LeBron, Wade both dominant in Heat’s win over Lakers

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There were stretches during Sunday afternoon’s contest between the Heat and the Lakers where L.A. appeared to be coming together, and seemed capable of challenging Miami on its home floor. The Lakers found themselves tied at halftime, and were getting solid performances from multiple players, while taking good shots and limiting their turnovers.

Even if L.A. had been able to sustain that effort through four quarters with a flawless second half, it wouldn’t have been enough to beat the Heat in this one. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade each were able to take over the game at times, and combined for 62 points in Miami’s convincing 107-97 win over the Lakers.

James and Wade finished with 32 and 30 points respectively, while each shooting an efficient 12-18 from the field in the process.

Wade was particularly effective in the second and fourth quarter stretches where James was on the bench. In the second, James played just three minutes due to picking up his third foul, while Wade played all 12 minutes and led his team with 10 points in the period. To start the fourth, Wade rattled off nine points while James was getting some rest, helping the Heat build their lead to seven by the time LeBron checked back in.

James has been on a shooting tear lately, and tied an NBA record for most games scoring at least 30 points while shooting better than 60 percent from the field — it was his fifth consecutive game doing so.

The Lakers were able to take advantage of the Heat’s size deficiency up front to a certain extent, with Kobe Bryant doing plenty of his damage inside, and Dwight Howard getting some shots to fall after receiving passes in the post. Bryant finished with 28 points on 10-19 shooting, while Howard ended up with 15 points on a 6-9 shooting effort.

The rebounding advantage that the Lakers should have been able to have against a Miami team which ranks near the bottom of the league in that category wasn’t there, however, due to the habit the Lakers’ bigs have of tracking the ball rather than finding a man to box out when the shot attempt goes up. The Heat were plus-nine on the boards for the game, and the 10 offensive rebounds they secured were double the amount grabbed by L.A.

In addition to Bryant and Howard, Earl Clark continued his strong play with 18 points and nine rebounds, and Metta World Peace continued to struggle offensively with a 3-11 shooting effort, and with the shot selection being questionable at best on close to half of those attempts.

The Lakers were able to stay close by taking care of the ball through three quarters, turning it over just seven times heading into the final period. But running the offense through Bryant in the post for the majority of the fourth quarter, L.A. turned it over eight times in the period, leading to a couple of highlight-reel plays from James as the Heat were able to turn those miscues into easy transition opportunities.

By contrast, Miami had zero turnovers in the fourth, after turning it over 11 times through three quarters.

The Lakers showed improvement on their Grammy road trip, but finished the seven-game stretch with a record of just 4-3. The Heat, meanwhile, improved to 22-3 at home, where there will be plenty more wins piled up before the season is over with Wade and James putting in simultaneously dominant performances like this one.

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.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”