota.

Afflalo spun past defender Luke Ridnour and swished his shot to put Denver ahead. From there, the Nuggets closed the game out at the foul line and snapped a three-game skid.

Afflalo finished with 20 points and rookie Kenneth Faried added 14 rebounds as the Nuggets beat the Timberwolves for the 17th time in 18 games.

Kevin Love had 22 points and 13 rebounds for Minnesota, which had its three-game winning streak snapped.


PHOENIX (AP) — Marcin Gortat scored 20 points, Steve Nash had 12 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in three quarters, and Phoenix beat Washington for its 10th straight win over the Wizards.

Phoenix, coming off a 102-90 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, won on consecutive nights for the first time this season. Washington hasn't beaten the Suns in six years.

Channing Frye added 19 points and 11 rebounds and Michael Redd scored 14 for the Suns, who topped 100 points against Washington for the 18th time in a row, the longest active streak of its kind in the NBA.

Jordan Crawford scored 20 points for the Wizards, who finished a five-game trip with three losses after winning the first two. The Suns outscored Washington 31-6 after the Wizards took their only lead of the game early in the third quarter.

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Linsanity hits snag as Anthony returns

NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony had mostly been a bystander as Jeremy Lin went from the end of the Knicks' bench to the biggest story in sports.

New York won eight of nine games with Lin leading the way, and Melo nursing an injury that kept him out of action for the last seven of those games.

Anthony returned Monday night only to see Deron Williams and the Nets put a damper on all the excitement.

Williams scored a season-high 38 points and outplayed Lin, while Anthony slogged through his first outing in two weeks and New Jersey beat New York 100-92.

Lin scored 21 points, shooting 7 for 18 with nine assists. Not bad.

Anthony, however, struggled after missing seven games with a groin injury. The All-Star foward scored 11 points and went 4 for 11 from the field. He missed shots around the rim he usually finishes, had six turnovers — including a dribble off his foot — and even missed half of his six free throws.

New York fans have been worrying about whether Anthony's return would disrupt the Linsanity. This won't help ease their fears.

"My mindset was not try to come in and do too much. Try to fit in. Try to play my game within the system the way that they've been playing the last couple weeks," Anthony said.

Anthony's first basket came off a connection with Lin, setting a pick and popping out for a jumper. But the Knicks' offense went stagnant in the second quarter, and Williams took over the game in the third.

"I want Jeremy to have the ball. Hands down," Anthony said. "I want him to create for me. I want him to create for Amare (Stoudamire). I want him to create for everybody and still be as aggressive as he's been over the past two weeks. I want that."

Lin began his remarkable run against the Nets about two weeks ago, but Williams and the Nets were ready for him this time.

"I don't really watch too many games, but I do see Twitter, people tweet me and every, you know, three lines it was 'Jeremy Lin destroyed Deron Williams,'" Williams said. "So I definitely took offense to that in the first game and definitely, like I said, I had it circled."

Williams outscored Lin 36-11 through three quarters, when the Nets led by 18. The Knicks lost for the second time in 10 games since Lin's emergence against the Nets on Feb. 4.

"Obviously, Deron Williams going for 30-whatever he had is not going to get it done," Lin said. "So I needed to come out with more energy, the team needed to come out with more energy and I think at the end of the day, I think that's why the team lost."

Williams scored 18 in the third quarter, including 12 straight Nets points during one surge. Clearly amped up for the rematch — maybe too much so, because he fouled out with 3:07 left — he skipped across the court with three fingers in the air after burying a second straight 3-pointer during his blistering stretch.

"I don't think Deron Williams needs much of a prod," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "That's one of the best guards in the league. Jeremy still got 21 and nine. He had a great game, good game. Deron had a great game and that'll be that way sometimes. Again, I'm not big on the matchups just because it's a team thing and as a team we just didn't perform very well."

A Knicks offense that rang up 104 points against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks on Sunday shot only 40 percent against the Nets.

In addition to welcoming back Anthony, Baron Davis played his first game with the Knicks. The former All-Star point guard, relegated to Lin's backup now, had three points and an assist in just under 10 minutes.

And it was the second game for guard J.R. Smith, who signed with the Knicks after returning from a stint playing in China.

The Knicks found a winning formula with Lin. Now, D'Antoni has to tweak it without ruining it.

"We have to get this thing sorted," he said. "We have to figure out the type of team, the identity we have to have."

Anthony didn't seem too worried.

"As far as identity we've had last couple weeks, it was there," he said. "I don't think nothing is going to change.

"There's going to be an adjustment. New roles. New guys."

Notes: Knicks rookie Iman Shumpert sat out with a left knee injury and will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break. ... Nets C Brook Lopez, who just returned Sunday after breaking his foot in the preseason, sat out as part of the plan to not play him yet on back-to-back nights. ... The Knicks honored former coach Joe Lapchick, and players Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton and John Rucker as part of their "Pioneer Night: A Celebration In Black History." Clifton was the first African-American to play for the Knicks, though Rucker preceded him by two weeks in training camp in 1950, becoming the first African-American to wear the team's uniform.

-- Ralph D. Russo

Anthony, Davis join the Linsanity

NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony rejoined the Knicks' starting lineup Monday night and was part of the Linsanity for the first time since it began sweeping New York.

Anthony missed the previous seven games with a groin injury. The All-Star forward was greeted by a huge ovation at Madison Square Garden during introductions for New York's game against the New Jersey Nets, then scored the Knicks' second basket.

Baron Davis also made his season and Knicks debut against the Nets, wearing No. 85.

Anthony hadn't played since Feb. 6, the first game Jeremy Lin became a starter with the Knicks. Anthony played six minutes against Utah, but Lin scored 28 points and the Knicks won their second of what turned out to be seven straight victories.

Anthony came in averaging 22 points per game, but while Knicks fans have been swooning over their new point guard, they also have been fretting about how Anthony and Lin will mix.

"He was pretty good without him so I imagine he'll be pretty good with him," D'Antoni said of Anthony before the game. "Everybody will benefit from a good point guard."

Lin's emergence as the point guard the Knicks have been searching for has been a boon to the pick-and-roll offense. But that's not Anthony's game.

"We'll run our offense," D'Antoni said before the game. "Jeremy's going to run the pick-and-roll. Melo will get the ball and do his thing. We'll see if it's balanced. If it's not we'll have to balance it and all that."

D'Antoni figures Anthony and Lin will need some time to figure out what works best for each other.

"Any player wants a point guard that gets him easy shots and Jeremy can do that," the coach said.

Davis has been recovering from a herniated disk in his back and an infection in his elbow, which delayed his Knicks debut. New York signed him to eventually be its starting point guard, but Lin changed those plans.

The 32-year-old former All-Star will be a much-needed backup to Lin, who has played at least 36 minutes in eight of the nine games in which he has had a major role, topping 40 minutes four times. D'Antoni said Davis also could slide over to shooting guard and play with Lin.

Either way, he's a role player on the Knicks for now.

"He can see what's happening, too," D'Antoni said of Davis. "Right now Jeremy is the starter. Nothing is ever set in stone but ... Jeremy's playing pretty good right now."

With 2:11 left in the first quarter, Davis checked in for Lin to a smattering of applause.

In Davis' first possession with the Knicks, he never gave up the ball. His 3-pointer from the right wing off the dribble rattled in and out.

Davis almost had his first assist with the Knicks, feeding Steve Novak in the corner for a 3 at the first-quarter buzzer. Problem was Davis took a little too much time to get the ball to Novak and the basket was waved off after a video review because the shot left the shooter's hand a blink too late.

Iman Shumpert was out Monday night because of a sore left knee. D'Antoni said the rookie guard is day to day.

-- Ralph D. Russo

Lakers GM Kupchak responds to Bryant's rant

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mitch Kupchak says he must explore every opportunity to improve the Los Angeles Lakers, even if Kobe Bryant doesn't like it.

The Lakers general manager issued a statement Monday night in response to Bryant's criticism of the club brass over the haze of uncertainty surrounding Pau Gasol. The 7-foot Spanish star is having the lowest-scoring season of his career amid rampant speculation about his departure in a trade ever since the Lakers attempted to move him for Chris Paul before the season.

After Sunday night's loss at Phoenix, Bryant said he wanted Kupchak to decide whether Gasol would be traded or not. Kupchak responded with a terse one-paragraph statement before Monday's game against Portland.

"As a former player, I understand how the days leading up to the trade deadline can be nerve-wracking for an NBA player," said Kupchak, a former Lakers center.

"Nonetheless, as General Manager of the Lakers, I have a responsibility to ownership, our fans and the players on this team to actively pursue opportunities to improve the team for this season and seasons to come," Kupchak said. "To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Taking such a course of action at this time would be a disservice to ownership, the team and our many fans."

Bryant said Sunday he hopes the Lakers won't trade Gasol, who is averaging 16.6 points and 10.7 rebounds while failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in four years. Although the Lakers were 18-13 and sitting in fifth place in the Western Conference heading into the Trail Blazers' visit, they've been inconsistent in their first season under coach Mike Brown, with a 5-11 road record and several embarrassing losses along the way.

Bryant is the NBA's leading scorer with 29 points per game, but he's worried about Gasol, saying it's tough for the four-time All-Star to "immerse himself completely into games when he's hearing trade talk every other day."

Gasol doesn't want to leave Los Angeles, and he acknowledged he's thinking about the March 15 trade deadline. He hasn't spoken directly to Kupchak about his future since the Lakers' preseason attempt to deal Gasol to Houston in a three-team trade for Paul was rejected by the NBA.

Yet Gasol's numbers are only slightly lower than last season's averages, and Brown attributes much of that slight decline to the improvement of center Andrew Bynum, who made his first All-Star team while averaging 16.3 points and 12.5 rebounds.

"I know there's been a surge from Andrew Bynum that wasn't there in the past, so Pau does not get the same amount of touches in the post that he has in the past," Brown said.

While Bryant and Kupchak addressed each other through the media, Brown professed ignorance about the latest kerfuffle in Bryant's rocky relationship with the Lakers' management, saying he hadn't even read Bryant's comments. The new coach had no interest in getting involved, either.

"I don't plan on going to talk to him," Brown said. "That discussion is done between Mitch and Kobe. ... It's not my place to address Kobe about trades. I don't have much to do with trades on this team."

Even with this round of public sparring, the Lakers have won seven of 11 since late January.

Although Bryant might be bothered by the Lakers' machinations, he was angry in previous years when the Lakers didn't make trades to improve the club, even demanding a trade himself in 2007. A few months later, the Lakers acquired Gasol and immediately made a run to three straight NBA finals and back-to-back league titles.

Metta World Peace is no stranger to displeasure about trade rumors. Back when he was Ron Artest, he sparred with the Indiana Pacers' management over rumors about his eventual departure to Sacramento.

"You can't really question (Kupchak), because he's looking out for the Lakers, and he does a great job," World Peace said. "That's his job, and we're supposed to go play."

-- Greg Beacham

Former top pick Oden has third microfracture surgery

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Greg Oden has suffered yet another setback with his troublesome knees.

The often-injured 7-foot center was undergoing a minor procedure Monday to clear out debris in his left knee in Vail, Colo., when the surgeon determined there was additional damage and performed microfracture surgery, the Portland Trail Blazers said.

The former No.1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft has now had two microfracture surgeries on his left knee, and one on his right. He has also undergone surgery for a fractured left kneecap.

The Blazers say Oden will not play this season.

"It's hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He's a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him," Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said in a prepared statement. "We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time."

Oden, who has not played in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009, has appeared in 82 career games for the Blazers, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds.

It was expected that he might be able to play this season, but a checkup before the start of training camp in December reportedly revealed concerns about a non-weight-bearing ligament in the left knee, further setting back his rehabilitation.

Oden was a restricted free agent heading into this season. The Blazers and Oden initially agreed to an $8.9 million qualifying offer for this year, but when the setback was announced the two sides restructured the deal, which was dropped to $1.5 million. He will become an unrestricted free agent following this season.

Oden has turned down several interview requests this season.

Shortly after the news about the latest surgery broke, Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge posted on Twitter: "Praying for my bro G.O. get better!"

The Blazers were in Los Angeles on Monday night for a game against the Lakers.

"I'm sure he's saying, 'Why Me?' Sometimes in life, things like that happen, and you wonder why it's happening to you," coach Nate McMillan said about Oden before the game. "Some of these injuries have occurred, not only on the floor but off the floor. There's really not an explanation for why, or sometimes how they're happening. I'm sure it's been a frustrating start for him."

Portland's acting general manager Chad Buchanan told reporters that the team knew there was the possibility of an additional microfracture surgery when he went in for the procedure. The doctor found two defects, he said.

Buchanan was asked whether the latest surgery might mean the end of Oden's career.

"Greg's still very young, in relative terms, for a professional basketball player. He's recovered from a couple of these before — his last two microfracture lesions have healed fine," Buchanan said. "So there's no reason to think he couldn't come back as long as he shows the work ethic and desire that he's had in the past to come back. I think it's premature to speculate anything beyond that."

The former Ohio State star was selected over Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant with the top pick in the 2007 draft. Debates raged over who should be the No. 1 selection, and the Blazers eventually went with Oden in the hope that he would lead the team — along with Brandon Roy and Aldridge — to an NBA championship.

But Oden's rookie season was postposed when he required microfracture surgery on his right knee that forced him to miss the 2007-08 season.

Oden's repeated knee problems have drawn comparisons to Sam Bowie, the injury-plagued big man the Blazers selected ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. While Bowie played in 76 games his rookie season, averaging 10 points and 8.6 rebounds, he appeared in just 63 games over the next four seasons because of injuries. He missed the entire 1987-88 season. In all, he had five operations.

-- Anne M. Peterson

Fredette's rookie year comes with a learning curve

MIAMI (AP) — For Sacramento rookie Jimmer Fredette, there's one aspect of the NBA life that's proving difficult to handle.

It's not the intricate defenses, not the physicality, not even the demanding schedule, even though he confesses that he's gotten his hotel room number in one city confused with what it was the previous night in another city.

It's the losing.

Over the last six years — his four college seasons at BYU and his final two starring at Glens Falls High School in upstate New York — Fredette's teams went 158-31. The Kings will take a 10-21 record into their game Tuesday in Miami against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the NBA-leading Heat, so at the team's current rate, Fredette will experience far more losses this season than he had in the past half-dozen combined.

"Keep playing hard and eventually things will turn around," Fredette said. "You've just got to instill a winning attitude within the team. Everybody's got to have it. You can't just have a losing mentality even though you're on a losing team. That's something I think that guys can fall into. ... That's something I try not to get used to. You always stay mad. You always stay ready to go so you can try to keep winning basketball games."

Which is why, after a two-hour practice in Miami on Monday, Fredette spent more time on the court taking dozens of long jumpers, then arranging for some weightlifting time before he would return to the team hotel.

This season might be slipping away from the Kings, but Fredette knows his NBA process is only beginning.

"This year is crazy, especially just with the travel and how many games we play. It's abnormal, and also with the short training camp and a coaching change a couple weeks in," Fredette said. "Everything's happened. I've seen it all in my rookie year."

Fredette is averaging 8.0 points on 37 percent shooting so far for Sacramento, which has lost five straight going into Tuesday. As can be expected, his transition from college — where he was The Associated Press player of the year last season — to the NBA has been somewhat rocky at times. Fredette had four straight double-figure scoring games in late January, with only one since.

Around the league, some believe it's only a matter of time before Fredette finds his groove.

"He knows how to play the game and he knows how to score the ball," Heat forward LeBron James said. "It doesn't matter what level you're on — if you're averaging 29 points in college or high school or whatever the case may be, you know how to put the ball in the hoop. He's explosive when he has his opportunity. His opportunity right now has been going up and down. Of course, we've all seen that. But when he's had an opportunity, he's known how to play."

Five years ago, when he was leading his high school team to a state final and setting scoring records, Fredette would have probably never imagined that someone like James would be saying that about him.

It seems almost commonplace now, especially after Fredette saw his stock just keep soaring throughout his college career.

"It means a lot, for sure," Fredette said. "Just recognizing that some of the best players in the world know who you are and know that you can be a good player in this league and respect your game. And that's something you've been working for your entire life. So it's a great compliment to have someone like that say that. But at the same time, you know, I'm not there yet."

So he's working. Getting up the extra shots, doing the extra work, whatever it takes to prove that he belongs.

It's the path he took at Glens Falls, it's the path he took at BYU, and he sees no reason to change the formula this time.

"I can't get complacent," Fredette said. "I have to go out and continue to improve and work. You can't just live off of what other people say. You've got to show it yourself and make them a believer. That's what I have to do now."

-- Tim Reynolds

Heat rolling, and doing so quietly

MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade finished his workout Monday and approached about a dozen reporters, one of the smallest media turnouts at a Miami Heat practice this season.

These days, the team with the NBA's best record almost seems like an afterthought.

"If it was packed in here right now, it would mean we were losing," Wade said. "When we look over and see a lot of people in here, we're not playing well."

And that certainly isn't the case.

Winners of six straight, all by at least 12 points, the Heat are in their best stretch of the season. The midpoint of the regular-season schedule awaits Tuesday when Miami (25-7) hosts Sacramento (10-21), losers of five straight. Here's one example of how wildly different things have gone for those clubs: Miami has led by at least 20 points in each of its last six games, while the Kings have only enjoyed that margin once this season — for all of 37 seconds.

If the spotlight is going to shine elsewhere these days, the Heat are fine with that arrangement.

"It's quiet as hell around here and we're doing pretty good," Heat forward Chris Bosh said. "But that's to be expected. And we wouldn't have it any other way. That's just the name of the game. That's the business. That's how it's always going to be. You're more of a story when you have controversy."

Or a phenomenon.

Already in Miami — and to the team's chagrin, given that Sacramento is next on the schedule and therefore supposed to be the focus — there's no shortage of talk about Thursday night's home game against the New York Knicks, and none of that buzz is surrounding the years-old rivalry between the teams.

No, the Jeremy Lin craze is going strong, with ticket demand for Thursday rivaling what was going on during last season's NBA finals against Dallas.

So as Linsanity reigns, other NBA story lines like the Heat passing Chicago for the NBA's best record, San Antonio taking a 10-game winning streak into its game Monday night, even the looming All-Star weekend seem almost forgotten.

"We don't know if people get bored (with Miami winning) or not," Heat forward LeBron James said. "We just know there's a lot more going on. I guess there's other, better story lines right now going on in the league, so we can go out and just play the game and just try to do it at a high level. Let everybody else get the headlines right now and just play Miami Heat basketball."

Miami's numbers of late, including this six-game winning streak, are flirting with absurd.

Wade has connected on at least half his shots in 10 straight games, his longest run since doing that 11 straight times as a rookie. The Heat are shooting 49.2 percent over their last six games — the second-best mark in the league since Feb. 10, 0.1 percent off Oklahoma City's pace — while holding teams to an NBA-best 39.3 percent mark from the floor over that span.

Things are going so well for Miami, neither Wade nor James have been asked to play much in fourth quarters lately.

"Getting tired of sitting down in the fourth quarter, personally," James said Monday, the look on his face making it clear that he wasn't being entirely serious. "It's messing up my averages."

The Heat know what's happening now likely represents just a momentary blip on the attention-grabbing meter.

James has been talked about as an MVP frontrunner for weeks already and was at the center of a huge story last week when he said he would not rule out one day maybe returning to Cleveland as a player. The Heat are sending six representatives to All-Star weekend, where the second half of the season, the chase for the 2012 championship — and the loss in the 2011 finals — are sure to be popular topics.

So when the all-about-Miami craze returns, the Heat say they'll be ready.

"We're comfortable in our world now," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Monday. "There can be a lot of noise. It can be relatively minimal noise. I think we're able now to compartmentalize and focus on what's real, our team and trying to improve and trying to get ourselves ready to play at our optimal level during the playoffs. That's the only thing that matters."

Wade almost said he's welcoming the break, both in terms of getting some late-game minutes off, and without the levels of all-the-time scrutiny that has seemed to follow the Heat since he, Bosh and James teamed up in 2010.

"It's great," Wade said. "We're focusing on what we need to do. The only attention we're thinking about is giving each other the attention that we need as a team and making sure that everyone in here knows how they important they are to our success and what our goal is. Our goal is to be the best team in the NBA at the end of the year and not right now."

-- Tim Reynolds

Jordan, struggling Bobcats assist in hunger fight

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Owner Michael Jordan and his struggling Bobcats turned their focus Monday to fighting hunger in the Charlotte area.

The Bobcats, who have lost 17 of their last 18 games, championed the community effort as part of the "Cats Care" initiative.

Jordan arrived at the Bobcats arena as a smiling passenger in a 26-foot, 14,000-pound refrigerated mobile pantry worth $125,000 that the Bobcats, along with the team's broadcast partner — FOX SportsSouth — donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank. They also donated an additional $125,000 in food to be distributed around the area.

Jordan didn't talk about his organization's struggles on the court, but as he emerged from the truck to a chorus of cheers from those lined up around the corner to receive food, he told them the Bobcats were here to help.

"When I first took over the team one of the things I wanted to emphasize was for the Bobcats to connect back to the community," Jordan said. "It's a very beautiful truck and hopefully it's going to serve a lot of people. We feel deep in our hearts that we owe back to the community for what the community has done for us."

Kay Carter, the executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, said she was overwhelmed by the donation, calling it "the best day ever" in the organization's 30 years of existence.

She said there are enough canned goods to reach the top of Mount Everest if stacked together.

"The number of people this is going to impact is unbelievable," Carter said. "It means the world to the people who are need in our community. It's exciting to me. And why it's exciting is because people are hungry and kids are hungry and they need to be fed."

The entire Bobcats staff, including players and coaches, participated in a series of food distribution activities at locations throughout the Charlotte region throughout the day Monday, including Salvation Army Center of Hope Women's and Children's Shelter and Second Harvest Food Bank, as well as the Mobile Pantry at J.H. Gunn Elementary School and Kids Café at the Stratford-Richardson YMCA.

Jordan made several stops during the all-day event.

"Our staff, players and coaches have continually been willing participants and today is one of many examples of our efforts to show our commitment to the community," Jordan said.

After his initial speech, Jordan went inside the arena to help his employees hand out chickens, rolls, canned foods, Oreo cookies and lemonade to a line of hundreds of hungry people that stretched more than two blocks.

Flashing his famous smile, Jordan shook hands and chatted with people as they went through the line.

"I think a lot of them are more excited about seeing MJ," joked Bobcats guard Kemba Walker.

Lucille Robertson of Charlotte was first through the line.

"I think this is really nice because we have a lot of senior citizens who are in need," Robertson said. "It's just a wonderful event. It's impressive to see Michael Jordan here too, front and center. I want to tell him that we do appreciate it. We really do."

Last fall the Bobcats identified hunger as the most pressing issue facing this community and launched its full court press on hunger during the holiday season, feeding approximately 4,000 people for Thanksgiving and donating an additional 200 turkeys.

This is the second year of the Cats Care initiative.

Last year the Bobcats donated $250,000 to help keep middle school sports alive in Charlotte Mecklenburg County schools after budget cuts threatened to eliminate them.

Walker simply shook his head as he watched the hundreds of people walk through the line to pick up free food and drinks.

"It's pretty cool when you can put smiles on people's faces like we have today," Walker said.

-- Steve Reed

Rondo suspended two games for throwing ball at ref

NEW YORK (AP) — Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has been suspended two games without pay by the NBA for throwing a ball at an official during a game.

Stu Jackson, the NBA's executive vice president for basketball operations, announced the suspension Monday, one day after Rondo received two technical fouls and was ejected late in the third quarter of Boston's 96-81 loss at the Detroit Pistons.

Rondo was upset that a foul wasn't called with about 3:00 left in the quarter and tossed the ball at referee Sean Wright. He followed that with a verbal barrage directed at Wright and was ejected from a game for the first time in his professional career.

"You're always disappointed when that happens," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "You should never put yourself in front of the team. But it's an emotional game. We can all agree that it was a pretty bad foul and a clear foul that wasn't called. At the time, we were getting our butts kicked and the frustration was high and it's a human game. I can guarantee you five seconds, 30 seconds after it happened, I guarantee you Rondo wished he could take it back."

Rondo will miss Monday night's game at Dallas and Wednesday's matchup with Oklahoma City.

Rivers didn't seem surprised that the suspension was for two games.

"They told us early to don't prepare for him playing tonight. When they said that, I felt it meant multiple, otherwise they would have said one game."

Thunder backups Harden, Collison out with injuries

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder will be without reserves James Harden and Nick Collison for Monday night's game against the New Orleans Hornets.

Coach Scott Brooks says Harden is being held out with a sprained left ankle and Collison has a left quad contusion. Their absences will leave the Thunder with only 10 healthy players.

Starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha is out with a sore right foot, backup point guard Eric Maynor suffered a season-ending knee injury and reserve Lazar Hayward has a fractured orbital floor on his left eye.

Brooks says he expects all 10 of Oklahoma City's remaining players to get into the game.

Nuggets G Miller ejected for arguing

DENVER (AP) — Nuggets guard Andre Miller has been ejected from Monday night's game for arguing an offensive foul call late in the third quarter.

Miller was called for an offensive foul with 31 seconds left in the third quarter and Denver leading Minnesota 76-69. He argued the call and drew a technical from official Nick Buchert. After Kevin Love hit the free throw, Miller continued to talk and Buchert hit him with the second technical.

The Nuggets were already playing without starting point guard Ty Lawson, who sprained his ankle in the first half. Rookie Julyan Stone replaced Miller.

Rose returns to Bulls' lineup against Hawks

CHICAGO (AP) — Reigning MVP Derrick Rose is back in the Chicago Bulls' lineup against the Atlanta Hawks after missing the previous five games because of lower back pain.

Signs were pointing toward Rose playing Monday.

He practiced Sunday, and coach Tom Thibodeau says he "didn't have any problems." The Bulls waited to see how Rose felt after pregame warmups before announcing he would play.

While Rose returned, veteran guard Richard Hamilton (right thigh) remained sidelined. The Bulls also were without backup point guard C.J. Watson, who left in the third quarter of Saturday's loss to New Jersey after taking a blow to the head from Kris Humphries.

Williams leaves Hawks because of death in family

CHICAGO (AP) — Atlanta Hawks forward Marvin Williams missed Monday's game against the Chicago Bulls because of a death in his family.

Coach Larry Drew says he's not sure if it was an immediate family member or not. He was not sure, either, when Williams would rejoin the team and would not say where he traveled to. Williams is averaging 9.6 points.

Veteran swingman Willie Green, averaging 7.4 points, started in his place.

21 Feb, 2012

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