Dwight Howard says his poor conditioning has cost the Lakers ‘a lot of games’

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Anyone who’s watched Dwight Howard play in a Lakers jersey this season knows that he’s nowhere near the all-world center he used to be during his years with the Orlando Magic.

Howard underwent back surgery during the offseason, and while he’s recovered enough to physically be back out on the court, doctors familiar with that type of injury will tell you that the recovery time is a solid year, and that’s exactly how long we can expect to go by before Howard is back playing at the level we’re accustomed to seeing him play on anywhere near a consistent basis.

In addition to the back issues, Howard suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder earlier this season, and is playing through the pain rather than choosing to have surgery which would shut him down for the rest of the year.

Howard is tougher than most have given him credit for, and after battling public perception for the first part of this season as to where the blame ultimately lies for the Lakers’ underachievement, he’s finally taking responsibility for his part in this season’s mess.

From Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles:

“You’ve got to have energy and I want to bring that energy every night,” Howard said in a revealing interview Saturday afternoon. “That’s my job. They count on me to be that guy. I just know how much more effective I will be when I’m in better shape. And, unfortunately, it’s cost us a lot of games.”

Howard said his conditioning has improved throughout the season, but he’s still “not even close” to where he wants to be, and where he once was before undergoing back surgery in the offseason.

“I knew that would be a process. The better shape I’m in, the more active I can be and the more I’m able to do on the floor,” he said. “But it was a struggle at first because I just didn’t have it in the tank, especially on defense.”

Again, this is not news for anyone who’s watched Howard and the Lakers remotely closely this season. But his comments are important nonetheless.

As has been said many times, no matter what happens with the Lakers this season, the goal of the team is to sign Howard this summer to a max contract extension, making him the face of the franchise for years to come long after Kobe Bryant decides to retire.

The fact that Howard is owning up publicly to his role in this season’s disappointment may mean he’s turning the corner a bit — both in terms of how he views his place on the team, as well as how he may be feeling about his long-term prospects in Los Angeles.

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.)