National Basketball Association
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  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Knicks crash LeBron welcome-home party
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers celebrated with a confetti party before the game even began. Then Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks spoiled his old friend's big night.

    • Anthony scored 25 points, including a big basket over LeBron James in the final minute, and the Knicks spoiled James' reunion celebration with a 95-90 victory over the revamped Cavaliers on Thursday night.

      The Cavaliers fizzled under the spotlight of opening night. James made just 5-of-15 shots from the field and finished with 17 points, five rebounds and eight turnovers. It was the superstar forward's first game back since announcing July 11 that he was returning to Cleveland after four years in Miami.

      "It was a huge night," James said. "I'm glad it was great, but I'm also glad it's over. ... Now we can play regular basketball."

      The arena had the atmosphere of a conference finals and James resurrected the powder toss he quit doing in Miami. All 20,000 fans in attendance were given confetti to throw along with him, turning Quicken Loans Arena into what looked like a victory parade before the opening tip.

      After falling behind early, the Knicks took control in the second half behind red-hot shooting, terrific bench play and a stagnant Cavs offense.

      Cleveland cut a nine-point deficit to 88-85 in the final minute, but guard J.R. Smith's floater with 48 seconds left pushed the Knicks' lead to 90-85. Anthony followed with a jumper over James to stretch it to 92-87. Smith had 11 points as part of a Knicks bench that outscored the Cavs' reserves 41-12.

      Anthony, the star forward who re-signed with New York in July, made 9 of 17 shots from the floor and acknowledged all of the pregame excitement could have distracted the Knicks.

      "I thought we did a great job of kind of embracing the moment, knowing what was happening, knowing all the excitement surrounding Cleveland, LeBron coming back," Anthony said. "You could see the city has a different energy right now. It was challenging for us before the game to really lock in on trying to win this basketball game."

      The Knicks (1-1) lost by 24 points to the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, and they quickly fell behind 21-12 in the first quarter against the Cavs. They fought back to take a brief lead late in the second quarter and opened an 84-77 advantage in the fourth while James scuffled.

      James was just 1 of 9 from the field in the first half and committed four turnovers after battling turnover issues throughout the preseason.

      "I hate turning the ball over," James said. "It's a pet peeve of mine and eight definitely is not OK."

      Guard Iman Shumpert scored 12 points and forward Quincy Acy added eight points and 10 rebounds in a rare start for the Knicks, who shot 53.6 percent from the field for the game and looked more comfortable running the triangle than they did Wednesday.

      "We got our party spoiled (Wednesday) night," Anthony said. "It's always good to return the favor to somebody else, especially on the road. Coming to a hostile environment like this, everybody's excited, they're creating something new out here. For us to come in and really lock in and focus in, to kind of steal this game -- we'll take that."

      Forward Kevin Love had 19 points and 14 rebounds in his Cavs debut, and center Anderson Varejao and guard Dion Waiters each scored 10 points.

      The night's festivities belonged to James, who received roaring ovations throughout the night. The city of Cleveland erupted and fans immediately snatched up all of the team's season tickets the same day James announced his return. Interest in Thursday's opener pushed ticket prices into the thousands on secondary markets.

      NOTES: Knicks PG Jose Calderon is expected to miss the next two to three weeks with a strained right calf. Shane Larkin is starting in his place. ... The Knicks started Quincy Acy at power forward. Coach Derek Fisher said part of the reason for that was to see Amar'e Stoudemire at center with the reserves. ... Carmelo Anthony is three points shy of 28,000 for his career. ... C/F Anderson Varejao and the Cavaliers are nearing agreement on a three-year deal worth about $30 million, a league source told The Sports Xchange. The deal should be announced within a few days. ... The Cavs unveiled a new 5,500-square-foot scoreboard that cost more than $9 million. ... Coach David Blatt's family still lives in Israel and did not make the trip for his first NBA game. His family members were watching on TV, he said, even though the tip was at 2 a.m. local time.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Timberwolves hold off Pistons' late rally
    By The Sports Xchange

    MINNEAPOLIS -- As far as first impressions go, Thaddeus Young has so far been about as good as the Minnesota Timberwolves could have asked for.

    • The veteran forward was brought to Minnesota in August as part of a three-team trade after seven years with Philadelphia to aid in filling the void left in the starting lineup by the departure of All-Star forward Kevin Love. While the comparisons to Love may be unfair, Young has provided a much-needed scoring presence for the Timberwolves in his first two games with his new team.

      Young, one night after scoring 26 points in a season-opening loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, hit a crucial 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining to help the Timberwolves fend off a fourth-quarter rally by the Detroit Pistons for a 97-91 victory in their home opener Thursday night.

      "I think it was a huge shot, definitely helped us win the game, but I think over the course of the years, fans have seen what I bring to the table," Young said, trying to downplay his immediate impact. "Tonight I continued to have it going and just play solid."

      Detroit forward Caron Butler came off the bench to score a game-high 24 points. Reserve guard D.J. Augustin added 20 points, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Pistons from falling to 0-2 on the season.

      After holding a one-point lead at the half, the Timberwolves opened the third quarter by outscoring the Pistons 23-7 in a seven-minute stretch. Detroit slowly chipped away at the lead, cutting the deficit to one point by the midpoint of the fourth quarter.

      Butler fueled the Detroit rally with 16 points in the final quarter. With Minnesota on the verge of letting the game slip away late, guard Mo Williams hit an 18-foot jumper that was followed on the next possession by Young's critical 3-pointer that kept the Timberwolves in front for good.

      Detroit's starters -- forwards Josh Smith and Kyle Singler, guards Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and center Andre Drummond -- combined for only 10 points in the second half. Caldwell-Pope and Drummond wound up with 11 points, and Smith contributed 10 points.

      "Listen, we dug that hole," said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy. "I mean we just absolutely melted down, hung our heads and basically the group on the floor was willing to let the game go."

      Detroit lost for the ninth consecutive time against Minnesota, with its last win against the Timberwolves coming in the final game of the 2009-10 regular season.

      The Timberwolves' third-quarter burst came after the teams traded baskets for much of a sluggish first half. Neither team held a lead of more than four points before halftime.

      Flip Saunders, who is back as Minnesota's head coach after his original tenure ended in 2005, improved to 10-0 in home openers with the Timberwolves.

      After losing a tightly contested game to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, Saunders was pleased with the effort he got from his youthful team.

      "We played hard, played aggressive, playing against a big guy like Drummond inside who's a rebounding machine," Saunders said. "As I told the guys, we built a lead by playing a certain way, playing the right way."

      Amid all of the hype surrounding him since arriving in Minnesota as part of the Love trade, forward Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, came through at a key moment in his second NBA game. He notched all eight of his points during the Timberwolves' third-quarter scoring run.

      "Seeing the ball go in the hoop one time, that got me going," Wiggins said. "It was exciting, from the introductions to the end. It was exciting for me."

      Rookie Zach LaVine, Minnesota's top draft pick, went scoreless in five minutes of action during his NBA debut.

      NOTES: Detroit F/C Greg Monroe sat out the second and last game of his suspension, which was levied against him after he pleaded guilty in September to a charge of driving while visually impaired. Monroe is eligible to make his season debut Saturday in the Pistons' home opener against the Brooklyn Nets. ... During the offseason, new Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy and Minnesota coach Flip Saunders joined the San Antonio Spurs' Gregg Popovich and the Los Angeles Clippers' Doc Rivers as the four current NBA coaches who also hold the title of president of basketball operations for their teams ... G Kevin Martin returned to the Timberwolves lineup after sitting out the season-opening loss at Memphis with an ankle injury ... Minnesota C Ronny Turiaf was ruled inactive for the second consecutive game due to a sore right hip.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Mavericks blitz Jazz in home opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    DALLAS -- After a tough opening night loss, the Dallas Mavericks bounced back Thursday night with help from Dirk Nowitzki.

    • The veteran forward scored 21 points and the Mavericks pounded the Utah Jazz 120-102 at American Airlines Center.

      The Mavericks (1-1) lost on opening night at defending NBA champion San Antonio but blew away the Jazz early.

      Utah fell to 0-2, with both of its losses by double figures.

      Dallas shot 55 percent from the field for the game -- 60 percent in the first half -- and outscored the Jazz 52-28 in the paint.

      "We spaced the floor well and kept the pace, and because of that we had room to attack and make plays," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "Utah is a hard team to play, even if the score is an uneven score. They just kept coming at us and coming at us, and I thought we did a good job maintaining a level of competitiveness."

      Nowitzki played only 24 stress-free minutes and knocked down 9 of 13 shots from the field.

      "We're deep, we're very explosive offensively and I think we showed on occasion tonight," Nowitzki said. "We knew this team was coming out of a back-to-back traveling from Utah, and we wanted to set the tone early and that's what we did."

      The Mavs had seven players score at least 12 points. Small forward Chandler Parsons finished with 21 points and seven rebounds. Forward Al-Farouq Aminu contributed 16 points and team-high 10 boards off the bench.

      The Jazz were at the other end of the offensive spectrum, shooting just 43 percent from the floor and turning the ball over 15 times. Power forward Derrick Favors paced Utah with 17 points and 11 rebounds one night after a home loss to Houston.

      The Mavericks didn't leave anything to chance, unlike the back-and-forth, one-point nail-biter Tuesday night with the Spurs. Dallas never trailed against first-year Jazz coach Quin Snyder's squad.

      "When your defense doesn't generate anything for you, it makes the game harder," Snyder said. "When you are fragmented on defense, there is an inclination for individual guys to want to get it back. That may work for a minute or a possession or two when you hit a shot, but we are not going to be able to sustain offense over time unless we play more collectively."

      The Jazz did cut a 30-point deficit to 14 on guard Alec Burks' 3-pointer in the third quarter, when the Mavericks got a little sloppy with the ball. Utah wouldn't get any closer.

      The Mavericks did everything they wanted to do from the opening tip, especially at the rim. Dallas made its first eight shots from the floor and had a double-digit lead before the game was four minutes old.

      Nowitzki scored nine in the first quarter on 4-of-4 shooting from the floor. Chandler and his backup, Brandan Wright, were the beneficiary of lobs for easy dunks, and Utah was down 36-20 going into the second quarter.

      The Mavericks didn't let up, and the lead hit 30 before halftime. Nowitzki, Parsons, Chandler and guard Monta Ellis were in double digits by the break.

      "We're going to need balance and we're going a lot of guys to contribute," Carlisle said. "We've got a lot of guys that are capable of playing. The way it's looking, we've got some different lineups that I think can fit together."

      Shooting guard Gordon Hayward scored a team-best 11 points going into the break for the Jazz. He finished with 16. Utah shot 39 percent from the field in the opening half, with more turnovers (nine) than assists (eight).

      Snyder is concerned about his team's performance through two games, especially defensively.

      "I don't want to make any sweeping statements about trends, but yes," he said. "I am concerned if we play bad defense for one game, so two in a row is not good."

      The Mavericks improved to 22-13 all time in home openers, including 4-3 against the Jazz. Dallas plays at New Orleans on Saturday, and Utah plays host to Phoenix the same night.

      NOTES: The Mavericks welcomed back G J.J. Barea after his release from Minnesota. The eight-year veteran negotiated a buyout from the final year of his contract before signing with Dallas for the veteran's minimum. "I'm excited to be back," said Barea, who had four points in 19 minutes off the bench. "The best five years of my life were here. Hopefully, we can get this going again." Barea joins C Tyson Chandler as the second member of the 2011 championship team to leave after that season only to return for 2014-15. The Mavs released second-year G Gal Mekel. ... Utah's opening night roster had 11 of 15 players under age 25, with the average age of 24.3 making the Jazz the league's third-youngest team. ... Dallas F Richard Jefferson played for Utah last season, and he was the only Jazz player to appear in all 82 games.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    NBA game roundup: Knicks spoil James' homecoming
    By The Sports Xchange

    CLEVELAND -- Carmelo Anthony scored 25 points, including a big basket over LeBron James in the final minute, and the New York Knicks spoiled James' reunion celebration with a 95-90 victory over the revamped Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

    • The Cavaliers fizzled under the spotlight of opening night. James shot just 5-for-15 and finished with 17 points, five rebounds and eight turnovers. It was the superstar forward's first game back since announcing July 11 he was returning to Cleveland after four years in Miami.

      Cleveland cut a nine-point deficit to 88-85 in the final minute, but guard J.R. Smith's floater with 48 seconds left pushed the Knicks' lead to 90-85. Anthony followed with a jumper over James to stretch it to 92-87. Smith had 11 points as part of a Knicks bench that outscored the Cavs' reserves 41-12.

      Anthony, the star forward who re-signed with New York in July, made nine of 17 shots from the floor.

      Mavericks 120, Jazz 102

      DALLAS -- Dirk Nowitzki scored 21 points, and sizzling Dallas pounded Utah.

      The Mavericks (1-1) bounced back from a tough opening-night loss at San Antonio by blowing the Jazz out the gym early. Utah fell to 0-2, with both its setbacks coming by double figures.

      Dallas shot 55 percent for the game, 60 percent in the first half, and outscored the Jazz 52-28 in the paint. Nowitzki played only 24 stress-free minutes, and the power forward knocked down nine of 13 shots.

      The Mavs had seven players score at least 12 points.

      Timberwolves 97, Pistons 91

      MINNEAPOLIS -- Center Nikola Pekovic notched his first double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Minnesota fended off a fourth-quarter rally by Detroit for the victory.

      After holding a one-point lead at the half, the Timberwolves opened the third quarter by outscoring the Pistons 23-7.

      The Pistons slowly chipped away at the lead. Detroit was within one point with a little over two minutes to go, but Timberwolves guard Mo Williams hit a long jump shot and forward Thaddeus Young (19 points) added a 3-pointer on the next possession to keep Minnesota ahead for good.

      Wizards 105, Magic 98

      ORLANDO, Fla. -- All-Star point guard John Wall had 30 points and 12 assists, leading Washington past Orlando.

      The Wizards, who lost their opener Tuesday in Miami, led by as many as 17 points early in the fourth quarter and then held off a late Magic charge. The Magic closed to 100-98 with 44 seconds remaining before Wall scored the final five points.

      All Washington starters scored in double figures. Center Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Paul Pierce added 16 points, and forward Nene and guard Garrett Temple had 12 each. Center Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

  • Friday, October 31, 2014
    Wall leads Wizards past Magic
    By The Sports Xchange

    ORLANDO, Fla. -- All-Star point guard John Wall left no doubt Thursday night that he would be the one leading the Washington Wizards this season -- at both ends of the floor.

    • Wall had 30 points and 12 assists, but he also played a disruptive brand of defense that brought his teammates to life, delivering on preseason promise to become a more complete leader.

      "I'm like the head of the snake, both offensively and defensively," Wall said. "I knew we couldn't start this season 0-2, so I had to come out more aggressively."

      The Wizards, who lost their opener Tuesday in Miami, roared to a 17-point third-quarter lead, then held off a late Magic charge when Wall re-entered the game and slammed the door shut.

      "He's the one everyone feeds off of," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "If he's not into it defensively, then everyone senses that. Tonight he was into it."

      The Magic, who trailed most of the game, closed to 100-98 with 44 seconds remaining before Wall scored the final five points to give the Wizards a 105-98 win.

      All Washington starters scored in double figures. Center Marcin Gortat had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Paul Pierce added 16 points, and forward Nene and guard Garrett Temple had 12 each.

      "He (Wall) is our All-Star. He's our best player. We need him to take charge."

      The Magic were led by center Nikola Vucevic with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Reserve guard Ben Gordon had 22 points and forward Evan Fournier added 21.

      After opening with two road games, the Wizards (1-1) will play their home opener Saturday against Milwaukee. The Magic (0-2) return to play Saturday at home against Toronto.

      The Magic shot 51.4 percent (37 of 72), but they were hurt by 18 turnovers, including eight in the first quarter, when they fell behind early and spent much of the night playing from behind.

      "We're not good enough to have that many turnovers," Vucevic said. "That hurt us. I thought we played them pretty well, but we can't allow ourselves to dig a hole like that. They were in the playoffs last year, so they know how to get it done."

      The Wizards outscored the Magic 28-15 in the third quarter to take control after a relatively tight first half. Wall had 11 points and Pierce had seven in the period while the Magic stumbled through six more turnovers. Washington led by as many as 17 points late in the third.

      "We got ourselves into some trouble early turning it over," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "But I love the urgency our guys were playing with to get back in it. So I will take some good from this one."

      Wall hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer before intermission to give the Wizards a 54-51 advantage. He had 10 points and nine assists at intermission.

      The Magic shot 57.1 percent from the field (20 of 35) in the first half but were hurt by those early turnovers, including eight in the first nine minutes. They trailed by as many as seven points in the first quarter.

      Fournier led all scorers at halftime with 14 points. Vucevic followed with 12, Nene with 11 and Gortat, Temple and Wall with 10 each.

      The Magic last led 51-49 just before halftime.

      Both teams were coming off double-digit losses in their openers. The Magic lost by 17 points Tuesday in New Orleans. The Wizards were beaten by 12 in Miami.

      NOTES: Veteran F Channing Frye made his Magic debut on Thursday night. Frye, a free agent signee this summer, missed Tuesday's opener and the entire exhibition schedule with a strained left knee. He played with a brace on the knee Thursday. ... F Kyle O'Quinn, who started Tuesday for the Magic, sat out Thursday with a sprained left ankle. The Magic, who lost all four regular-season games to the Wizards last season, were without G Victor Oladipo, who is sidelined indefinitely after surgery to repair a facial fracture. ... F Nene and returned Thursday after missing the Wizards' opener Wednesday night because of a one-game suspension that stemmed from leaving the bench during an altercation against the Chicago Bulls earlier this month. ... Wizards coach Randy Wittman is adamant about the kind of team he needs and expects this season. "We've got to be a tough, hard-nosed team," Wittman said before the game. "That's the way this team's got to play."

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    NBA roundup: Varejao, Cavs reportedly near deal
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cleveland Cavaliers and center Anderson Varejao are close to agreeing on a contract extension, ESPN.com reported Thursday.

    • The deal would be for three years at an estimated $30 million, starting with the 2015-16 season. The Brazilian native is in the final year of a six-year, $42.5 million contract. He is making $9.7 million this season.

      Earlier this week, the Cavs announced that Varejao would start Thursday night's opening game against the New York Knicks ahead of Tristan Thompson, who also could get a contract extension before Friday's deadline for first-round picks in the 2011 draft.

      The 32-year-old Varejao has spent his entire career with the Cavs and was a teammate of LeBron James before James left for Miami. Last season, Varejao played in 65 games and averaged 8.4 points and 9.7 rebounds.

      ---San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, the MVP of the 2014 NBA Finals, will make his season debut Friday night against the Phoenix Suns.

      Leonard missed the Spurs' final six preseason games this month and the regular-season opener against the Dallas Mavericks with an eye infection. He was cleared by doctors to return, coach Gregg Popovich said Thursday.

      Last season, the 23-year-old Leonard averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals and helped lead the Spurs to their fifth NBA championship.

      ---Point guard Jose Calderon will be out for two to three weeks due to a right calf strain, the New York Knicks said Thursday.

      Calderon, who missed the Knicks' final two preseason games, was a late scratch before the season opener Wednesday after he aggravated the injury during warmups. An MRI revealed the strain.

      ---The Golden State Warriors exercised fourth-year contract options on forward Harrison Barnes and center Festus Ezeli for the 2015-16 season, the team announced Thursday.

      But the Warriors declined the third-year contract option on guard Nemanja Nedovic.

      In three seasons with the Warriors, Barnes is averaging 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists.

      The 25-year-old Ezeli has averaged 2.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.94 blocks in 79 games.

      Ezeli, the 30th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, is coming back from right knee surgery that kept him out for the entire 2013-14 season.

      ---The Charlotte Hornets announced the contract extension of guard Kemba Walker on Thursday.

      The announcement comes the day after Walker scored 26 points, including the tying 3-pointer in regulation and the winning basket in overtime, as the Hornets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 108-106 in the Charlotte franchise's first game back as the Hornets.

      As reported earlier in the week, the deal is for four years and $48 million. The new deal will start with the 2015-16 season.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Warriors exercise option on Barnes, Ezeli
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Golden State Warriors exercised fourth-year contract options on forward Harrison Barnes and center Festus Ezeli for the 2015-16 season, the team announced Thursday.

    • But the Warriors declined the third-year contract option on guard Nemanja Nedovic.

      In three seasons with the Warriors, Barnes is averaging 9.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists. In 19 postseason games, he has averages of 13.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists.

      Barnes was the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft by the Warriors and was named to the all-rookie team for the 2012-13 season.

      The 25-year-old Ezeli has played in 79 games and started 41 in three seasons with the Warriors. He has averaged 2.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 0.94 blocks.

      Ezeli, the 30th overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, is coming back from right knee surgery that kept him out for the entire 2013-14 season.

      The 23-year-old Nedovic saw action in 24 games with the Warriors last season as a rookie, averaging 1.1 points. He was the 30th overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns in 2013 but traded on draft night to the Warriors.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Report: Cavs, Varejao near extension
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Cleveland Cavaliers and center Anderson Varejao are close to agreeing on a contract extension, ESPN.com reported Thursday.

    • The deal would be for three years at an estimated $30 million starting with the 2015-16 season. The Brazilian native is in the final year of a six-year, $42.5 million contract. He is making $9.7 million this season.

      Earlier this week, the Cavs announced that Varejao would start Thursday night's opening game against the New York Knicks ahead of Tristan Thompson, who also could get a contract extension before Friday's deadline for first-round picks in the 2011 NBA Draft.

      The 32-year-old Varejao has spent his entire career with the Cavs and was a teammate of LeBron James before James left for Miami. Last season, Varejao played in 65 games and averaged 8.4 points and 9.7 rebounds.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Spurs' Leonard set to play Friday
    By The Sports Xchange

    San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, the MVP of the 2014 NBA Finals, will make his season debut Friday night against the Phoenix Suns.

    • Leonard missed the Spurs' final six preseason games this month and the regular-season opener against the Dallas Mavericks with an eye infection. He was cleared by doctors to return, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said Thursday.

      Last season, the 23-year-old Leonard averaged 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals and helped lead the Spurs to their fifth NBA championship.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Knicks' Calderon out 2-3 weeks with calf injury
    By The Sports Xchange

    Point guard Jose Calderon will be out for two to three weeks due to a right calf strain, the New York Knicks said Thursday.

    • Calderon, who missed the Knicks' final two preseason games, was a late scratch before the season opener Wednesday after he aggravated the injury during warmups. An MRI revealed the strain.

      With Calderon out, the Knicks have two point guards on their roster. Second-year player Shane Larkin is expected to start Thursday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They also have 37-year-old Pablo Prigioni.

      The Knicks lost their opener to the Chicago Bulls, 104-80.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Hornets announce Walker's extension
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Charlotte Hornets announced the contract extension of guard Kemba Walker on Thursday.

    • "Today is a great day for the Charlotte Hornets," general manager Rich Cho said. "To be able to retain such an important piece of the core we are building here in Charlotte is exciting. Kemba is an integral part of the culture we're trying to create within our organization and we are excited that he will continue to be a part of our team for years to come."

      The announcement comes the day after Walker scored 26 points, including the tying 3-pointer in regulation and the winning basket in overtime, as the Hornets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 108-106 in the Charlotte franchise's first game back as the Hornets.

      "It's rewarding to continue my career with the team that drafted me," said Walker, who was drafted ninth overall in 2011. "Since my first day in Charlotte, I knew that this was where I wanted to be. I am excited about the direction in which this franchise is headed and I'm confident that we will only get better. I'm grateful for the opportunity to represent this organization, our fans and this city moving forward."

      As reported earlier in the week, the deal is for four years and $48 million.

      The new deal will start with the 2015-16 season.

      If the sides had not reached an agreement by Friday, Walker would have become a free agent next summer.

      All 2011 first-round selections faced the same deadline. Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, Denver Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried, Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Phoenix Suns power forwards Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris already agreed to new deals.

      Others eligible for extensions by Friday include Orlando forward Tobias Harris, San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson and Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.

      Walker, 24, matched his career high last season with an average of 17.7 points per game. He added averages of 6.1 assists and 4.2 points, both career bests.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Stern: Too much at stake for lockout
    By The Sports Xchange

    Former NBA commissioner David Stern is hushing the alarm over a potential work stoppage in 2017, when players are expected to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement and seek a larger slice of expanding TV-earnings pie going to owners.

    • Stern said late Wednesday in Charlotte that player posturing, including ominous comments from LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, is to be expected and is part of looming negotiations.

      "There's too much at stake now," Stern told CBS.

      Either side can void the CBA on July 1, 2017. At issue entering the labor talks are potentially eliminating maximum-level contracts and divvying up the funds flowiing in from new media deals with ESPN and Turner Sports. Union executive director Michele Roberts and James made comments last month that the players will not accept owners pushing the idea that they are losing money after the Los Angeles Clippers sold for $2 billion and a similar valuation was floated for the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks.

      "I think that our players are very smart and successful and they have hired what seems to be a smart and successful litigator," Stern said. "Our owners are smart and successful and have got Adam Silver, an accomplished litigator, too. And I have no doubt that they're going to work it out."

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Knicks' guards: 'We stopped competing'
    By The Sports Xchange

    One near record-setting loss into the season and the New York Knicks might already be hitting rough waters.

    • The Bulls whipped the Knicks 104-80, the second-worst season-opening loss for the franchise.

      Guard J.R. Smith said he felt the effort decline as the Bulls' lead increased.

      "When we stopped competing at the end of the third, fourth quarter, we could all tell," he told the New York Post. "(The Bulls) felt as though they smelled blood in the water. We just couldn't do anything about it. We put our heads down and tucked our tails, and we can't do that at home."

      Chicago dominated the second quarter and the second half. New York's last lead was 20-18 at the end of the first quarter.

      "We wanted to make a push in the third quarter, and they got their separation and we never recovered," Knicks guard Iman Shumpert said. "We can't die like that. I think our energy died, and we can't do that."

      Life will not get easier for the Knicks, who are on the road Thursday to play the Cleveland Cavaliiers in the return of LeBron James.

      "Right now it's time to react," Smith said. "If somebody just kicks your mom's door and takes what they want, I think you have to react, you can't sit there thinking what should I do next."

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Blazers rally past Durant-less Thunder
    By The Sports Xchange

    PORTLAND, Ore. -- Through three quarters, Russell Westbrook was running amuck and the Oklahoma City Thunder seemed on their way to a big road win.

    • Then the All-Star guard cooled, and Portland outscored the visitors 31-12 in the fourth quarter en route to a 106-89 victory Wednesday night at the Moda Center in the season opener for both clubs.

      Westbrook finished with a game-high 38 points, but he had 36 in the first three quarters in helping Oklahoma City to a 77-75 lead. With 6-foot-8 forward Nicolas Batum defending him, the 6-3 Westbrook managed only two points on 1-for-6 shooting the rest of the way.

      The Thunder shot 5-for-19 from the field over the final 12 minutes.

      "Defensively, we couldn't have been much better," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Nic did a good job on Westbrook, and we got out into transition and made some threes. But it was all keyed with our defense."

      Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and guard Wesley Matthews added 22 for Portland. All five Blazers starters scored in double figures, including All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who had all 10 of his points in the second half.

      "I'm excited and proud of the way we continued to fight through it," said Matthews, who shot 8-for-12 from the field, including 5-for-9 from 3-point range. "Credit (the Thunder). They played hard. Russ had a hell of a game. They were making shots, they were making plays. For three quarters, they outworked us. We can't allow that to happen for as long as it did."

      Portland made nine of 14 3-point attempts in the second half after going only 2-for-15 from beyond the stripe before intermission.

      "We got some stops," Stotts said, "and then the shots seemed to have a better chance of going in."

      Oklahoma City was playing without the NBA's Most Valuable Player last season, forward Kevin Durant, out indefinitely following preseason foot surgery. The Thunder had only nine players dressed, and each of them played at least 15 minutes.

      "Our guys played their hearts out," Oklahoma City coach Scotty Brooks said. "That's all I can ask, that they compete and play hard and play for each other, and they did that tonight. We just made too many mistakes at the end of the game."

      Westbrook was a terror through a first half in which he scored 26 points, dished out five assists and finished the half on a breakaway dunk that gave the Thunder a 54-49 lead at the break.

      Aldridge was big, too, with 18 points for the Blazers, who shot only 38.3 percent from the field in the half. Lillard was 0-for-5 from the field and scoreless in 14 first-half minutes.

      The Thunder extended the margin to 60-52, but the Blazers chipped away, drawing within 68-65 midway through the third quarter. Oklahoma City took a 77-75 into the final period.

      Portland opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers by Matthews and Lillard to seize an 81-77 advantage. It was 101-85 after Matthews sank consecutive threes, and the Thunder were done.

      "We put ourselves in position to win, but we don't take moral victories around here," Westbrook said. "We never will. We know we have enough to win; we just have to find a way to close."

      Westbrook scored the game's first four points and had 11 in the first quarter as Oklahoma City jumped to a 16-7 lead, then settled for a 34-29 advantage heading into the second period. Aldridge lit it up for 15 points in the quarter.

      With 7-footers Robin Lopez and Chris Kaman on the floor at the same time, Portland outscored Oklahoma City 8-1 at the outset of the second quarter to go in front 37-35. The Thunder regained control and went into the half with a five-point advantage.

      NOTES: Portland won its home opener for the 14th consecutive season. ... Blazers F LaMarcus Aldridge's first shot of the season was a made 3-pointer just 90 seconds into the game. The All-Star went 3-for-15 from beyond the arc last season. ... Oklahoma City was without six injured players -- starting F Kevin Durant (foot) and reserves G Reggie Jackson (ankle), G Jeremy Lamb (back), F Anthony Morrow (knee), F Mitch McGary (foot) and F Grant Jerrett (ankle). With Durant out, the Thunder went big, starting 7-foot C Steven Adams, 6-11 F Perry Jones and 6-10 Serge Ibaka on the front line. ... Portland coach Terry Stotts, before the game on Thunder G Russell Westbrook: "There's not a better competitor in the league than Russell. He's going to have the leadership mantle to carry. This is an opportunity, and he's probably going to thrive."

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    NBA game roundup: Hornets sting Bucks in OT
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Guard Kemba Walker scored 26 points, including a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds in regulation to tie the score and the game-winner with 5.1 seconds left in overtime, as the Charlotte Hornets rallied to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 108-106 Wednesday.

    • The Hornets overcame a 24-point deficit in the second half, closing regulation with a 18-5 run that included a 9-0 spurt.

      A loud sellout crowd of 19,439 was on hand at Time Warner Cable Arena as the Hornets made their official return, reclaiming their nickname after being the Charlotte Bobcats the past 10 seasons. The original Hornets played in Charlotte from 1988-2002 before that franchise was moved to New Orleans.

      Charlotte also got 19 points from forward Marvin Williams, including a key 3-pointer late in the fourth-quarter rally. Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 17, and center Al Jefferson had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Brandon Knight led the Bucks with 22 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds.

      Heat 107, Wizards 95

      MIAMI -- Miami, playing the first game in the post-LeBron James era, defeated short-handed Washington in the opener for both teams.

      Heat forward Chris Bosh posted game highs in points (26) and rebounds (15). Miami point guard Norris Cole, making his 13th career start and his first on opening night, had a career-high 23 points. Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade added 21 points despite sustaining a third-quarter calf injury. He left the game but returned in the fourth.

      The Wizards were led by point guard John Wall (16 points, 11 assists), center Marcin Gortat (18 points) and forward Paul Pierce (17 points). In addition, Wizards forward Drew Gooden, making his first start in three years, had 18 points.

      Celtics 121, Nets 105

      BOSTON -- Point guard Rajon Rondo, who missed the preseason with a broken hand sustained in a household fall, scored 13 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed seven rebounds to lead Boston to a rout of Brooklyn Nets in the opener for both teams.

      Center Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points, forward Jeff Green had 17, guard Avery Bradley 15, forward Jared Sullinger 13 and swingman Evan Turner, rookie guard Marcus Smart and guard Marcus Thornton 10 apiece for Boston. Forward Mirza Teletovic led the Nets, playing their first game under new coach Lionel Hollins, with 20 points.

      The Celtics, who led by 26 points at the half, built a 29-point lead through three quarters and the Nets made a mild run at the start of the fourth.

      Pacers 103, 76ers 91

      INDIANAPOLIS -- Center Roy Hibbert, the only available returning starter from Indiana's 2013-2014 Central Division champion team, scored 22 points, and the Pacers used a strong 30-22 third quarter as the springboard for a victory over Philadelphia.

      Hibbert, who had eight rebounds and seven blocks, got lots of help from guards Donald Sloan and Rodney Stuckey down the stretch after Philadelphia closed to within 93-89. Indiana finished with a 10-2 run to win by 12. Sloan and Stuckey scored 16 points apiece for the Pacers.

      Guard Tony Wroten led the Sixers with 22.

      Raptors 109, Hawks 102

      TORONTO -- Toronto opened its 20th season in the NBA with a victory over Atlanta. Center Jonas Valanciunas led the way with a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds.

      Raptors forward Amir Johnson finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, the largest opening-night totals of his 10-year career. Despite shooting just 4-for-16 from the field, guard DeMar DeRozan scored 15 points, recorded a career-high six steals and set a personal best with 11 rebounds.

      Guards Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver and forward Mike Scott each scored 20 points for Atlanta.

      Grizzlies 105, Timberwolves 101

      MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Center Marc Gasol scored a career-high 32 points and forward Zach Randolph added 25 points and 13 rebounds as Memphis defeated Minnesota in the opener for both teams.

      Forward Thaddeus Young led Minnesota with 26 points.

      Guard Mike Conley added 16 for Memphis.

      Bulls 104, Knicks 80

      NEW YORK-- Playing in his first game in almost a year, guard Derrick Rose scored 13 points, dished out five assists and recorded three steals to help Chicago defeat New York at Madison Square Garden.

      Rose missed the final 71 games of last season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee and sat out the entire 2012-13 season recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. He was the 2011 NBA MVP.

      Forward Taj Gibson led Chicago with 22 points while forward Doug McDermott, the National Player of the Year while at Creighton last season, contributed 10 points.

      Nuggets 89, Pistons 79

      DENVER -- Forward Kenneth Faried had 22 points and 17 rebounds and guard Arron Afflalo had 15 points as Denver topped Detroit in the season opener for both teams.

      Center Timofey Mozgov had 13 points and 11 rebounds and a key block late to lead Denver to the win.

      Forward Josh Smith led Detroit with 25 points while guard D.J. Augustin had 15 off the bench for the Pistons.

      Rockets 104, Jazz 93

      SALT LAKE CITY -- Forward Dwight Howard scored 22 points with 10 rebounds and forward Trevor Ariza contributed 20 points to help Houston spoil Utah coach Quin Snyder's debut.

      Houston also got 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds from guard James Harden.

      Alec Burks led Utah with 18 points in his new role as a starting shooting guard. Forward Derrick Favors scored 16 and guard Trey Burke added 15 points in the season-opening loss.

      Suns 119, Lakers 99

      PHOENIX -- Forward Marcus Morris had nine of his 21 points and three of his five 3-pointers in the first quarter and Phoenix three-headed point guard -- Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas -- combined for 57 points on 20-of-30 shooting as it rolled to an easy win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

      Thomas led Phoenix with 23 points, Dragic had 18 points and Bledsoe had 16.

      The Lakers' Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 31 points in 28 minutes, but he needed 25 shots to get them.

      Warriors 95, Kings 77

      SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Guard Stephen Curry scored 24 points, and Golden State rode a decisive third-quarter spurt to victory that ruined Sacramento's 30th season opener.

      Guard Klay Thompson finished with 19 points, forward Marreese Speights added 16, and Golden State won its season opener for the third straight season

      DeMarcus Cousins scored 20 points to lead Sacramento.

      Trail Blazers 106, Thunder 89

      PORTLAND -- Portland outlasted Oklahoma City in the fourth quarter to roll to a victory in the opener for both teams.

      Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and guard Wesley Matthews added 22 for Portland.

      Guard Russell Westbrook tallied 38 points to lead Oklahoma City, but only two of them came in the final period.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Warriors blitz Kings in Kerr's coaching debut
    By The Sports Xchange

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- To hear Golden State's new head coach and marquee scorer tell it, the Warriors' quest to reach a conference final can't be a one- or two-man show. It needs to be many men on many nights.

    • Eighty-one more contests like the opener will make coach Steve Kerr and guard Stephen Curry happy men.

      Curry scored a game-high 24 points and Kerr earned a victory in his NBA coaching debut Wednesday. However, both saved the superlatives for others after the Warriors used a decisive second-half run to rip the Sacramento Kings 95-77 at Sleep Train Arena in the season opener for both teams.

      Seven Warriors scored during a 22-4 third-quarter blitz that turned Golden State's 54-51 deficit into a 73-58 lead during a 6:03 span of the third quarter. That was plenty to ruin the Kings' 30th season opener in Sacramento.

      "That's how it's gonna have to be all year," Curry said. "Different guys stepping up at different positions and different moments."

      Guard Klay Thompson finished with 19 points, forward Mo Speights had 16, forward Draymond Green added 12, and the Warriors won their third consecutive season opener. Golden State is coming off consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since the start of the 1992-93 campaign.

      The Warriors were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 7, a year after reaching the Western Conference semifinals and losing to the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State hasn't reached the Western Conference finals since 1975-76.

      Wednesday's effort also made a winner out of Kerr, one of 16 players to win five championships as a player. He was coaching an NBA game for the first time.

      "Now I know why (Bulls coach) Tom Thibodeau talks like this," Kerr said.

      DeMarcus Cousins scored 20 points to lead Sacramento, which is coming off consecutive 28-54 campaigns. The Kings center made just four of 14 shots from the field but got to the free-throw line 18 times. He also had a game-high 11 rebounds.

      Kings forward Rudy Gay added 14 points, and guard Darren Collison added 13 in his Sacramento debut, but the Kings had a 13-game winning streak in home season openers snapped. Sacramento turned over the ball 27 times, its most since a road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 19, 2006, and its most in a home game since Nov. 5, 1996, against the Houston Rockets.

      "You're not going to beat anybody, especially not one of the top teams in the Western Conference (with that many turnovers)," Kings coach Michael Malone said. "Offensively, it was a disappointing effort."

      The Kings had only one player -- Collison -- with more than one assist, and they shot just 30.8 percent from the field.

      "We're going to watch film (Thursday) to show the over-dribbling, the hold, the lack of ball movement and the unwillingess to move the ball," Malone said.

      Sacramento took a 49-47 lead into halftime despite shooting just 31 percent from the field, and the Kings led 54-51 with 6:56 left in the third quarter after Gay converted Collision's steal into a dunk.

      Curry, Green, Thompson, Speights, forward Harrison Barnes and guards Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa all scored over the next six minutes as Golden State used a smaller lineup to push the tempo.

      "We went to that lineup to look for pace," Kerr said. "That's the beauty of this roster. To have this much versatility and depth is amazing. And everybody contributed."

      Speights was particularly spry, adding five rebounds and two assists to his 8-for-13 shooting night.

      "I just felt like we were able to get out and defend and get out in transition," Speights said. "We've been running hard in practice. Harder than what turned out in the game."

      The momentum continued into the final quarter, when the Warriors used a 14-6 surge to put the game away after Sacramento reduced the lead to 78-69 with 6:53 left.

      "It's early," Gay said. "Guys are trying to do things and trying to be productive."

      Cousins, who last season became only the fourth Kings player to average at least 22 points and 11 rebounds per game, started slowly. He made only one of nine from the field but scored 12 points in the first half. He also made it through the opener without a technical foul; he tied for the NBA lead last year with 16.

      The Warriors shot 44 percent from the field on the night, while the Kings finished at 30.8 percent.

      NOTES: Steve Kerr is the 25th coach in Warriors history and the team's 20th since relocating from Philadelphia in 1962. ... Kings C DeMarcus Cousins entered the season with 33 technical fouls in the past two seasons, the most in the NBA. He never has had fewer than 12 in a season (2011-12). He picked up technical fouls in two of the first three exhibition games but none in the final four. ... G Stephen Curry started his sixth straight opener for the Warriors, joining Jeff Mullins (1967-73), Rick Barry (1972-77), Chris Mullin (1986-92) and Latrell Sprewell (1992-97) as the only players in the team's West Coast history to do so. ... As expected, Kings F Rudy Gay played, three days after taking an elbow to the jaw in the team's exhibition finale Sunday. ... Cousins and F Jason Thompson are the only two Kings left since GM Pete D'Alessandro took over on June 17, 2013.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Suns overwhelm Bryant, Lakers
    By The Sports Xchange

    PHOENIX -- Kobe Bryant got his numbers for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he was hopelessly outnumbered by the Phoenix Suns offensive weapons Wednesday night.

    • Forward Marcus Morris had nine of his 21 points and three of his five 3-pointers in the first quarter and the Suns three-headed point guard -- Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas -- combined for 57 points on 20-of-30 shooting as Phoenix rolled to an easy 119-99 win over the 0-2 Lakers at US Airways Center.

      Thomas led the Suns with 23 points and added five more of the Suns' 16 3-pointers in the game. Dragic had 18 points and Bledsoe had 16 before he was ejected in the final minute of the third quarter with his second technical foul.

      "This was definitely the start I had in mind," said Thomas, who signed as a free agent with Phoenix this summer and made nine of 11 shots and five of seven 3-points in his regular season debut. "When we're clicking we have a lot of good guards, a lot of good wings and a lot of weapons. We have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the basket and it was clicking on all cylinders tonight."

      Forward Markieff Morris had 12 points and center Miles Plumlee added 10 for the Suns, who beat the Lakers in a season opener for the first time in four tries.

      Bryant led all scorers with 31 points in 28 minutes, but he needed 25 shots to get them. He watched the fourth quarter from the bench after the Suns opened a 29-point lead late in the third and the Lakers were routed for the second time in as many nights by a Western Conference foe.

      "I told you guys from the beginning I'm back to myself. I feel completely fine," he said. "(We need to) guard the 3-point shot or shoot and make more ourselves. That's tough math to overcome when they knock down 16 threes to our four. That's tough to overcome."

      Marcus Morris started in place of the suspended P.J. Tucker at forward and also drew the tough defensive assignment early on Bryant. Bryant got his points but Morris made eight of 14 shots himself, usually with a lot of room to operate.

      "Our guards did a great job of penetrating and sucking the defense in to leave me open," Morris said. "Once our guards get into the lane, I'm just sliding to the open spots so they can see me. I hope every team leaves me open like that."

      Guarding Bryant was a little tougher for Morris.

      "I'm not happy because he had 30 in three quarters, but I'm happy that we won. He's one of the best players in the league ... he's always going to be top five, top 10. I'm just trying to see where I'm at and challenge myself."

      Bledsoe was greeted warmly by the fans after a protracted contract negotiation over the summer. He added a game-high nine assists before he was sent off after kicking the scorer's table in frustration after feeling he was hit in the face during a jump ball tie-up with Bryant.

      Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek understood Bledsoe's anger.

      "Eric and Goran, these guys deserve some respect on the calls," Hornacek said. "When these guys are getting slapped in the face and they're not calling it, I don't mind seeing a guy get upset like that.

      "At that point we were up 25 or however many it was. We were OK, but we'll have to get his attention if the games a little closer."

      Los Angeles didn't get a second player into double figures until guard Wayne Ellington hit a 3-pointer with 6:43 left in the game, long after the issue was decided. The Lakers lost guard Steve Nash for the season last week and rookie forward Julius Randle to a fractured tibia on Tuesday.

      Forward Ed Davis finished with 14 points and Ellington had 13 for the Lakers, who have not led by more than one point in their first two games.

      "I told them we've got to hang in there, we've got to stay together," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "It's only two games. I think guys are a little frustrated, I saw that during the game. We've got to do a better job guarding threes. That's the thing in our first two games that has really, really hurt us."

      NOTES: With rookie F Julius Randle out indefinitely due to a fractured right tibia, Lakers coach Byron Scott said F Ed Davis, who scored 11 points in 21 minutes on Tuesday, would take the bulk of Randle's minutes. Scott, who held Randle as he sobbed after the game, said the injury didn't look as bad on replays as it turned out to be. ... G Wayne Ellington returned to the lineup after missing the Lakers' 108-90 loss to Houston on Tuesday with a concussion. ... The Suns began the night 0-3 all-time against the Lakers in season openers, losing in 2006-07, 1996-97 and 1993-94. ... Suns F Marcus Morris started in place of P.J. Tucker, who served the first game of a three-game suspension after pleading guilty to drunk driving in the offseason. ... Scott and the Suns' Jeff Hornacek had never faced each other as coaches, but they met 43 times as players in the regular season (Scott led 24-19) and 14 times in the playoffs (Hornacek led 9-5).

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Rockets spoil Snyder's debut as Jazz coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder used descriptions like "disjointed" and "out of sync" to describe his team's play in his first game as an NBA head coach.

    • The opposite could be said of how the new bench boss' first opponent played.

      Center Dwight Howard scored 22 points with 10 rebounds and small forward Trevor Ariza contributed 20 points to help the Houston Rockets spoil Snyder's debut as the Jazz coach in a 104-93 victory Wednesday at EnergySolutions Arena.

      "I think all of us have one goal, and that is to win a championship," Howard said. "You can see that."

      The Rockets, also boosted by guard James Harden's 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, improved to 2-0 after pulling away from the youthful Jazz early in the fourth quarter.

      "It's hard to describe a loss as a step forward," said Snyder, who's been adamant all preseason that this will be a step-forward-two-steps forward process for the rebuilding Jazz. "Hopefully, we can use it to move forward, take some things from it."

      Alec Burks led Utah with 18 points in his new role as a starting shooting guard. Center Derrick Favors scored 16 with four blocked shots, and guard Trey Burke added 15 points in the Jazz's season-opening loss.

      "They capitalized on the mistakes we made. Credit to them," Burks said. "We didn't play a team like that in the preseason. That's all. They've got two talented players, shooters. You've got to (take) your hat off to them."

      Better yet, maybe guard them better from outside.

      Seven Houston players hit 3-pointers, including four apiece by Ariza and Greek rookie forward Kostas Papanikolaou. The Rockets enjoyed a huge advantage behind the arc over the Jazz, going 14-for-27 from deep compared to 3-18 for the home team.

      The Rockets were playing on the road for the second straight night. On Tuesday, Houston beat the Lakers 108-90 at Staples Center and then didn't arrive at its team hotel in Utah until 3:30 a.m. local time.

      It was the younger Jazz, however, who appeared to run out of steam as the game progressed.

      "I see a lot of room for improvement, but I like what we're doing," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "We're up aggressive and stopping the ball defensively."

      Utah came out strong in front of a sold-out crowd of 19,911 fans, eager to see Snyder debut his system with a group of young Jazz guys who average just 24 years of age. Utah, coming off of a rough 25-57 season under since-departed coach Tyrone Corbin, took a 40-34 lead after Burks hit a pair of free throws midway through the second quarter.

      The more-experienced Rockets seized momentum heading in the locker room. Harden sparked an 8-0 run at the end of the second quarter with a jumper and a 3-pointer, breaking a tie and giving the visitors a 58-50 edge at the break.

      Burks hit a jumper to bring the Jazz within three with 10 minutes remaining.

      Houston responded and regained a double-digit lead with a 10-0 run, which included two Harden free throws along with 3-pointers from forward Terrence Jones and Ariza.

      The Rockets built their lead to 16 after that, and Utah could never muster a comeback.

      "We climbed out of (our hole). It's just one of those things where they hit a couple of threes and those are daggers," Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward said. "And all of sudden we're back down to 10 and momentum shifted right back their way."

      Hayward, who signed a four-year, $63 million contract with the Jazz this offseason, finished with eight points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Forward Trevor Booker, an offseason signing from Washington, led Utah off the bench with 14 points.

      Jazz rookies Dante Exum, a point guard taken fifth overall, and swingman Rodney Hood, the No. 23 selection, both made their debuts. Both players scored five points.

      Papanikalaou finished with 12 points.

      NOTES: Adam Silver attended a Jazz game for the first time since replacing David Stern as NBA commissioner. Silver joked that it was no coincidence that he was in Utah to see fellow Duke alumnus Quin Snyder make his NBA head-coaching debut with the Jazz. ... Enes Kanter and the Jazz mutually agreed to end negotiations toward an extension of his rookie contract, meaning the forward will be a restricted free agent next offseason. SG Alec Burks and Utah have until Friday night (midnight ET) to work out a deal. ... Utah claimed SF Jordan Hamilton, who spent the 2013-14 season with Houston, and SF Joe Ingles off of waivers this week. ... Houston makes its home debut Saturday against the Boston Celtics.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Nuggets' Faried proves worthy of new deal vs. Pistons
    By The Sports Xchange

    DENVER -- Kenneth Faried showed a big new contract won't change his style. That suits the Denver Nuggets just fine.

    • Faried had 22 points and 17 rebounds, guard Arron Afflalo had 15 points in his return to Denver and the Nuggets pulled away to beat the Detroit Pistons 89-79 in the season opener for both teams on Wednesday night.

      It was a big night for Faried, who inked a four-year, $50 million deal in training camp. He proved he was worth the investment in just 28 minutes.

      "He was huge for us right from the beginning of the game," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said of Faried. "It's a carryover from the way he played at the end of last season to the summer with the U.S. team, throughout training camp."

      Center Timofey Mozgov had 13 points and 11 rebounds and a key block late to lead Denver to the win.

      Forward Josh Smith led Detroit with 25 points. Guard D.J. Augustin had 15 off the bench for the Pistons.

      Starting point guard Brandon Jennings had just four shots in 20 minutes of playing time and spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench.

      "You go with the guys you think give you the best chance to win," said Stan Van Gundy, who lost in his debut as the Pistons coach and president. "I wasn't really upset at him. He played most of each of the first and third. I wasn't really down on him I just thought we were getting more out of D.J.'s pick-and-rolls for a good part of the game."

      Augustin's play was a big reason Detroit led 68-67 early in the fourth quarter, but then the Nuggets slumbering offense woke up. Guard Randy Foye and forward Alonzo Gee hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Denver ahead by five.

      The Pistons cut the deficit to one when forward Wilson Chandler hit two free throws and Mozgov had a put-back dunk.

      Augustin hit a floater to cut it to 79-77 with 3:19 left, just before Detroit center Andre Drummond fouled out of the game.

      But Detroit ran out of steam down the stretch. The Pistons missed 10 of their last 12 shots to allow the Nuggets to pull away. Faried hit two free throws and Mozgov another, and then Mozgov tipped in a miss with 1:25 left to put Denver ahead 84-77.

      He then blocked guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's layup attempt, and the Nuggets closed it out on the line.

      Gee played the entire fourth quarter after sitting for the first three, and his defense on Augustin was a factor.

      "We talk about the fact that some of the guys we added to the roster this year bring that defensive mindset," Shaw said. "Him, Arron Afflalo, guys like that pushing each other in practice. Games where it's low scoring, a grind-it-out game, we have to be able to win those type of games. Last year we were always on the short side. "

      The Nuggets won despite shooting just 35 percent from the field. They held Detroit to 37 percent shooting, which oftentimes took the first open shot available.

      "There are certain times in game we can't take the first shot that looks good," forward Kyle Singler said. "Sometimes we need to move it around so guys get involved."

      Faried had 11 points and eight rebounds in the first half and brought the energy the Nuggets need to be successful this season.

      "I'm looking to attack more and help my teammates by stretching the court," he said.

      Faried and Smith were the only two players in double figures at halftime. Smith had 15 on 6-for-12 shooting.

      Detroit got a boost from Augustin in the second quarter. The seventh-year pro had eight points and three rebounds in the period to help the Pistons cut Denver's lead to 42-40 at the break.

      The Pistons were short-handed on the frontcourt with the absence of center Greg Monroe. Monroe is serving a two-game suspension for pleading guilty to driving while impaired in September.

      "He's one of our best low-post scorers and he makes things happen," Jennings said of Monroe. "He was missed but other guys have to step up."

      NOTES: Nuggets F J.J. Hickson begins the season on a five-game suspension for violation of the league's anti-drug policy. ... Pistons F Cartier Martin (plantar fascia strain) will not dress in the opener. G Jodie Meeks is the other inactive for Detroit. ... Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said his plan for the three players coming off major injuries -- F Danilo Gallinari, G Nate Robinson and C JaVale McGee -- were to cap their minutes "in the 20s." ... Pistons rookie G Spencer Dinwiddie played in one preseason game before the season. Dinwiddie, who starred at the University of Colorado, missed the last 18 games for the Buffaloes after tearing his ACL. ... The Nuggets inactives were G Gary Harris and G Erick Green.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Raptors weather late surge to top Hawks
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- Guard DeMar DeRozan showed his ability to adapt for the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.

    • Struggling from the field, DeRozan set new career-highs with 11 rebounds and six steals as Toronto defeated the Atlanta Hawks 109-102 at Air Canada Centre.

      "That's my job. I'm trying not to be just a scorer," said DeRozan, who added 15 points in the win. "Got to understand when we're not making shots, not just myself, we all got to figure out other ways to impact the game in a big way. That was what I was trying to do. "

      The highlight of DeRozan's night was a memorable sequence with under a minute remaining in the fourth.

      DeRozan missed a pair of free throws, but was able to grab the rebound and draw a foul. Back at the line, he hit both shots to give Toronto a 107-101 lead with 32 seconds remaining.

      It was a much-needed turn of events for the Raptors, who weathered a late 15-2 surge from the Hawks.

      "It won't happen again, won't happen again," DeRozan said of the missed shots. "Luckily I got the rebound."

      Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas led the way with a team-high 17 points and eight rebounds while forward Amir Johnson had 16 points 10 rebounds -- the largest opening night totals of his 10-year career. Guard Greivis Vasquez had 12 points off the bench.

      "There's other ways to win other than looking at the shooting stats," said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. "A lot of times a young team will look at and start panicking and play even worse offense.

      "We didn't, we allowed the game to come to us and continue to compete, continue to play even though our shots weren't falling."

      Hawks starting guards Kyle Korver and Jeff Teague each finished with a game-high 20 points, with Kover going 6-for-7 from three-point range. Forward Mike Scott also had 20 points off the bench with Al Horford adding 12 points and Paul Millsap 13.

      "It is opening night and I think Toronto has a heck of a team, give them credit their energy was very good," said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer. "I feel good about our guys fighting back. Offensively there are some things that we can build on."

      Raptors reserve guard Lou Williams' buzzer beater to end the third gave his team an 86-71 lead -- their largest of the night.

      Through three quarters the Raptors were 17 of 19 from the line while Atlanta was just 9 of 17.

      Toronto closed the first half on a 9-2 run to take a 60-52 lead into recess.

      Vasquez, with back-to-back threes early in the period, helped the Raptors open an eight-point lead.

      "They're coming, it's not there yet, guys are still trying to find their way," Casey said of the Raptors bench. "There's going to be nights that Lou Williams is going to be huge, there's going to be nights where James Johnson is going to be huge.

      "There's going to be nights its' Greivis (Vasquez's) night -- that's just the way our roster is built right now."

      Scott was hot early, hitting 4-of-5 into the second quarter.

      Korver was hot from 3-point range, hitting 3 of 4 in the second and finished the first half 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.

      "We just had a good click going on, we had a good feel," said Scott of the bench. "The second group, we just try to come in and play with energy, just like all the benches in the league try to provide energy, play smart and play together."

      Williams drained a shot from deep to give the Raptors a 24-22 lead after one period.

      All five Raptors starters hit early field goals giving Toronto an early 11-5 lead in the first quarter.

      NOTES: Atlanta G John Jenkins and F Adreian Payne were inactive for the Hawks. ... Raptors C Greg Stiemsma (ankle) was not available. Toronto F Bruno Caboclo also was inactive. ... Terrence Ross became the Raptors' 10th different opening-night starter at small forward since Vince Carter was traded in December 2004. ... Toronto tipped off its 20th season in the NBA. ... Raptors G Lou Williams and C Lucas Nogueira were acquired from the Hawks on June 30 in exchange for G John Salmons.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Gasol scores 32 in Grizzlies' victory
    By The Sports Xchange

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph says a new-look, trimmed-down Marc Gasol has him jealous.

    • "You can tell he's been focused all summer," Randolph said. "He's got a six-pack (stomach). He's got me motivated."

      Wednesday night in the Grizzlies opener, Gasol, the team's center, scored a career-high 32 points and forward Randolph added 25 points and 13 rebounds in a 105-101 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

      The Grizzlies won their 15th straight home game and snapped an 0-13 record in home openers since relocating to Memphis from Vancouver. The victory was the Grizzlies' 14th in the past 16 games against the Timberwolves.

      Two free throws by guard Vince Carter, in his first season with the Grizzlies, with 7.3 seconds remaining sealed the win, but it was Gasol and Randolph, among the best low-post tandems in the league, who provided the inside muscle and offense. Gasol and Randolph combined to go 24-of-33 from the field with 22 rebounds.

      "It's fun to watch when you have two big men who can do what they do," Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley said. "And it was a night where we had to exploit that (advantage)."

      Gasol played a game-high 37 minutes and Randolph 35 as the Grizzlies' starters had to take up the slack for a bench that was highly effective last season but faltered in this season's opener. Against the Timberwolves, the Grizzlies' bench scored just 10 points on 3-of-16 shooting, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range.

      Gasol scored 16 points in each half, while Randolph was 8-of-10 in the opening half.

      "They did a great job," said Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger. "Zach got going earlier (than normal), which was good. He didn't ease himself into the game. He wanted to be a leader and get out in front.

      "And Marc was very assertive and I thought he took the ball to the basket with force."

      Gasol attempted to downplay his slimmer look and his aggressive play. Instead he said he was motivated by the team's first-round exit in last year's playoffs and the left knee sprain that sidelined him for 23 games last season.

      "After last year and the injury, I felt I had to take a step forward," he said. "And losing to Oklahoma City in the seventh game gave me motivation."

      Conley added 16 points for the Grizzlies and forward Thaddeus Young led the Timberwolves with 26. Timberwolves rookie forward Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, had six points and three rebounds in his regular-season debut.

      Ahead by six at the half, the Grizzlies pushed their advantage to 10 late in the third quarter behind a 13-7 run. A layup from Conley off a steal by guard Tony Allen made it 75-65. Gasol's turnaround hook in the final minute gave the Grizzlies an 81-74 lead entering the fourth quarter.

      Minnesota opened the fourth quarter with a 13-4 run to take an 87-85 lead. Reserve forward Anthony Bennett's 22-footer, shortly after his high-flying dunk, put the Timberwolves ahead for the first time in the second half.

      Memphis recovered and was aided by a flagrant-1 foul call on Timberwolves guard Mo Williams with 1:40 left and the Grizzlies up 98-96. Conley made one of two free throws and the Grizzlies retained possession. Gasol scored on a 20-footer to extend the Memphis lead to 101-96. The Timberwolves could get no closer than two (101-99 and 103-101) in the closing minute.

      "I told our guys that I was really happy with the way we competed," said Minnesota coach Flip Saunders. "We played hard."

      The Grizzlies shot 52.4 percent from the field in the first half to take a 53-47 lead. Gasol and Randolph each had 16 points and six rebounds at the break.

      Memphis made eight of its first nine shots from the floor to build an early seven-point advantage at 17-10, but the Timberwolves rallied against the Grizzlies' reserves and used an 11-1 run to take a 27-25 lead at the end of the first quarter.

      Gasol scored 13 of his 16 first-half points in the second quarter to help the Grizzlies regain the lead. He had eight of Memphis' first 10 points in the quarter and his 20-footer with 9:13 to go gave the Grizzlies a 31-30 lead. Memphis did not trail again in the half.

      Young, a Memphis native, had 13 first-half points for the Timberwolves, who shot 38.3 percent from the field in the opening half and were slowed by 11 turnovers.

      NOTES: The Grizzlies' NBA Developmental League affiliate, the Iowa Energy, will play a regular-season game on Nov. 8 at FedExForum against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Miami Heat's NBDL club. ... Flip Saunders began his second stint as Timberwolves coach on Wednesday night. Saunders spent 10 seasons (from 1995-96 to 2004-05) with the Timberwolves, compiling a 411-326 record, including a trip to the 2004 Western Conference finals. ... The Grizzlies' last opening-night win came Oct. 31, 2000, in Seattle. ... Three rookies -- F Andrew Wiggins, G Zach LaVine and F Glenn Robinson III -- are on the Timberwolves' roster. Wiggins was chosen first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Draft in June before being acquired in a trade. LaVine, a 6-foot-5 guard from UCLA, was a first-round pick by the Timberwolves.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Gasol, Bulls thrash Knicks in opener
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEW YORK -- The Chicago Bulls courted free agent Carmelo Anthony over the summer, but when the star forward decided to return to the New York Knicks, the Bulls turned their attention to signing forward/center Pau Gasol.

    • In the Bulls' 104-80 win over the New York Knicks in the season opener Wednesday at Madison Square Garden, Chicago's newcomer made his mark. Gasol, a 13-year veteran who spent the last six-plus seasons with Los Angeles Lakers, scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. He shot 7-for-11 from the field.

      "I thought this would be a good fit (with Chicago) for me based on my experience," Gasol said. "I think I can to add what they have going on here. It's a pretty young group, so they are hungry.

      "It's a great opportunity for me to take them to the next level."

      Gasol said of the choosing the Bulls in the offseason, "It was the most difficult decision of my career. I'm happy I'm here. Now I just have to focus on my team."

      The Bulls also received a lift from their All-Star guard, Derrick Rose. Playing in his first game in almost a year, Rose scored 13 points, dished out five assists and recorded two steals in 21 minutes.

      Rose missed the final 71 games of last season after tearing the meniscus in his right knee, and he sat out the entire 2012-13 season recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He was the 2010-11 NBA MVP.

      Without their star player for most of the season, the Bulls still tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference last season at 48-34 before losing to the Washington Wizards in the first round of the playoffs.

      After Chicago led 84-60 through three quarters in the season opener for both teams, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau decided to rest Rose in favor of guard Aaron Brooks, who finished with 13 points.

      Rose said playing with Team USA over the summer helped him prepare for the opener.

      "My emotions were the same," he said. "USA Basketball did a good job of making sure my nerves weren't too high. It led to me playing the way I normally play."

      Forward Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 22 points off the bench. Chicago's subs contributed 55 points. Forward Doug McDermott, the NCAA player of the year while at Creighton last season, contributed 12 points for Chicago.

      "In practice, we attack the first unit, and it shows," Gibson said. "We push ourselves every day."

      The 24-point margin was the second-worst, season-opening loss in the 68-year history of the Knicks, and it ruined Derek Fisher's debut as New York's coach.

      Forward Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 14 points, and center Amar'e Stoudemire added 12 points and eight rebounds.

      Fisher, who retired after playing 18 years and winning five NBA titles, is charged with implementing Knicks president Phil Jackson's triangle offense, which stresses ball movement.

      Fisher was dealt a blow before the opening tip when newly acquired point guard Jose Calderon was a late scratch due to a strained right calf muscle. Calderon was replaced by Shane Larkin, a second-year pro out of Miami (Fla.) who scored six points.

      Chicago dominated the second quarter and the second half. New York's last lead was 20-18 at the end of the first quarter.

      "We wanted to make a push in the third quarter, and they got their separation and we never recovered," Knicks guard Iman Shumpert said. "We can't die like that. I think our energy died, and we can't do that."

      The Bulls increased their lead to 53-43 at the half. Gibson scored 10 of his 13 first-half points in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Knicks' offense went stagnant. Stoudemire and Anthony paced New York with eight points apiece in the half.

      Rose was able to penetrate the lane, converting seven of his eight free throws in the half.

      NOTES: Chicago G/F Jimmy Butler was out with a left thumb sprain. He was replaced in the starting lineup by Kirk Hinrich, who scored 12 points. ... Knicks F/C Andrea Bargnani is expected to miss the first three games of the season because of a strained right hamstring. ... The Knicks play seven games in nine days to open the season. ... New York picked up the $1.3 million third-year option on G Tim Hardaway Jr. and now have five players with guaranteed deals next season. ... The Bulls led the league in scoring defense last season, limiting opponents to 91.8 points per game. ... Chicago F Doug McDermott is the fourth Wooden Award winner to go from college (Creighton) to the Bulls. He joins Michael Jordan (1984), Elton Brand (1999) and Jay Williams (2002).

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Bosh takes over in Heat's opening win
    By The Sports Xchange

    MIAMI -- LeBron James is gone and it's pretty much an accepted reality that the Miami Heat won't be as good without the player who led them to four straight NBA Finals.

    • But that doesn't mean Miami has surrendered.

      Wednesday night's season-opening 107-95 win over the short-handed Washington Wizards at AmericanAirlines Arena showed how the Heat have adjusted.

      Forward Chris Bosh, who retreated to the background during the LeBron Era, had game highs in points (26) and rebounds (15).

      "He's reinvented himself," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Bosh, who made 9 of 18 shots from the field in 39 minutes and added four assists. "He's been developing new aspects of his game.

      "For the last six minutes of the game, we ran our offense through (Bosh)."

      Point guard Norris Cole, who spent the past three years as a backup to Mario Chalmers, made just his 13th career start and his first on opening night, scoring a career-high 23 points.

      And rookie wing James Ennis, who scored eight points in 15 minutes off the bench, showed his elite athleticism with a soaring fourth-quarter dunk over Kris Humphries. Ennis soared so high that his knee hit Humphries in the chest.

      "I was excited," Ennis said. "I actually heard (the fans). It made me more amped. I'm here now. That made me feel it."

      Besides the new-look Bosh, the new starter in Cole and the high-flying Ennis, the Heat got what has become a typical performance from shooting guard Dwyane Wade.

      He had 21 points despite suffering a calf injury and leaving the game with 2:49 left in the third quarter. Wade returned with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter and scored 12 points after coming back.

      The Wizards were led by point guard John Wall (16 points, 11 assists), center Marcin Gortat (18 points) and forward Paul Pierce (17 points). In addition, Wizards forward Drew Gooden, making his first start in three years, had 18 points.

      But Wizards coach Randy Wittman was extremely disappointed with his team's defense.

      "It had nothing to do with our offense," he said. "We didn't defend off the dribble all night long. We got beat off the dribble, and we didn't have a presence at the rim or a willingness to step in and take a charge. I hate to see how many layups and scores right at the rim they got."

      Washington was without two starters -- injured guard Bradley Beal and suspended forward Nene. Two reserves were also out -- injured wing Martell Webster and suspended forward DeJuan Blair.

      Humphries played despite a lacerated right hand and had four points.

      Wittman said the missing players did not matter, but Gortat disagreed.

      "It had a huge effect," Gortat said. "We had two of our main guys from our starting lineup out (Beal, Nene), and the team looks weaker."

      This was a battle of Southeast Division rivals. The Heat are no longer even a clear favorite to win its division with upstarts such as the Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets considered on par with Miami, according to Vegas oddsmakers.

      Early on Wednesday, Washington was looking good, taking a 28-22 lead after the first quarter. But the Heat battled back to take a 53-52 halftime advantage. Bosh had a huge second quarter with 16 points.

      Miami led 72-70 after three quarters. Cole had 10 points in the quarter to lead the Heat, which will next play at the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

      The Wizards continue their road trip at Orlando on Thursday and then play their home opener Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

      NOTES: F Shawne Williams, a Heat newcomer, lost 30 pounds to get down to 235 in the offseason and became an opening-night starter when PF Josh McRoberts (toe) was injured. ... The Heat has three rookies on its roster: first-round PG Shabazz Napier from UConn, undrafted free-agent SG Andre Dawkins from Duke and F James Ennis, a 2013 second-round pick who played in Australia last year. ... Overall, the Heat have nine newcomers, including new starting SF Luol Deng. ... The Wizards have the top-ranked backcourt in the Eastern Conference with PG John Wall and SG Bradley Beal, but the latter is out one month with a wrist injury. ... Wizards F/G Martell Webster (back) is also injured. ... F Rasual Butler, 35, secured the last spot on the Wizards' roster and received a one-year, non-guaranteed contract. ... Wizards Fs Nene and DeJuan Blair missed the game because of a suspension for leaving the bench during a near-fight against the Indiana Pacers in the teams' exhibition finale. ... Heat coach Erik Spoelstra opted not to use two reserve forwards who were less than 100 percent: Udonis Haslem (quadriceps injury) and Danny Granger (hamstring).

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Rondo looks sharp in Celtics' victory
    By The Sports Xchange

    BOSTON -- No preseason? No problem for Rajon Rondo.

    • "He absolutely destroyed us Friday in practice," Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after his point guard returned after missing the exhibition slate with a broken hand and led the Celtics to a 121-105 rout of the Brooklyn Nets in the opener for both teams Wednesday night.

      "I thought [Friday] was really great until I watched the film and then I thought our team stunk, as far as in that practice. So that was a little bit of fool's gold, I thought. But the last couple of days ... he looks like himself, what I'd seen on film before I got here.

      "I don't think he ever looked like that any time last year because he was coming back."

      Last year was Rondo's first season back from knee surgery. On Wednesday night, after he said he decided to play following his afternoon nap, he scored 13 points, dished out 11 assists and grabbed seven rebounds in 29:45 to lead eight Celtics in double figures against the lead-footed Nets.

      "He is back to full speed," Stevens said. "He had a couple of turnovers yesterday in practice when we were going up and down but he was flying. It's good to see. It's really good to see."

      Playing with a pad protecting his left hand, Rondo, hurt in a household fall, turned the ball over on Boston's first possession but then notched his first assist 1:37 into the game. He went on to record four more assists in the quarter as his team took a nine-point lead after one.

      He scored only two points in the first half but then scored nine in a 1:06 span of the third quarter.

      Rondo, who was 6-of-9 from the floor, including a banked 3-pointer, and 0-for-4 from the foul line, banged his knee in the fourth quarter but didn't leave the game.

      "I felt pretty fast tonight ... I think I was around 91 percent," Rondo said. "It was just fun being back out there. I missed the game."

      Center Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points, forward Jeff Green had 17, guard Avery Bradley 15, forward Jared Sullinger 13 and swingman Evan Turner, energy rookie guard Marcus Smart and guard Marcus Thornton 10 apiece for Boston.

      "It just made everyone feel a lot more comfortable," Bradley said of having Rondo back. "He's our leader and he came out and played amazing; like he didn't miss a beat, almost like he hadn't been off at all."

      The Celtics, who led by 26 points at the half, kept pushing the pace and built a 29-point lead through three quarters. The Nets, playing their first game under new coach Lionel Hollins, made a mild run at the start of the fourth quarter but were never really in this game.

      "They had 62 points in the paint and most of them were non-contested," said Hollins.

      Forward Mirza Teletovic went 4-of-6 from 3-point range and led Brooklyn with 20 points, while guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson scored 19 apiece. Williams added eight assists, but the two scorers took 35 shots, making 13.

      Former Celtics big man Kevin Garnett, starting his 20th season, was greeted with a huge pregame ovation and scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds. He also had a disagreement with Olynyk after the center set a hard screen on Brooklyn swingman Alan Anderson. Garnett received a technical foul.

      "It's not the game we wanted, but obviously we have room for improvement," said Garnett. "We did some great things, but not enough to win. Hat goes off to the Celtics. They played great tonight.

      "Rondo was classy. I don't know, he was at 89 or 93 percent. He played well and led his team to a win tonight."

      NOTES: Oft-injured Nets C Brook Lopez is out again, with a right foot sprain, and C Mason Plumlee is got the start. "He's still having some pain when he goes hard," said coach Lionel Hollins, who made his Nets coaching debut in the opener. ... Patriots QB Tom Brady took to Facebook to wish the Celtics well, complete with a picture of a teenage Brady wearing a photo-shopped Celtics headband. ... Former Celtics F-C Kevin Garnett got a rousing ovation when introduced before the game, as did G Rajon Rondo, who addressed the crowd before tipoff. ... Isaiah Austin, the young center from Baylor whose career was ended before it started, was honored by the Celtics. He was presented with a framed Celtics jersey (No. 21) and made an honorary Celtic for life.

  • Thursday, October 30, 2014
    Walker leads reborn Hornets to OT win
    By The Sports Xchange

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was a special night for the Charlotte Hornets, and Kemba Walker made it even more incredible.

    • Walker scored 26 points and rose to the occasion not once but twice with the game on the line to lead the Hornets to a wild 108-106 overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night.

      It was the franchise's first game back as the Hornets and a frenzied sellout crowd of 19,439 at Time Warner Cable Arena went wild as the Hornets rallied from a 24-point deficit in the second half.

      Walker's 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left in regulation tied the score 100-100 and forced overtime, and then his fallaway 18-footer with 5.1 seconds left in overtime proved to be the winner.

      "I love to be in those last-second situations," Walker said. "I have to make those shots for my teammates, especially after the way I played early. I just wanted to win this game."

      Walker, a guard who agreed to a four-year, $48 million contract extension earlier in the week, finished 9 of 26 from the field. He was just 3 of 11 from the field in the first half and 5 of 17 going into the fourth quarter.

      He credited teammate Jannero Pargo with keeping him focused.

      "I struggled the whole game," Walker said. "I was kinda down throughout the game. Jannero was talking to me, giving me some motivation. He told me to stick with it, that my time was going to come. And it did."

      The Hornets were playing their first game with their old name, after being the Charlotte Bobcats the past 10 seasons. The original Hornets were the toast of the town from 1988 to 2002 before the franchise was moved to New Orleans.

      The crowd was reminiscent of the Hornets' glory days at the Hive.

      "The crowd was great," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "I've said it before, when I was with the Knicks and we used to play in the old Coliseum, this was one of the toughest places to play. I think if our team plays the way it is capable of and we have a good year, we're hopeful this can be an every night thing."

      Milwaukee led 57-46 at halftime and pushed the lead to 74-50 four minutes into the third quarter. The Hornets started chipping away from there and cut the margin to 83-68 after three quarters.

      Milwaukee still led 95-82 going into the final five minutes of regulation, but the Hornets closed with an 18-5 run from there, with a 9-0 run in the middle of it.

      The Bucks went the final 5:09 without a field goal and opened the door for overtime when forward Khris Middleton made only one of two free throws with 7.6 seconds left in regulation for a 100-97 lead. Walker then brought the ball up, got a screen from center Al Jefferson and hit the tying basket with 1.6 seconds remaining.

      The Bucks also led late in overtime at 106-104, but Hornets guard Gary Neal hit a drive to tie it with 44.6 seconds left, Middleton missed a jumper and Walker wound up with a chance to add to his heroics.

      Again, he brought the ball up, dribbled the shot clock down and hit the fallaway with 5.1 seconds left.

      Middleton then missed a 3-pointer for the win at the buzzer.

      "I got a great look," Middleton said. "Great screen, great pass, but I just couldn't knock the shot down. We've just got to learn how to protect our lead and close out games. Then in overtime, it's who wants it the most, and we just came up short."

      The Hornets also got 19 points from forward Marvin Williams, 17 from forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and 14 points and 10 rebounds from center Al Jefferson.

      Guard Brandon Knight led the Bucks with 22 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. The Bucks also got 17 points each from Middleton and guard O.J. Mayo, and 10 each from center Larry Sanders and guard Giannis Antetokounm.

      "On the road, we want to have an opportunity to win," Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. "We put ourselves in a great spot there in the fourth quarter to have a chance to win. They made the plays when it counted down the stretch. But I think there are a lot of positives out of tonight's game for us to learn from."

      NOTES: The Hornets went 3-5 in the preseason and lost their last three games. The Bucks went 3-4. ... Hornets G Lance Stephenson was back in action after missing four preseason games with a strained groin, and G Gerald Henderson returned after missing all eight preseason games with a pulled hamstring. ... The Hornets' inactives were F Jeffery Taylor and rookie F Noah Vonleh. Taylor pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence on Wednesday stemming from an incident in East Lansing, Mich., in September. ... The Bucks were without F Damien Inglis (ankle) and C Johnny O'Bryant (sprained knee). ... The Bucks opend on the road for the 30th straight season. ... Former NBA commissioner David Stern was in attendance, as were original Hornets Earl Cureton, Kelly Tripucka, Greg Kite, Robert Reid and Dell Curry. ... The Bucks will play their home opener on Friday against Philadelphia. ... The Hornets will remain home to face Memphis on Saturday.