LOS ANGELES // The short-handed San Antonio Spurs have been playing slightly better than .500 ball against teams with winning records, so they needed a huge lift from somebody Tuesday night in a matchup of division leaders.
They got one from Patty Mills, who scored 16 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter as the Spurs charged out of the All-Star break with a 113-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. San Antonio are a league-best 21-7 away from home, poised to extend their NBA record for consecutive winning seasons on the road to 17.
“Down a couple of guys, not being able to practice yesterday, and to be able to come in here and put together a 48-minute performance like this was great for us,” said Tim Duncan, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds during a foul-plagued 38 minutes. “It was a big win for us, especially on the road against a very good ballclub.”
The Spurs played without six-time All-Star Tony Parker, who will be sidelined “for the foreseeable future” because of numerous aches and pains (including a bruised shin, groin strain and lower back spasms), coach Gregg Popovich said.
The 13-year veteran point guard, who played 11 minutes in Sunday’s All-Star game, is the Spurs’ leading scorer and their only player averaging at least 30 minutes.
“We’re just trying to get him healthy,” Duncan said. “I mean, players being healthy is so underrated. When people play through things and they aren’t 100 per cent, the season becomes a grind. So we want to be 100 per cent so that down the stretch and in the play-offs, when we ask him to do all that we need him to do, he’s ready to go and carry that load on his shoulders.”
Blake Griffin had 35 points and 12 rebounds, Jamal Crawford scored 25 and DeAndre Jordan grabbed 18 rebounds for the Clippers, who ended a run of five consecutive home games that began with a four-point loss to two-time defending champions Miami.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get where the Spurs are and accomplish what they’ve accomplished,” Griffin said. “They kind of have the model of the NBA and how you want to run things. Guys can be sitting out with injuries, and it doesn’t matter. Other guys are going to come in and do exactly what they’re supposed to. It’s impressive.”
Corey Joseph started for the 13th time this season and had seven points in Parker’s place. Backup shooting guard Manu Ginobili returned to the lineup and scored nine points in 14 minutes after missing eight games since January 28 because of tightness in his left hamstring. But centre Tiago Splitter was sidelined for the fourth straight game with a bruised right shin, and forward Kawhi Leonard missed his 12th in a row due to a broken bone in his right hand.
All those injuries have presented a stiff challenge for the Southwest Division leaders, who are 8-7 since a five-game winning streak last month. They lead the Clippers by three games for the second-best record in the Western Conference and have two games left on their nine-game rodeo road trip.
The Spurs, who came in leading the NBA in three-point shooting at 39.1 per cent, took a 73-69 lead when Marco Belinelli drained one from in front of the San Antonio bench with 3:18 left in the third quarter.
Duncan picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes later, but the Clippers never could regain the lead as Mills scored 11 consecutive Spurs points during a 2:26 span to help San Antonio build a 93-81 cushion with 8:46 to play.
“He was great for us,” Duncan said. “That fourth quarter, he really took over for that five minutes and gave us the lead that we needed. We were struggling trying to find points and keep the pressure on them, and he just completely took the ballgame over.”
Duncan got his fifth foul with 7:03 left, but Popovich kept him in there and the two-time MVP responded with a short hook shot and a 15-footer before Mills added a three-pointer for a 102-92 lead with 4:35 remaining.
“I think my fourth and fifth ones were not very smart. I didn’t realise where I was, foul-wise, and I kind of got myself in trouble there,” Duncan said. “But they weren’t able to take advantage of it, luckily, and we all played through it after Pop left me in there.”
OTHER TUESDAY RESULTS
Heat 117, Mavericks 106
LeBron James received very little down time during a busy All-Star weekend but had plenty of energy in his return as he posted 42 points, nine rebounds and six assists while carrying the Miami Heat past the Dallas Mavericks.
Dallas (32-23) led 95-92 when swingman Vince Carter completed a four-point play with 7:47 left in the game, but the Heat produced a 16-0 run to put things away.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists
James wound up hitting 16-of-23 shots. Miami (38-14) guard Dwyane Wade was limited to 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting, but also had seven assists.
Pacers 108, Hawks 98
All-Star forward Paul George scored 26 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the field and forward David West had 17 points and six rebounds as the Indiana Pacers downed the Atlanta Hawks.
Indiana (41-12) got off to a quick start in the second half of the NBA season. A 25-4 run during the middle of the first quarter put the Pacers on course to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time this season.
Kyle Korver led Atlanta with 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, including 5-of-7 from three-point range.
Atlanta (25-27) have lost a season-high six consecutive games.
Grizzlies 98, Knicks 93
Point guard Mike Conley scored 22 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter, in his first game back from an ankle injury and the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the New York Knicks.
Conley had missed seven games with an ankle sprain, but he and swingman Mike Miller (19 points, nine in the fourth quarter and 5-for-7 from three-point range) brought the Grizzlies (30-23) back from a seven-point deficit with 5:39 to play.
Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr finished with 23 points, and Carmelo Anthony had a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds for New York (20-33).
Bobcats 108, Pistons 96
Centre Al Jefferson collected 32 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and the Charlotte Bobcats won the first game of a home-and-home series with the Detroit Pistons.
Charlotte (24-30) moved 1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit in the race for the eighth and final play-off spot in the Eastern Conference. The teams play again on Wednesday in Charlotte.
Point guard Brandon Jennings led the Pistons (22-31) with 24 points and seven assists.
Cavaliers 114, 76ers 85
Centre/forward Tyler Zeller recorded a season-high 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a rout of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Cavaliers (21-33), who earned their fifth consecutive victory, received a 14-point contribution from guard Kyrie Irving, the MVP of Sunday’s All-Star Game.
Michael Carter-Williams and forward Thaddeus Young scored 15 points each to front Philadelphia (15-40), who lost their ninth straight.
Raptors 103, Wizards 93
Point guard Kyle Lowry keyed a decisive third quarter and finished with 24 points and 10 assists as the Toronto Raptors returned from the All-Star break with a win over the Washington Wizards.
The Raptors (29-24) have won three straight games overall.
All-Star guard John Wall scored 22 points for the Wizards (25-28), who have lost three straight and five of six.
Bucks 104, Magic 100
Guard Nate Wolters’ three-pointer with 29 seconds to play gave the Milwaukee Bucks (10-43) the lead for good in a victory over the Orlando Magic.
Starting in place of guard Brandon Knight, who injured his foot earlier in the day, Wolters scored 15 points and finished with eight assists and seven rebounds.
The Magic (16-39) got 21 points from guard Aaron Afflalo.
Suns 112, Nuggets 107 (overtime)
Gerald Green scored 36 points on 11-of-22 shooting and made all eight of his free throw attempts and Goran Dragic collected 21 points and 14 assists as Phoenix (31-21) pulled away in overtime.
Markieff Morris (13 points, 12 rebounds) scored a put-back attempt with under seven seconds left to force the extra frame.
Kenneth Faried led Denver (24-28) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Frenchman Evan Fournier scored 25, grabbed eight rebounds and added four assists off the bench.