After the lockout, the NBA finally opened on Christmas Day, with the biggest drama in Los Angeles.The Chicago Bulls won in the closing seconds against the Los Angeles Lakers after trailing by 11 points with just four minutes remaining.
The New York Knicks won a nail biter against the Boston Celtics in the opening game of the delayed NBA season.
Carmelo Anthony scored 37 points, including a pair of free throws with the game tied and 16 seconds left, and the Knicks survived a seesaw season opener to edge the Celtics 106-104.
Amare Stoudemire added 21 points and Toney Douglas had 19 for the Knicks, who led by 17 in the first half, trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter, then pulled out a thrilling Christmas victory.
Rajon Rondo had 31 points and 13 assists, nearly leading the Celtics back without an injured Paul Pierce. But Kevin Garnett missed a jumper just before the buzzer.
"They seem to have a little swag and confidence behind them," Garnett said. "It's good for the city. It's good for the Knicks. I'm going to see how consistent they are with that, but for the most part Carmelo played really well."
Brandon Bass had 20 points and 11 rebounds in his Celtics debut, and Ray Allen added 20 points.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat gained some small revenge over the Mavericks after losing the last NBA championship finals to Dallas.
James had 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists as the Heat beat the Mavericks 105-94 in a game that was hardly ever as close as the final score might suggest.
Maybe the pregame banner-raising ceremony left the Mavs emotionally drained or - more likely - the overhaul of their roster is slow to take hold. The newly minted champs were down by 15 after one quarter, 21 at halftime, and 35 a few minutes into the second half.
Miami made it look easy, scoring at least 30 points in each of the first three quarters. James had the top highlight, tipping an alley-oop pass to Dwyane Wade so he could have the dunk.
Wade had 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists as the Heat cemented their status as the preseason favorite to win it all. Udonis Haslem added nine points and 14 rebounds.
Dallas hardly showed any life until newcomer Lamar Odom was ejected for something he said while arguing a charging call late in the third quarter. Soon after, Jason Terry fueled a surged that got the Mavs within 17 midway through the fourth. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle recognized how unlikely it was that they would come all the way back, so he kept Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Shawn Marion on the bench the entire final period. The remainder of the Mavericks' rally was by deep reserves.
Terry ended up leading Dallas with 23 points. Nowitzki scored 21 in three quarters.
Odom - the NBA's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, who was acquired from the Lakers a few weeks ago for merely a trade exception - entered to a standing ovation, and got fans roaring again when he made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 11. He missed his next five shots before getting tossed, but still left to loud cheers. He had four points and four rebounds in 13 minutes.
NBA Commissioner David Stern attended the game and took part in the banner raising ceremony. Fans greeted him with boos, perhaps showing disgust over the lockout that delayed the start of the season from Nov. 1 and shrunk the season by 16 games.
Derrick Rose scored 22 points and hit a short go-ahead jumper with 4.8 seconds to play, as the Chicago Bulls rallied from an 11-point deficit in the final four minutes for an 88-87 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Luol Deng scored 21 points and blocked Kobe Bryant's short shot right before the buzzer as the Bulls hung on for a thrilling finish to both clubs' first Christmas meeting.
Bryant scored 28 points and committed eight turnovers while playing with a torn wrist ligament for the Lakers, who nearly shook off their tumultuous preseason for a surprising win. Instead, Los Angeles was outscored 17-5 in the final 3:36.
Deng scored nine points in the fourth quarter for the Bulls, including a three-point play and two free throws in the final 45 seconds as Chicago snapped a five-game road losing streak against the Lakers.
Carlos Boozer had 15 points for the Bulls, who have designs on a championship run after leading the NBA with 62 regular-season victories last season. Chicago struggled mightily against Brown's new defensive schemes for the Lakers in the second half, managing just 25 percent shooting (12 for 48) - but Rose and Deng bailed out the Bulls.
Bryant couldn't finish strong in his NBA-record 14th Christmas Day appearance for the Lakers, who had an 11-point lead with 3:45 to play before Chicago pulled within 87-86 on Deng's free throws with 20.4 seconds left.
Bryant wore a compression sleeve on his right arm while playing without a brace on his right wrist after getting hurt last week. He appeared to have trouble handling the ball, but displayed a fairly smooth jump shot and his usual superb footwork.
Pau Gasol added 14 points for the Lakers, but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter while committing four fouls. Los Angeles also played without suspended center Andrew Bynum and departed sixth man Lamar Odom in the debut of coach Mike Brown, who replaced 11-time champion Phil Jackson.
Chicago finally awoke after Los Angeles pushed its fourth-quarter lead to 82-71 with 3:45 to play. The Bulls' 10-3 run was abetted by four straight missed free throws by the Lakers before Bryant hit a short fadeaway with 54 seconds left. Deng's three-point play trimmed the lead to 87-84, and Bryant fouled Deng after missing his own shot on the Lakers' possession.
Rose opened his first season as the reigning MVP by taking just five shots in the first half before taking charge late. The youngest MVP in league history also got a five-year, $94 million contract extension four days ago.
The Lakers' 13th straight Christmas appearance was the second straight for the Bulls, who returned to the holiday slate last season for the first time since the last of Michael Jordan's six championship campaigns in 1997.
While the Bulls remained cohesive and consistent in the offseason, nobody knows what to expect from the 16-time champion Lakers after their tumultuous offseason.
Brown said he only installed about a third of his defense-based system during the truncated training camp, and he had to make further changes when the club abruptly traded Odom to Dallas no players in return after failing to acquire Chris Paul from New Orleans.
Kevin Durant scored 30 points to help the Oklahoma City Thunder win their season opener with a 97-89 victory over the Orlando Magic.
Durant led the league in scoring the past two seasons, including averaging 27.7 last season. On Sunday, he was 11-of-19 from the field and added five rebounds and six assists.
James Harden added 19 points and the Thunder held Orlando star Dwight Howard to just 11 points.
The Thunder lost to Dallas last year in the Western Conference finals but are expected to be one of the top teams this season.
Ryan Anderson scored 25 points and Jameer Nelson added 18 for the Magic, who shot just 37 percent from the field and had 18 turnovers.
The last game of the Christmas Day marathon was Chris Paul's debut for the LA Clippers at the Golden State Warriors.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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