Miami Heat's coach Spoelstra directs his players against Toronto Raptors during their NBA basketball game in Miami

Heat take care of Raptors, Erik Spoelstra earns All-Star head coaching spot


Erik Spoelstra locked up the honor of coaching the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star game, thanks to the Heat’s 100-85 victory over the Raptors on Sunday.

The Heat clinched the conference’s best record through Feb. 3 with the win, which was the deadline the league had in place for making the coaching selection. Miami finished with a 30-14 record that put them in first place in the East, a half-game ahead of the New York Knicks.

The bright side for Knicks coach Mike Woodson is that now he can keep those vacation plans.

As for the game Miami won to clinch the honor for Spoelstra, the first half was a struggle, and it looked as though it might have been another one of those road games that the Heat have had trouble competing in all season long. Despite owning the top record in the conference, the Heat came into this one with just a .500 road record of 11-11 on the season.

The defensive intensity that has eluded the Heat for much of the season was on display in the second half, as Miami outscored Toronto 56-35 after the break, while holding the Raptors to 29.7 percent shooting.

Chris Bosh torched his former team for 22 of his 28 points after the intermission, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade finished with 30 and 23, respectively.

Rudy Gay had another strong performance in his second game with his new team, this time getting the start and finishing with a team-high 29 points. Miami’s defense got to him too in the second half, however, where he was able to make just three of his 11 shots over the game’s final two periods.

Kobe Bryant says his age 37 is not like Michael Jordan’s age 37

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Once again, Kobe Bryant‘s career arc is being compared to Michael Jordan’s.

There’s a lot of reason’s that’s flawed — starting with Kobe being drafted on to a Lakers team that had Shaquille O’Neal and was already considered NBA elite, as opposed to Jordan working to build a franchise up. That said, Kobe has invited the Jordan comparison at times and it has been a constant through is career. Fair or not.

Kobe is coming back this fall after seasons of injury to the NBA and those comparisons continue — now to the Wizards’ version of Jordan. And Kobe is not at all fond of that, as he told Sam Amick of the USA Today.

“This is uncharted territory,” he said. “My 37 (years old) isn’t MJ’s 37 (when he returned after taking two seasons off to play for the Washington Wizards), you know what I mean? Nor is it the same team or the same system that he was playing in. It’s much, much different. There’s really no barometer, no (precedent) for training physically, for recovery. It’s uncharted territory.”

Kobe is right, starting with Jordan was retired at age 37 (he came back at 38). Also, Jordan had four+ seasons off by the time he was 38 and was not coming off multiple major surgeries.

Kobe is entering his 20th NBA season and what any real basketball fan should wish for him is health. Let him play one full season (with limited minutes and nights off), let him get to the final game of this season next April and make his own decision on his future. Let him leave the game on his own terms.

That said, if Kobe can average Jordan’s numbers at that age — 22.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game — it will be a major accomplishment, and the Lakers will have a better record than many of us expect.

And Kobe may want to play a 21st season as well.

Celtics ease to 124-91 win at Olimpia Milano in Global Games

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MILAN (AP) — The Boston Celtics eased to a 124-91 victory over Olimpia Milano at the Mediolanum Forum on Tuesday, comfortably winning the first of a double-header in Europe as part of the NBA Global Games.

Isaiah Thomas led the way for the Celtics with 18 points, including nine in his first seven minutes after coming off the bench midway through the first quarter.

Jared Sullinger added 14 points, as did Avery Bradley, who also had four three-pointers, while David Lee weighed in with 13 as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Alessandro Gentile – who is reportedly wanted by the Houston Rockets, who hold NBA rights to the 22-year-old – top scored for Milano, with 19 points.

Next up for the Celtics is Real Madrid in Spain on Thursday.