Hornets top Heat 109-106, rallying from 15-point deficit

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MIAMI (AP) — Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker each scored 21 points, and the Charlotte Hornets overcame a 15-point first-half deficit to beat the Miami Heat 109-106 on Thursday night.

Nic Batum scored 19 for the Hornets, who split four games with Miami this season and now have the same 39-29 record as the Heat in the jampacked Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Hornets are now 15-3 in their last 18 games.

Charlotte trailed 45-30 in the second quarter, then took the lead by halftime and held it for most of the second half. Courtney Lee had 13 and Marvin Williams scored 12 for the Hornets.

Luol Deng led the Heat with 22 points. It was the 10th time this season that Miami lost a game in which it led at one point by double figures, with six of those coming at home.

Charlotte led by six with 3:24 left, but couldn’t shake the Heat.

Dwyane Wade started 1 for 10 from the floor, but made a pair of layups in the final seconds – each getting Miami within a point. Charlotte’s Jeremy Lin got sent to the foul line after each of those baskets by Wade and went 4 for 4 from the stripe in those moments, the last of those coming with 3.8 seconds left to restore the Hornets’ three-point lead.

And that would be enough, as Wade’s 3-pointer with a second left missed.

Josh Richardson scored 18, Hassan Whiteside had 17, Goran Dragic finished with 16 and Joe Johnson added 13 for Miami.

Miami used a 12-0 run to take the 15-point lead at the exact midpoint of the second quarter, and every bit of it was gone by halftime. Walker had 13 points in less than 5 minutes to fuel what became a 24-7 burst by the Hornets to close the half, including a 3-pointer that sent them into the locker room with a 54-52 lead.

The Heat briefly had the lead twice in the third, but a 13-5 run to close that quarter sent Charlotte into the final 12 minutes with an 82-73 edge.

In the fourth, Whiteside and Richardson either scored or had the assist on the first six Miami baskets. Richardson – who is averaging 15.8 points in his last five games on 66 percent shooting, including 15-for-21 from 3-point range – made a 3 to get the Heat within 91-90 midway through the fourth, but Charlotte would not lose the lead at any point in the final quarter.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Charlotte lost starting C Cody Zeller at halftime with left knee soreness. Zeller played 14 minutes before the break, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds. He made his last three shots from the floor. Jefferson started the second half in his place. … The Hornets are now 11-3 with Lee as a starter.

Heat: Miami reached 100 points for the ninth consecutive game. … Richardson made 7 of his 9 shots. … Wade scored 11 points, getting him within 13 of 20,000 for his career. … A trio of former Miami Hurricane football standouts – Stephen Morris, Jon Feliciano and Ryan Williams – were in attendance, seated near the Heat bench.

BOSH’S TWINS

Chris Bosh, who was on the Heat bench Monday for the first time since a blood clot forced him away from the court in February, was not with his team Thursday night – for a good reason. Bosh and his wife Adrienne welcomed twin sons on Tuesday. The boys, Lennox Noel and Phoenix Avery, met their three siblings for the first time on Thursday.

DOWN THE STRETCH

Charlotte’s schedule for the rest of the season seems favorable. Of the Hornets’ last 14 games, as few as four could be against teams that actually make the playoffs. And the Hornets still have a total of four games left to play against Brooklyn and Philadelphia, the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference. That being said, nine of Charlotte’s last 12 are on the road.

 

NBA returning to Seattle for exhibition game, when will it be more?

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SEATTLE (AP) — An NBA preseason game may not seem like a benchmark moment, even in a basketball-hungry city like Seattle, but Jamal Crawford believes there’s value even in an exhibition.

“It reignites a whole new generation of kids who need to see this,” said Crawford, a Seattle native who has been a basketball ambassador for the city through a 20-year NBA career and now with a pro-am that brings in NBA players every summer. “They need to be able to dream and know that it’s real.”

The NBA is making its latest brief return to the Emerald City. The Los Angeles Clippers will play the Portland Trail Blazers there on Monday night, the first time two NBA teams will meet in Seattle since 2018, when the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings played a preseason game. That was the last sporting event inside KeyArena before it was gutted and rebuilt into the gleaming Climate Pledge Arena.

There was a warm-up act of sorts Friday when the Clippers played Israeli team Maccabi Ra’anana in an exhibition, one where the most of the Clippers’ big names – Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, John Wall and Reggie Jackson – weren’t participating.

A sell-out crowd turned out for that Warriors-Kings game four years ago, the first one in Seattle since the beloved SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008 after 41 years in the Pacific Northwest. Another big crowd is expected Monday.

“The Sonics haven’t been a team since I’ve been in the NBA. So just to go play in Seattle is cool,” Blazers star Damian Lillard said. “We played in Vancouver a few years back. I think like two or three years ago, we had a preseason game at the (Memorial) Coliseum. So every time we get to do something like that, I always enjoy it because I wondered what was it like when it was a real thing, when the games were played in these different arenas. So I am excited to play in Seattle.”

Someday, possibly soon, the expectations are that Seattle will reclaim its place as an NBA town.

“It’s always been a great city to me,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Friday. “It’s unfortunate that they lost their team and the team went to OKC. This city definitely deserves a team.”

Speculation is nonstop about when the NBA will choose to expand. Thanks to the resolution of its arena situation, Seattle seems likely to be at the forefront of those expansion talks, with Las Vegas likely right behind it.

But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been noncommittal about a possible expansion timeline, and it seems likely those talks won’t pick up steam until the league deals with the new collective bargaining agreement and television deals that are on the horizon.

The community’s commitment has never been in question. The appetite of Seattle fans hasn’t waned in the years since the Sonics left and as the region became a hotbed for NBA talent, whether it was Crawford continuing to carry the banner for the city, to Zach LaVine of Renton, Washington, to this year’s No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero, another Seattle native.

As if any reinforcement was needed, the summer provided a perfect example as fans camped overnight outside Crawford’s summer league venue for the chance to get inside and watch LeBron James make his first basketball visit to the city in more than a decade.

“Anyone that knows Seattle knows what a great basketball city we are,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said this summer when the preseason game was announced.

The idea for having the Blazers and Clippers meet in Seattle was the result of a brainstorm between Lue and Blazers coach Chauncey Billups. The two close friends wanted their teams to meet in the preseason and Lue noted the owners for both teams are Seattle based: Steve Ballmer of the Clippers and Jody Allen for the Blazers.

“I haven’t been back since I played there in 2008, I think it was. So just to be able to go back there and you know, Mr. Ballmer and kind of see his offices and how he lives, and (Chauncey) to get a chance to see his owner, and then to be with my best friend, I thought it would be a great common ground,” Lue said.

Steven Adams inks two-year, $25.2 million extension with Grizzlies

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Steven Adams signed a two-year, $25.2 million contract extension with Memphis, which will keep him tied to the team through the 2024-25 season. ESPN’s Adrian Wojanrowski broke the news on Saturday.

Adams has been crucial to the Grizzlies’ recent success. He’s coming off his first season with the team, where he averaged career-highs in rebounds (10.0) and assists (3.4). He also helped them lock up the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference and make it to the Conference Semifinals, where they lost to the eventual-champion Warriors 4-2. Despite the improved numbers, a lot of his value is from intangibles that don’t show up in the box score.

Adams spent the first seven years of his career with the Thunder before being traded to New Orleans in the four-team deal that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee. Adams was moved again to Memphis in a package for Jonas Valanciunas.

Adams has found a new home with a young Grizzlies team that is looking to win a championship. The team is built around Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane, but Jackson Jr. is expected to miss time after being diagnosed with a stress fracture in his left foot. Memphis will rely on Adams more than ever to begin the season.

Watch Curry, Klay in 3-point shooting contest in Japan. Yeah, they’re good at this.

NBA Japan Games Saturday Night
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The NBA went to Japan to promote the brand, play a few games in a huge market — Japan specifically but Asia as a whole — and put on a show.

Is there a better show than Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson draining 3s? Here they are in a 3-point contest during a basketball exhibition (there were some pro dunkers) in Tokyo on Saturday.

Stephen Curry, was there any other possible outcome?

It’s preseason and they are the defending champs — they should be having fun, playing with some joy.

Thompson took part in the shooting contest but is not playing in either of the exhibition games in Japan as the Warriors ease him back into play this season. It’s a marathon of a season and the Warriors need the best version of Klay starting in April, not October.

Report: Pelicans, Nance agree to two-year, $21.6 million extension

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Larry Nance has been a stabilizing influence in New Orleans since coming over mid-season as part of the trade for CJ McCollum. Nance is a versatile player who can play the four or the five, knocks down his threes, is very strong on the glass, can be a disruptive defender in passing lanes, and fits in — and he has the veteran attitude of work this team needs.

So the Pelicans have reached an extension to keep the 29-year-old around for two years past this coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a signing that should make Pelicans fans happy. Importantly, it makes CJ McCollum happy — they are tight and this is something McCollum wanted to see. The money on this deal seems fair, about the league average for a solid rotation player.

Nance is the kind of veteran this team needs considering its young core of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram (just turned 25), Herb Jones, and guys like Trey Murphy III, Jose Alvarado, and others. Nance compared it to the young Lakers teams he was on, but noted that team lacked the same level of veteran leadership this Pelicans team has.

We may see more Nance at the five lineups — small ball with Zion at the four — to close games this season in New Orleans, that could be their best lineup because Nance can defend but also spaces the floor for Zion on offense. Coach Willie Green has a lot of different players and matchups to experiment with.

And now he has the stability of Nance for a few more years.