Heat come out of big test with incomplete grade

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This was to be the big test. We were going to finally really figure some things out about the Miami Heat.

They had 11 consecutive games against quality teams – every one of them headed to the playoffs. Plenty of contenders in the mix. Finally we would see the Heat against the best.

They finished 5-6.

That is not a passing grade.

Well, it wouldn’t be, except the grade is incomplete. There were flashes from this team — they are the Lakers one loss since the All-Star break, they beat the San Antonio Spurs. Even in their losses, there were moments where you saw the potential of this team and its three stars.

There is no mistaking the fact the last 11 games did not go as hoped for the Heat, they again failed to meet their own lofty expectations. Those 11 games also made it clear the Heat are still figuring things out. The inconsistencies on the court are evidence. The questions is can those issues be remedied by the start of the playoffs in less than a month?

Chris Bosh told Brian Windhorst at ESPN he thinks they learned from this rough stretch.

“It’s been a tough stretch, a lot of ups and downs,” said Chris Bosh, who contributed his fifth consecutive double-double in the win with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

“After the smoke cleared, I think we’ve been better and are a better group now. We’ve seen a little bit of everything. We’ve seen the highs, we’ve seen the controversy, we’ve seen a bunch of different things that we’re going to see again. So when it rears its head again we’ll be prepared.”

It’s one thing to say they have learned a lesson and another entirely to put those lessons into action — this Heat team talked big and has said a lot of things it has not backed up. Some things are getting better, but it’s a mixed bag. For example their half court offense improved (largely due to Bosh) but their defense has not been consistent.

All that doesn’t mean the Heat players and coaches are wrong. They are still figuring it out. And if they do, this team will not have 5-6 stretches.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.