NBA Wrap: Heat get rings, spoil Rose's return

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NBA Wrap: Heat get rings, spoil Rose's return

MIAMI -- LeBron James scored 17 points, Shane Battier made all four of his 3-point tries, and the Miami Heat took control with 17 straight second-quarter points on the way to spoiling Derrick Rose's return and beating the Chicago Bulls 107-95 on Tuesday night in the season-opener for both teams.

Chris Bosh scored 16 points, Battier finished with 14 and Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers each scored 13 for Miami, which got its 2013 NBA championship rings in a pregame ceremony. The Heat trailed 9-2 early, then outscored Chicago 52-24 over the remainder of the first half and finished with seven players in double figures.

Rose finished with 12 points in 34 minutes in his first game since April 2012. Carlos Boozer carried the Bulls, scoring 31 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

Jimmy Butler scored 20 points for the Bulls (see full recap).

Bench helps Lakers stun Clippers
LOS ANGELES -- Xavier Henry scored a career-high 22 points, Jordan Farmar added 16, and five Los Angeles Lakers reserves surged past the Los Angeles Clippers in the fourth quarter for a surprising 116-103 victory in both clubs' season opener Tuesday night.

With Kobe Bryant watching in street clothes behind Pau Gasol and Steve Nash on the Lakers' bench, Jodie Meeks scored nine of his 13 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakers stunned their Staples Center rivals in Clippers coach Doc Rivers' debut.

The Lakers did it down the stretch with a lineup comprised entirely of backups -- including three who weren't on the team last season. Henry scored 12 points in the fourth quarter while leading a decisive 28-8 run.

Blake Griffin scored 19 points and Chris Paul had 15 points and 11 assists for the Clippers (see full recap).

Pacers pull away from Magic
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored 24 points, and Roy Hibbert added 16 rebounds and seven blocks, leading the Indiana Pacers to a 97-87 victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

The two-man tandem looked every bit as dominant in the season opener as they did leading the Pacers (1-0) to the Eastern Conference finals last season.

George's buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter gave Indiana a 69-64 lead and sparked the decisive 17-4 run to open the fourth.

Hibbert nearly matched his career-high for rebounds (17) in the first half. He had eight points but left the game midway through the fourth quarter after injuring his knee in a spill underneath his own basket. Team officials said it was not serious and he could have returned.

Victor Oladipo, the ex-Hoosiers star and No. 2 overall draft pick, had 12 points and three turnovers for the Magic (0-1) (see full recap).

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

Noel, Brown have had open dialogue about Sixers' big man situation

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Nerlens Noel’s recent comments on the logjam of big men on the Sixers' roster did not come as news to head coach Brett Brown. While Noel had not been this publicly outspoken on the issue, he and Brown have been having open discussions about it. 

“I have been talking to Nerlens a lot and I have a fondness for him,” Brown said Tuesday on the first day of training camp. “I don’t begrudge Nerlens Noel at all for what he said. I don’t have any problems with it.”

The Sixers' crowded frontcourt this season is a continuation of last season’s conundrum in which Brown was tasked with playing Noel and Jahlil Okafor, two natural centers, together. The depth has increased with the return of Joel Embiid and additions of Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. 

So when Noel doubled down on Monday by saying, "I don't see a way it can work,” Brown recognized where the center's opinions were coming from as he enters his fourth season in the NBA. 

“I feel if we do anything well, we communicate with our players freely,” Brown said. “It is one hundred percent transparent — hard conversations ahead, easy conversations ahead. I have spoken with Nerlens about this a lot. 

“My messaging and my mood and attitude and things that come out of my mouth haven’t changed once. I feel very confident that I’m giving him the advice that he should hear from me and it still allows me to do my job. 

“We have talked about it freely, like I have talked about it with Jahlil and Joel. Those situations are part of pro sports. They’re ever-present with me and us right now.”

Noel has been a rare mainstay among a revolving door of players over the past three years. He is in a unique situation with Brown in that the two have experienced a long list of the team’s ups and downs together. Noel feels comfortable talking honestly with Brown about his viewpoints. 

“I’ve known Brett probably longer than most guys here and we’ve built a different type of relationship,” Noel said. “It’s been very front and forward and we talk and we keep it real. That’s what he’s been doing with me and that’s why I’m able to continue to talk to him about myself and him just telling me what position I’ll be in — he’ll try to put me in — to succeed.”

With Brown having an understanding of Noel, his focus is on what Noel can bring to the team this season. He believes Noel has an edge over Embiid and Okafor for minutes early on because Noel is the only one among the trio starting camp without restrictions from previous injuries. 

There is a tough competition for playing time among the bigs, and camp is about proving oneself through basketball, not through personal opinions. Brown was impressed on the first day of camp by the manner in which Noel approached the morning practice amid the comments.

“He has handled it with me and in the training session today like a pro,” Brown said. “He came to mean it. He didn’t back down at all. There was no moping or sulking or him being stubborn. He played. That’s what he has to do. I think that’s a real reflection of anybody of how you handle adversity. Today he handled it like a true pro and a true competitor.”

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

Bovada projects Nets, not Sixers, to finish at bottom of division, conference

The Sixers finished in the basement of the NBA standings last season with a league-low 10 wins. But with the influx of young talent and addition of a couple veterans to the roster, the Las Vegas oddsmakers are betting on the Sixers to make some strides upward in the 2016-17 standings.  

Last week, the WestGate Superbook in Las Vegas set the Sixers' over/under for wins this season at an optimistic 27½, which was the fourth-lowest projection in the league.

Similarly, while Bovada is projecting another season of basketball filled with mostly losses in Philadelphia, the sportsbook doesn't view the Sixers as a shoo-in to finish as the league's worst team for the second consecutive year.

Per Bovada, the Sixers have the fourth-longest odds (125/1) to capture the Atlantic Divison title for the first time since 2001-02, beating out the Nets (250/1) by a considerable margin.

The favorite to win the division is the Celtics at 20/21, trailed closely by the defending division champion Raptors (21/20). The Knicks are between the Raptors and Sixers at 10/1.

The Sixers (150/1) also edged out the Nets (200/1) in odds to win the Eastern Conference championship. The two teams in the conference directly ahead of the Sixers in that futures bet are the Hornets (100/1) and Magic (50/1).

The Cavaliers are the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference at 5/11, followed by the Celtics (5/1) and Raptors (14/1).

Least surprising of all futures odds, Bovada has the Sixers tied with four other teams for the longest odds to win the NBA title. The Nuggets, Kings, Nets and Suns were tied with the Sixers at 500/1 odds to win the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The early favorites to win it all are the same two teams that met in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Warriors are alone at top with the shortest odds at 4/5 trailed by the Cavaliers at 3/1.