From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Jamal Crawford led a dominant performance by the Los Angeles reserves with 22 points, and the Clippers beat the Denver Nuggets 112-100 on Tuesday night, extending their franchise-record winning streak to 14 games.Matt Barnes added 20 points -- one off his season high -- as the bench outscored the Clippers starters 64-48 in claiming the NBA's best record at 22-6, one win better than Oklahoma City which lost to Miami earlier Tuesday.Kosta Koufos and Jordan Hamilton scored 16 points each for Denver in the finale of a Christmas Day doubleheader at Staples Center. The Lakers, who will play the Nuggets on Wednesday night in Denver, beat the Knicks 100-94 in the first game.Ty Lawson added 15 points for the Nuggets, who fell to 7-13 on the road, where 22 of their first 32 games are being played.Crawford's 3-pointer to open the fourth quarter pushed the Clippers' lead to 20 points and kept the starters on the bench for the final 12 minutes. Crawford scored eight points in the quarter.Chris Paul led Los Angeles starters with 14 points; Blake Griffin had 13; and Willie Green 11.Heat 103, Thunder 97MIAMI (AP) -- LeBron James finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 21, and Miami survived a frantic finish to beat Oklahoma City in an NBA Finals rematch.Mario Chalmers scored a season-high 20 for the Heat, who matched the franchise's best 25-game start at 19-6. Chris Bosh added 16 for Miami, which has beaten the Thunder five straight times going back to last June's title series.Kevin Durant scored 33 points and Russell Westbrook added 21 for Oklahoma City, but both Thunder stars missed potentially game-tying 3-point attempts in the final seconds. Serge Ibaka and Kevin Martin each added 15 for the Thunder, who have dropped two straight for the first time this season.The Heat went 19 for 19 from the foul line, the second-best effort in franchise history.Lakers 100, Knicks 94LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kobe Bryant engineered a second-half comeback, helping Los Angeles beat New York and extend its winning streak to five.Bryant scored 34 points in his NBA-record 15th Christmas Day game, and Metta World Peace added 20 points and seven rebounds while defending Carmelo Anthony, whose 34 points led the Knicks. Bryant, the league's leading scorer, has topped 30 in nine straight games.The Lakers improved to 14-14 -- 9-9 under new coach Mike D'Antoni -- and upped their holiday record to 21-18, including 13-9 at home.The Knicks controlled most of the game behind Anthony and J.R. Smith, who had 24 points. But they struggled offensively in the fourth, when Anthony was limited to seven points, and Smith had five.Smith's 3-pointer pulled New York to 96-94. After Pau Gasol made one of two free throws, Smith missed another 3 that would have tied the game with 32 seconds left.Steve Nash had 16 points, 11 assists and six rebounds in his second game in nearly two months. He missed 24 games while recovering from a small fracture in his lower left leg. Dwight Howard had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Gasol had 13 points and eight rebounds.Celtics 93, Nets 76NEW YORK (AP) -- Rajon Rondo scored 19 points in his first full game against Brooklyn this season, and Boston beat the Nets in another game with heated moments between the division rivals.Rondo, sidelined in the first meeting and thrown out of the second after shoving Nets forward Kris Humphries into the courtside seats, outplayed counterpart Deron Williams and helped the Celtics take control early.Rookie Jared Sullinger tied a career high with 16 points, and Jeff Green had 15 for the Celtics (14-13), who avoided falling under .500 with their second victory in six games.Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez each scored 15 for the Nets, who have lost four of five.The Celtics took control with a 23-5 run in the second quarter. They had 11 assists on 13 baskets and outscored the Nets 34-18 in the period.A month after the teams scuffled in Boston, there was another skirmish in the fourth quarter that resulted in four technical fouls.Williams had only 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting, and Joe Johnson, his partner in a high-priced backcourt, shot 4 of 14 for his 12 points.Boston's Kevin Garnett had eight points and 10 rebounds on the day he tied Charles Oakley for 15th place on the NBA's career list with his 1,282nd game.Rockets 120, Bulls 97CHICAGO (AP) -- James Harden scored 26 points and Jeremy Lin added 20 points and 11 assists to lead Houston over Chicago. Omer Asik had 20 points and 18 rebounds in his first trip back to Chicago since signing with the Rockets in the offseason.Every Rockets starter scored in double figures. Chandler Parsons added 23 points and Marcus Morris had 10 for Houston, which has won six of seven.The Rockets had been 3-7 on the road, but a strong second quarter turned the holiday matchup into a blowout. The Rockets outscored the Bulls 31-19 in the period to break the game open.Lin capped a 14-2 run midway through the quarter with a drive and a layup to make it 55-34. He scored 12 in the second quarter and Harden had 13.Houston led 58-41 at halftime.Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 27 points, and Marco Belinelli scored 15. The points allowed and margin of defeat were season-worsts for Chicago.
NEW YORK -- Clay Buchhlz's start Wednesday night didn't result in a win for him, or even, as it turned out, for his team. But that didn't detract from the brilliant effort he turned in -- six shutout innings, one hit allowed -- on the night that the Red Sox almost unwittingly clinched the division title.
”It was good to go out (and pitch well) in this place," said Buchholz Thursday, "because I haven't ever pitched well here. So it was gratifying to throw well against a club that, historically, I haven't thrown well against."
It's widely assumed that Buchholz will be the team's fourth starter in the post-season and as the playoffs approach, Buchholz is throwing the ball better than he has all season.
"Physically, I feel good," said Buchholz. "It's been an up-and-down year for me individually. You have to learn from the time when you're not doing your job, and sometimes, you have to take a step back. Moving to the bullpen wasn't exactly what I had mapped out in my head for me to do this year, but overall, it helped me out to take a deep breath and work on stuff."
It was surprising that Buchholz was lifted after just 89 pitches, but John Farrell has appeared to be reluctant to have Buchholz go much beyond that since his return to the rotation in August.
"At that moment, obviously I wanted to go back out (for more)," said Buchholz. "But the way our bullpen's thrown (of late), I'd much rather give whoever comes in a clean inning rather than giving up a couple of hits in the seventh and have someone come in the game with runners on and making their job harder.
"As far as the pitch count goes, that's why John's the manager -- he has the reins on whether I go back out or not go back out, or how many pitches I'm going to throw. But I feel good. I could have gone out and thrown as many pitches as they wanted me to."
Having endured an up-and-down season, Buchholz has a renewed appreciation for the upcoming post-season.
"There was a bumpy road for a while," Buchholz said. "There were moments a little tougher than others, but this is our job and regardless of what position you put yourself in, you still have to go out and do your job. But knowing where we are now, I think this team's built right to go deep in the playoffs."
SOME STILL AREN'T BUCHHOLZ BELIEVERS: Bertrand: Even with good start, I can't trust Clay Buchholz
Buchholz doesn't have a guaranteed contract for next year, but the expectation is the Red Sox will pick up his option worth $13.5 million.
"I understand the business side of it," he said. "That's part of the game. But if I'm healthy and throwing the ball well, I feel like I'm going to have a job somewhere. This is the only place I've ever been and I'd love for it to be here.
"That's to be decided, I guess. I'm sure we'll talk about it after all this is over and done with. But I'm going to try to have as much fun while I'm here and I hope I'm back here next year."
WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.
He didn’t have to.
Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.
“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”
It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor.
“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”
Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.
Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.
Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.
“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”
GREEN INJURY UPDATE
Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.
The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.
Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.
“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.
The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.
“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.
As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”
RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN
Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.
With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.
“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”
TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?
Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.
Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.
“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”
Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.
The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.
Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.