Report: Dwight Howard targeting opening night for return

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The Lakers have been completely silent about when Dwight Howard could return, refusing to give any timeline. Howard himself has been dead quiet on the subject, using the “I just want to get where I need to be” stuff. There has been talk of December, January, even Febuary for a possible return of the Lakers’ newest addition after back surgery to repair a herniated disc last spring. But now Yahoo! Sports reports something very different, and it could have a huge impact on the season.

Five months after back surgery, All-Star center Dwight Howard has targeted his Los Angeles Lakers debut for opening night of the 2012-13 season, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Howard is determined to play against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 30 at Staples Center, and his progress in recent weeks has strengthened the possibility, sources said.

via Dwight Howard aiming to play in Lakers’ opener – Yahoo! Sports.

Howard being ready that soon could shift the West dramatically. At the very least, Howard being available for the entire season puts their probability at a top-two seed somewhere in the 80-90 percent range and gives them at the very least a pick ’em with the Thunder for the top spot. It means easier first-round series, more rest time, and a better path to the Finals.

There is, of course, the concern of rushing him back, and a possible step backwards. Howard has been shown to be impatient and impulsive, sometimes making decisions with his heart and not with his head. He seems committed to keeping himself in the best condition possible, but he’s obviously excited about the possibility of getting back on the floor and starting the year under Staples’ dimmed lights.

Lakers’ media day is Monday, and Howard can expect a barrage of questions on the subject, as can the rest of the Lakers’ starters. But where we thought it could be months before we see Howard dunking in Lakers gold, it could be a matter of weeks.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head, literally (video)

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This sure didn’t look like just another game for Kevin Durant – and not only because the Thunder beat the Warriors for the first time since he left.

The 108-91 Oklahoma City victory didn’t look like just another game for Russell Westbrook (34 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals), either.

Harrison Barnes banks in game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.

Emphasis on “almost.”

The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.

Serge Ibaka gets dunked on by Enes Kanter, hit in face by ball (video)

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Is Enes Kanter mad Serge Ibaka rifted with his family?

(No, not this family. That family.)