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.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Kyrie Irving feeling ‘good’ after ankle injury

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BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.

Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.

The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.

Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.

Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.

Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.

Danny Ainge: Lonzo Ball declined to work out for Celtics, who hold No. 1 pick

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LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.

You thought he was bluffing?

Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:

We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.

It’s not ideal.

Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.

Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.

Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.

It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.

Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.

Donald Sterling’s wife petitioning NBA to overturn his lifetime ban

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Former Clippers owner Donald Sterling settled his lawsuit against the NBA and his wife. Reconciled with Shelley Sterling, Donald sounds – in a recent interview with James Rainey of NBC News – ready to move on.

Rainey:

But his wife, Shelly Sterling, also 83, said in a separate interview that she has not let go of at least one formal blot that remains on Sterling’s record: the lifetime ban from the NBA that was imposed on the long-time Clippers owner after his racist remarks against African-Americans attending games.

Shelly Sterling said she personally approached Silver and also had her attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, talk to the league office about lifting the lifetime ban, which prevents Donald Sterling from attending NBA games. Her intention is not to allow her husband to do business with the league, but to clear his record, in consideration of the 33 years he spent as an owner.

“”I couldn’t understand the severity of the ban. It just seemed a little bit out of line,” Shelly Sterling said. “I have talked to [the NBA] several times and I don’t know what they will do. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t [lift the ban]. Maybe it takes a little bit more time.”

The NBA won’t lift the ban for the same reason it implemented the ban: Associating with Sterling was costing the league money.

Time has cooled the resentment toward Sterling, but overturning the ban would return the venom – and much of it would be directed toward the league. There’s no good reason to open that box.

Besides, Sterling – with his lengthy record of racism and sexism – doesn’t deserve clemency. People like him deserve far more comeuppance than they’ve gotten.

Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan staying in 2017 NBA draft

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Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan declared for the 2016 NBA draft, struggled at the combine, withdrew, got into great shape, had an All-American sophomore season, declared for the 2017 draft.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Swanigan:

Swanigan is a borderline first-round pick. He has a couple NBA-ready skills the good teams that typically pick late in the first round might covet, but thanks to trades, teams that didn’t win a playoff game this year hold most late first-round picks. They might pick someone with more upside than Swanigan.

Swanigan is a tenacious rebounder, particularly defensively. He has excellent fundamentals, size (6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan) and ability to read the ball, and he crashes through contact to hunt boards.

He’s also a quality post-up player who can finish with either hand and has the passing ability to make that play work.

But Swanigan is slow. NBA teams have become increasingly adept at running plodders like him off the court by dragging them into pick-and-rolls. Even when on the court, he hasn’t protected the rim at satisfactory levels.

Swanigan has overcome his athletic limitations as a rebounder. He hasn’t done so in other facets of defense.

He’s hardly a dinosaur offensively. He made 45% of his 3-pointers last season, and though I’m not confident that will translate to NBA 3-point range (give the small sample and his form), he should be at least a midrange threat.

Swanigan is also just 20, young for a sophomore. He can improve.

But it’s just hard to look past his defensive limitations.