With Howard Still Sidelined, Magic Lose

The shot 60.6 percent and made their first eight attempts of the fourth quarter to hold off , 115-107, on Tuesday night in Miami.

Kevin Garnett made 11 of 14 shots and had 27 points and 9 rebounds for Boston, and Paul Pierce scored 24 points. Rajon Rondo posted double-digit assists for the 18th straight game, extending the N.B.A.’s longest such streak in 20 years with an 18-point, 15-assist effort.

Boston shot well everywhere, including 9 for 14 from 3-point range and 20 of 25 at the free-throw line.

LeBron James finished with 36 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists for Miami, and Dwyane Wade added 20 points.

Boston improved to 18-7 since the All-Star break and dealt Miami a blow in the race for the No. 1 seed in the East. “It took a while, but we’re peaking at the right time,” Rondo said.

The Heat fell three games behind the Chicago Bulls, who defeated the Knicks later Tuesday.

76ERS 107, NETS 88 Center Spencer Hawes came off the bench for the first time and a scored a season-high 19 points to lead slumping Philadelphia in Newark. The 76ers got a big game from their bench, with Lou Williams adding 20 points and Thaddeus Young 19.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak and was only the fifth in 15 games for Philadelphia (30-27), which leads the Knicks by a game for the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The loss eliminated the Nets (21-38) from playoff contention for the fifth straight season.

MAVERICKS 110, KINGS 100 Dirk Nowitzki and Rodrigue Beaubouis each scored 15 points to lead six Dallas players in double figures, and the Mavericks won their last game before hitting the road.

The Mavericks, who had lost three of their previous four games, are seventh in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Houston and a half-game ahead of Denver. Dallas plays six of its last eight games on the road, with a four-game trip in five days starting Thursday at Golden State.

WIZARDS 93, MAGIC 85 Kevin Seraphin, a second-year forward from French Guiana, took advantage of Dwight Howard’s absence from Orlando’s lineup, getting career highs of 24 points and 13 rebounds to lead host Washington. Howard missed his second straight game because of back spasms and his fourth in six games. The Magic have lost three of four in his absence.

CAVALIERS 103, BOBCATS 90 Lester Hudson, signed from the N.B.A. Development League last month, scored 25 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, as host Cleveland handed Charlotte its 13th loss in a row. The Bobcats are a league-worst 7-49.

RECORD D-LEAGUE GRADUATES The Development League had 50 players called up to N.B.A. teams this season, 10 more than its previous high in the 2009-10 season. Twenty-five percent of N.B.A. rosters are D-League alumni.

SUMMER LEAGUE RETURNING The N.B.A. summer league will return to Las Vegas in July after it was canceled last year because of the lockout.

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Bryant Draws Up Lakers’ Winning Play, but Places Himself on the Periphery

That was why Bryant suggested Andrew Bynum take it, and the All-Star center leapt at the opportunity to seal Los Angeles’s latest win in what is perhaps the ’s most storied rivalry.

Bryant scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and made a go-ahead jumper with 41.7 seconds left, and Bynum’s hook shot over Kevin Garnett capped the Lakers’ 97-94 victory Sunday.

Bynum had 20 points and 14 rebounds as the Lakers rallied from a 5-point deficit in the final two and a half minutes, scoring the final 8 points. Bryant and Bynum each scored 4, but only after Bryant urged Coach Mike Brown to use him as a decoy.

“Andrew is too big — you can’t teach that,” Bryant said. “I knew it was going to be a high-percentage shot.”

After Bynum coolly scored out of a timeout with 15.5 seconds left, Boston could not get a good look at a tying 3-pointer.

Bynum appeared to take particular satisfaction in his decisive role in the victory after years as a supporting player to Bryant’s late-game heroics.

“It was crazy,” Bynum said. “Kobe came up with that play. He said, ‘They’re not going to be able to know what to do.’ I was able to get deep position and go to work.”

Rajon Rondo had 24 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who opened an eight-game trip by blowing a late lead. On Boston’s final possession, Ray Allen failed to get free for a 3-pointer before Rondo badly missed a desperate tying attempt.

The Lakers earned their 18th victory in 19 home games, stylishly finishing their third straight victory over Boston in yet another thrilling meeting.

“We love beating this team,” Bynum said.

The game might have been the final meeting for the current veteran cores of the franchises that met in the N.B.A. finals in 2008 and 2010. Boston’s Big Three of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce could be broken up after this season, while both Pau Gasol and Rondo are the subject of trade rumors.

If this was the finale, both teams went out in style.

“It’s almost as if this is for the championship every time we play them,’ ” said Allen, who scored 17 points. “It definitely was an entertaining game.”

Boston erased an early 15-point deficit and clung to a small lead down the stretch. Allen’s 3-pointer put the Celtics ahead by 94-89 with 2 minutes 41 seconds left, but Los Angeles trimmed the lead to a point on baskets by Bryant and Bynum before Bryant made his 14-footer to put the Lakers ahead.

Allen hit three 3-pointers and had six assists for the Celtics, and Brandon Bass scored 15 points but missed a go-ahead jumper in the final minute. Pierce had 13 points and 9 assists but shot 4 of 14.

CAVALIERS 118, ROCKETS 107 Antawn Jamison scored 28 points and the rookie Kyrie Irving scored 16 of his 21 points in the final 4:14 for host Cleveland.

The Cavaliers, coming off impressive road victories over Denver and Oklahoma City, have moved back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.

“You have to pay attention to the standings,” Irving said. “I’m aware we’re a game out of the eighth spot.”

The Knicks currently hold that final position.

WARRIORS 97, CLIPPERS 93 Monta Ellis (21 points, 11 assists) and David Lee (18 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles as Golden State won in Los Angeles.

MAGIC 107, PACERS 94 Dwight Howard had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and J. J. Redick added 18 points and a career-high 9 assists as Orlando won at home. The Magic played without starters Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson, but seemed unfazed as they built a 20-point lead in the first half and got 30 points from their reserves.

BUCKS 105, RAPTORS 99 Ersan Ilyasova had 31 points and 12 rebounds, Drew Gooden added 21 points and visiting Milwaukee posted its sixth straight victory over Toronto.

GRIZZLIES 94, NUGGETS 91 O. J. Mayo scored 22 points, including a critical 3-pointer in the closing seconds, as visiting Memphis hung on. The Grizzlies swept their three-game regular season series against the Nuggets for the first time in their history. Mike Conley, who returned after sustaining a cut above his right eye, added 13 points. Dante Cunningham had 12 points and Tony Allen 10 for the Grizzlies, who also snapped an eight-game losing streak in Denver.

HAWKS 106, KINGS 99 Josh Smith scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half for visiting Atlanta, which beat Sacramento for the eighth straight time.

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Knicks Edge Celtics as the N.B.A. Returns

But it ended with a final burst of merriment and in the N.B.A.’s first game since June.

Carmelo Anthony, playing in his first opening day as a Knick, scored 37 points, including the go-ahead free throws with 16.3 seconds left. The debut of the Knicks’ towering new frontcourt was a success, with Amar’e Stoudemire adding 21 points and Tyson Chandler providing just enough paint presence to make it all stand up.

Along the way, the Knicks built and squandered a 17-point lead, lost Iman Shumpert to a knee injury and, most significant, got the attention of a Celtics team that played without Paul Pierce.

“We showed something today,” Anthony said, adding later, “This is a new beginning for us.”

Anthony carried the Knicks for long stretches and was dominant when it mattered most, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter. He was efficient, too, going 10 for 17 from the field and 13 for 15 from the line, while grabbing 8 rebounds. His only blemish was in the turnover column, with five.

The Knicks were fortunate to get the victory after giving up 35 points in the third quarter, when the Celtics turned a 12-point deficit into an 8-point lead. The Knicks tightened the defense in the fourth quarter, holding Boston to 17 points, then rode Anthony’s hot hand to the finish.

“We fought,” Coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It’s not always going to be pretty, especially early. And we got to get as many wins as we can by the spirit of the team.”

The task just became tougher. Shumpert, the Knicks’ prized rookie guard, is expected to miss two to four weeks after spraining his right knee. Jared Jeffries, the Knicks’ first big man off the bench, will be out for a week or two after injuring his right calf. The Knicks open a three-game trip Wednesday at Golden State.

The losses of Jeffries and Shumpert further degrade the Knicks’ bench, which as D’Antoni acknowledged was “wobbly” to begin with. Mike Bibby, who missed the opener because of a back injury, will take Shumpert’s minutes. Josh Harrellson, a second-round draft pick, and Steve Novak, who was claimed off waivers last week, will fill in for Jeffries.

“That’s what the guys are there for,” D’Antoni said.

The Christmas afternoon ended with a snarl; the Celtics’ Kevin Garnett struck the Knicks’ Bill Walker with an open hand to the throat. Garnett had missed a potential game-tying jumper on the game’s final possession with Walker defending. After the buzzer, Walker started to approach Garnett, who responded with venom. Teammates quickly separated them to prevent a fight.

Walker said he did nothing to provoke Garnett and tried to play down the incident.

“I just know I seen his hands coming in my face — that’s disrespectful,” said Walker, who was once teammates with Garnett in Boston. Walker added: “It’s nothing big. It died at the end of the game. It’s over with. I don’t have any animosity toward Kevin.”

Garnett declined to comment on the incident, which could earn him a suspension.

Walker will get more court time without Shumpert, who was emerging as the Knicks’ best backcourt defender. They can hardly afford the loss after Rajon Rondo (31 points) and Ray Allen (20 points) tore through their defense.

The Knicks trailed early in the fourth quarter but tied the game at 100-100 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Toney Douglas (19 points) and Anthony. The score was tied again at 102-102 and 104-104 before Anthony put the Knicks ahead to stay with two free throws. Boston’s Marquis Daniels missed a 3-pointer, setting up the Celtics’ final inbounds play with 3.9 seconds left.

After a 149-day lockout, a half-dozen roster moves and a rushed two-week training camp, the Knicks were eager, if not altogether polished.

“We do not know who we are yet, or what kind of team we’ll have, or what the areas are that we need to really improve on,” D’Antoni said before tip-off.

It had been eight months and a day since these teams last met, — and an equal number of days since the Garden witnessed an N.B.A. game that counted.

It had been nearly six months since the N.B.A. played a meaningful game anywhere. A full house that included Chris Rock, Alicia Keys, Tracy Morgan and John McEnroe roared at the game’s return and the introduction of a remodeled Knicks roster.

The Celtics eased past the Knicks in April, but so much had changed since then. The Knicks became stronger, adding Chandler, Shumpert and Baron Davis (once his back is healthy). The Celtics became only a little older.

“I don’t think we’re a lot better today than the team last year,” D’Antoni said of his new squad. “But in two months or three months, we should be a lot better than we were last year.”

The Celtics were missing Pierce because of a bruised right heel, making it difficult to judge them either. For the first time in years, the Knicks see an opportunity to win the Atlantic Division.

“It’s going to be a rivalry now,” D’Antoni said, “because I think we can get up to the same level they are.”

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