NBA

Heat hold off Thunder in Finals rematch

Lakers climb back to .500 with win

December 26, 2012 

Knicks Lakers Basketball

Lakers center Dwight Howard, left, drove to the basket against Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony during the first half Tuesday night. Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and the Lakers won 100-94 to get back to .500 for the season.

ALEX GALLARDO — AP

LeBron James finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 21, and the Miami Heat survived a frantic finish to beat the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder 103-97 in an NBA Finals rematch on Tuesday.

Mario Chalmers scored a season-high 20 for the Heat, who matched the franchise's best 25-game start at 19-6. Chris Bosh added 16 for Miami, which has beaten the Thunder five straight times going back to last June's title series.

Kevin Durant scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potentially game-tying three-point attempts in the final seconds. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each added 15 for the Thunder, who have dropped two straight for the first time this season.

The Heat went 19-for-19 from the foul line, the second-best effort in franchise history. They were 30-for-30 at Boston on March 24, 1993.

And it was a wild Finals rematch — one that lived up to expectations.

There was a fast start by the reigning champions, a fantastic one-handed dunk by James on an offensive rebound, a scrum after a hard foul that led to double-technicals on Wade and Ibaka early in the fourth, an easy rally by the Thunder from an early double-digit deficit, and a jawing match between Durant and James in the final minutes.

Such was the intensity that James slumped over the scorer's table with 1:08 left, exhausted.

Oh, and there was a wild finish, as well.

Wade lost the ball on an ill-advised, behind-the-back dribble, and the turnover set up Durant for a two-handed dunk that got the Thunder within 96-95 with 44.1 seconds remaining.

Needing a stop on the next trip, the Thunder forgot to play defense instead. Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka both were confused on the ensuing Miami possession, and Bosh was left alone to take a pass from James and throw down a dunk that restored Miami's three-point edge.

Oklahoma City got within one when Durant made a jumper over James, but no closer. Ray Allen's two free throws with 15.6 seconds left made it 100-97, and Miami's last three points came from the line after a Thunder foul and Westbrook getting hit with a technical for punching a table after arguing that he was fouled on his 3-point try in the final moments.

James scored at least 20 points for the 30th straight regular-season game and 46th overall. In other games:

Lakers 100, Knicks 94: Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, the defense stepped up, and host Los Angeles beat New York, extending its winning streak to five games.

"We're .500," a smiling Dwight Howard said. "We did it on Christmas, too. I knew this day would come."

Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. Anthony said he hyperextended his left knee, but expects to play on Wednesday in Phoenix.

Bryant, the league's leading scorer, has had 30 or more points in nine straight games.

The Lakers improved to 14-14 — 9-9 under new coach Mike D'Antoni. They returned to .500 for the first time since they were 8-8 on Nov. 30.

"It's so early in the season to have turned a corner," Bryant said. "We have everybody in the lineup and we're starting to see how we want to play."

The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points and Smith had five.

Steve Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his second game in nearly two months. He missed 24 straight games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg. Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Gasol had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Bryant surpassed Oscar Robertson as the league's all-time Christmas Day scorer with 383 points. Robertson had 377.

Celtics 93, Nets 76: Rajon Rondo lost his cool in the second quarter when Boston last met Brooklyn.

This time, the second period featured some of the best basketball the Celtics have played this season.

Former Kentucky standout Rondo scored 19 points in his first full game against the Nets this season.

Rondo, sidelined in the first meeting and thrown out of the second after shoving Nets forward Kris Humphries into the courtside seats, outplayed counterpart Deron Williams and helped the Celtics take control early.

"We moved the ball; we rebounded the ball," Rondo said. "They beat us pretty bad on the glass, so tonight we did an exceptional job on the glass, taking care of the defensive rebounds, and we got stops."

A month after the teams scuffled in Boston, there was another skirmish in the fourth quarter that resulted in four technical fouls. But that was the most fight the Nets put up in a disappointing performance on the national stage of the Christmas opener. They were never in the game after the first 20 minutes.

Rookie Jared Sullinger tied a career high with 16 points and Jeff Green had 15 for the Celtics (14-13), who avoided falling under .500.

Rockets 120, Bulls 97: James Harden scored 26 points and Jeremy Lin added 20 points and 11 assists as visiting Houston blew the game open with a 31-19 edge in the second quarter.

The Rockets, who have won six of their last seven, got double figures from all five starters, including ex-Bull Omer Asik who had with 20 points and 18 rebounds in his first trip back to Chicago since signing with the Rockets in the offseason. Chandler Parsons had 23 points and Marcus Morris had 10

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