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Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011

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Back in action: Chicago's Luol Deng attacks the basket during the Bulls' 88-87 win over the Lakers on Sunday. AP PHOTO

James, Wade spoil Mavs' party

Heat get measure of revenge for finals loss as NBA returns to action

AP

DALLAS — While Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks were on the court celebrating the championship they won over LeBron James and Dwyane Wade last season, the Miami Heat were gathered in another part of the building.

It wasn't because they dreaded watching the ceremony, they insisted.

They were simply getting ready to show everyone why they are favored to win it all this season.

James and Wade led a series of scoring waves that put Miami ahead by 35 points midway through the third quarter Sunday, the lead peaking when James soared to the rim and tipped an alley-oop pass to Wade so he could have the dunk instead. The game was essentially over then, although the Mavs reserves fueled a late rally that made the final score look close, 105-94.

"We tried to play aggressive," James said. "We're a focused team. We had a great training camp. We came in with the same mind-set we had at practice, use our speed and play with mental focus."

James finished with 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Wade had 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Miami scored at least 30 points in each of the first three quarters.

"Celebration or not, we had a game plan and implemented it," Wade said. "We came out and played a good game."

The blowout had less to do with an emotional hangover and more to do with exposing the slow process of breaking in a new rotation. Dallas lost center Tyson Chandler and backup point guard J.J. Barea and added guard Vince Carter, do-it-all Lamar Odom and backup guard Delonte West.

"We're going to have to forge an identity with this team; it's a different team," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. "That's work, and it's going to take honesty, and it's not going to be easy."

Bulls 88, Lakers 87

In Los Angeles, Derrick Rose drove the lane and lofted home a smooth floating shot for the winning points in the Bulls' opener, just in case anybody doubted the youngest MVP in NBA history can shoulder the expectations that come bundled with that shiny new trophy and a huge contract extension.

Yet Rose realized the Bulls' dramatic comeback and his beautiful winner were only possible because Luol Deng did a whole mess of dirty work against Kobe Bryant.

Rose scored 22 points and hit a short go-ahead shot with 4.8 seconds to play, and the Bulls rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final 3:44.

"If it weren't for my teammates, making the steal and getting the ball to me at the end, there's no way I could have gotten that shot off to help us win that game," Rose said.

Knicks 106, Celtics 104

In New York, Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks know it will never be easy against the Celtics.

Not beating them in one game, and certainly not beating them for a division title.

But pulling out the kind of nail-biter that's long gone Boston's way in this rivalry only reinforced the Knicks' belief that they can do it — and even the Celtics see a difference.

Anthony scored 37 points, including a pair of free throws with the game tied and 16 seconds left, and New York survived a seesaw season opener.

"Most importantly for us, as a new team, we showed something," Anthony said. "We came together as a team. Even when we got down, there wasn't no frowns. Nobody was down. Mentally everybody was still up about it, and we willed our way to this win."

Thunder 97, Magic 89

In Oklahoma City, the Thunder come into the new season with lofty goals. They looked very much like a contender in their opener.

Kevin Durant scored 30 points to help the Thunder win their opener with a victory over Orlando, a team that has been dealing with Dwight Howard's trade demands.

While Durant shined, Howard struggled, held to just 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

"We know that there are outside expectations," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "But there aren't absolutes or guarantees. Our guys just work. I know it gets boring at times, but we like that. We're not going to change. We're all in the same boat on that. You can never become complacent. It has to be about the team."

Durant led the league in scoring the past two seasons, including averaging 27.7 last season. On Sunday, he was 11-of-19 from the field and added five rebounds and six assists.

Clippers 105, Warriors 86

In Oakland, California, prize acquisition Chris Paul had 20 points and nine assists in his much-anticipated Clippers debut, Blake Griffin added 22 points and seven rebounds and Los Angeles beat the Warriors to spoil Mark Jackson's opener as a first-time coach.

Monta Ellis had 15 points and eight assists after his grandmother's death earlier in the day in Mississippi and David Lee added 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors, who cut the Clippers' lead to 78-77 with 9:35 left on Brandon Rush's 3-pointer before Los Angeles pulled away.

Paul had an unspectacular first half: seven points on 1-for-6 shooting in 19 minutes. But he came on with several clutch baskets in the waning minutes to finish 7-for-12.



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