Kemba Walker
AP

Third-quarter dominance leads Hornets past Heat, 91-82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum had 16 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, providing a spark during a big third quarter that carried the Charlotte Hornets to a 91-82 victory over the Miami Heat on Thursday night.

The Hornets outscored the Heat 31-17 in the quarter to take command, with Batum contributing nine points, five rebounds and four assists in the period.

Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 22 points. The Hornets improved to 19-14, and have won five of their last six games.

Josh Richardson led Miami with 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting. The Heat fell to 10-23.

The Hornets’ third-quarter dominance has become habit. One night earlier, they outscored the Orlando Magic 35-13 in the period to grab a lead they held onto until the end.

Charlotte began the third with an 8-0 run and never relented. Though they shot 38.7 overall, the Hornets connected on 13-of-23 attempts (56.5 percent) in the third.

Miami, meanwhile, is struggling to find its footing and used its 12th different starting lineup of the season.

Richardson seemed to have a breakthrough when he had 13 points in the second quarter on 5-for-7 shooting to lead the Heat to a 49-42 halftime edge. Miami outscored Charlotte 13-6 in the final 4:15 of the quarter, a span that included eight points, including two 3-pointers, from Richardson.

Richardson was just two points shy of his career high of 22 points set earlier this season.

Hassan Whiteside, from nearby Gastonia, North Carolina, had eight points and 10 rebounds for Miami.

TIP-INS:

Heat: Goran Dragic started Thursday’s game, although he had been questionable with lower back spasms. He missed Tuesday’s game against Oklahoma City. . Miami’s 10-22 record after 32 games is the worst for the franchise since the Heat began 2007-08 with 24 losses in that same span. The Heat lost 67 games that season.

Hornets: Walker recorded his 7,000th point with the Charlotte franchise when he hit a 3-pointer with 4:16 left in the first quarter. Walker is the fourth player in franchise history to reach that mark, and became the second-quickest by doing so in his 396th game. Larry Johnson passed the mark in his 355th career game with the Hornets. . Marco Belinelli missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle. …. Only Anthony Mason (seven) and Larry Johnson (five) have logged more career triple-doubles with the Hornets than Batum, who has three with Charlotte and seven in his career.

UP NEXT:

Heat: Travel to Boston on Friday.

Hornets: Host the Cleveland Cavaliers for a New Year’s Eve tipoff Saturday.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.