Watch Hassan Whiteside score 26 points, grab 22 rebounds in Heat’s win over Pacers (video)

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MIAMI (AP) — Winning consecutive games at home for the first time all season isn’t exactly something to celebrate, particularly when the season is nearly two months old.

For the Miami Heat, it’s a start.

Hassan Whiteside had 26 points and 22 rebounds, and the Heat clamped down defensively to beat the Indiana Pacers 95-89 on Wednesday night. Miami held the Pacers to 37 percent shooting and outrebounded them 58-38.

“Guess that’s what you can expect with a Heat-Pacers game, regardless of who the faces are,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was good for us to grind out another one.”

No, this wasn’t one of those playoff battles with the Pacers that featured LeBron James and Dwyane Wade almost always finding a way for the Heat in recent years. This time, it was the likes of Tyler Johnson and James Johnson coming up big, combining for 29 points off the bench – and Whiteside simply controlling the paint during his 34 minutes.

“I try to lead by example,” Whiteside said.

Paul George scored 22 for the Pacers, who were hoping for a season-best third straight win and instead managed just 10 points in the fourth quarter. CJ Miles added 15 for Indiana.

“This is a game that we should have won,” George said. “It’s frustrating. … We played OK. We just didn’t finish well.”

Neither team led by more than seven, and the Heat got to that margin after James Johnson found Goran Dragic for a layup and a 92-85 lead with 3:35 left.

They needed to hang on desperately from there.

Miami didn’t score again until there were 12.9 seconds left, when Josh Richardson sealed the win with a dunk that put the Heat up five after Indiana didn’t foul. The Pacers missed three 3-point tries that would have tied the game in the final 2 minutes, one by George and the last two by Myles Turner.

The Pacers shot 5 for 18 in the fourth. They went scoreless over a 7-minute stretch in the second half, and Miami took the lead for good during that drought.

“They basically muscled us and broke our offensive execution,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Monta Ellis (right groin strain) was sidelined again, and Rodney Stuckey played through a bruised left knee. … This was the start of Indiana’s sixth of 17 back-to-backs this season. … George has played 19 games at Miami, including playoffs. Indiana’s record in those games is 2-17.

Heat: It was the fourth time Whiteside reached 20 points and 20 rebounds in the same game, the second this season. … Justise Winslow returned from a 16-game absence due to a sore left wrist and scored two points in 21 minutes. … Dragic missed his first seven shots before connecting on a pull-up for his first basket early in the third quarter. He shot 4 for 15. … Dion Waiters (groin) missed his 10th consecutive game.

`CANES VISIT

Miami’s women’s basketball team – No. 13 in this week’s AP Top 25 – was at the game, along with coach Katie Meier. For some, it was their first time at a Heat game. “They were so excited,” said Meier, whose team next plays Friday at Florida International.

FREE THROWS

Indiana came into the night as the league’s fourth-best team at the foul line, Miami as the very worst. The Pacers went 14 for 17, the Heat 14 for 25.

UP NEXT

Pacers: Visit New Orleans on Thursday, the second game in a three-game, four-day trip.

Heat: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday, the third game on this six-game homestand.

Hawks, coach Mike Budenholzer agree to part ways

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This was expected.

It was pretty obvious Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to stick around and lose a lot of games with the Atlanta Hawks as they rebuild the next few years, especially after he had been stripped of his GM powers. Budenholzer went well down the road with the Phoenix Suns about their open coaching position before thinking better of it. Since then he has set up a meeting with the Knicks about their coaching vacancy, a job he reportedly wants badly.

At this point there was no need for the Hawks and Budenholzer to continue their sham marriage, so they have agreed to amicably separate, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and since confirmed by the Hawks.

Budenholzer said this to Wojnarowski of ESPN:

“I am grateful for the five years that I spent as coach of the Atlanta Hawks, and will always cherish the incredible contributions, commitment and accomplishments of the players that I was fortunate enough to work with here,” Budenholzer told ESPN on Wednesday night. “From ownership to management, support staff to the community, I’ll look back with great pride on what we were able to achieve together with the Hawks.”

For Budenholzer, the long-time Spurs assistant and a strong Xs and Os coach, look for him to both push for the Knicks job and be in the running if/when the Milwaukee Bucks job opens up whenever their season ends. In both cases he’s a fit — those are teams that need a culture and system reset, and Budenholzer proved he can bring that to Atlanta (that was a good team before they let Al Horford and Paul Millsap walk for nothing).

With Atlanta, they likely will turn to a top assistant coach who will get a chance to develop young players on that team (and not cost Atlanta as much as an established coach). Stephen Silas of the Hornets is a rumored name, but there are others.

LeBron James overrules controversial finish with game-winning 3-pointer (video)

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LeBron James‘ turnover with the game tied late looked like a bad call. LeBron’s block of Victor Oladipo on the ensuing possession looked like a goaltend.

Did the Cavaliers get robbed of a crucial possession? Did the Pacers get robbed of two go-ahead points?

LeBron nullified those questions with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Cleveland a 98-95 win and a 3-2 series lead. The game-winner capped a great game by LeBron (44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) and moves the Cavs to the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

The odds are even better with LeBron. LeBron has won 11 straight closeout games, nine of them on the road. He’ll have another opportunity Friday with Game 6 in Indiana.

Raptors’ ‘culture reset’ shines in Game 5 win over Wizards

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The Raptors promoted ball movement. They emphasized 3-point shooting. They empowered their reserves.

This was why.

Backups Delon Wright and C.J. Miles and starting center Jonas Valanciunas – who was benched in previous postseasons due to his old-fashioned style, but expanded his game beyond the arc this year – scored Toronto’s final 18 points in a 108-98 Game 5 win over the Wizards on Wednesday. Stars DeMar DeRozan (0-for-4 from the field) and Kyle Lowry (0-for-1 from the field, 0-for-2 on free throws) struggled down the stretch, as the Raptors burst open what had been a one-point lead.

Though DeRozan (32 points) and Lowry (17 points and 10 assists) were good overall, they succumbed late in previous playoff games. Toronto didn’t want that duo stuck with the burden of creating so much in a stagnate offense.

Hence, Masai Ujiri’s famous “culture reset.”

The results have been mixed so far against a tougher-than-average-eight-seed Washington. But at least the Raptors – up 3-2 entering Friday’s Game 6 in Washington – are on the verge of advancing.

When a team with home-court advantage can close out a best-of-seven series with a road Game 6, it has 52% of the time. It has won the series 92% of the time.

Raptors honor victims of van attack before Game 5 (photos)

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TORONTO (AP) — The Toronto Raptors honored the victims the deadly van attack Monday with a moment of silence Wednesday night before Game 5 of their playoff series against the Washington Wizards.

Players from both teams held up banners with the hashtag #TORONTOSTRONG as they stood on the court during the tribute and the national anthems that followed:

The Raptors, the Wizards and the NBA will make a donation to a fund for victims and those affected by the incident.

Raptors President Masai Ujiri spoke about the attack after the Raptors practiced Tuesday.

“What we do doesn’t really matter sometimes,” Ujiri said. “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be on that sidewalk.”

Guard Kyle Lowry said he was impressed by the actions of Const. Ken Lam, who earned international acclaim for peacefully arresting of suspect Alek Minassian.

“In America he would definitely have been shot up,” Lowry said. “He did an amazing job of making a judgment call. I think more people could learn from that.”

Coach Dwane Casey was struck by how close the carnage occurred to his own Toronto neighborhood,

“It’s not too far from up the street from where I live,” Casey said.

Casey and his coaches were in the midst of a meeting Monday afternoon when assistant Rex Kalamian’s phone buzzed with someone informing him of the tragedy. The coaches stopped their meeting and turned on a television to find out what had happened.

“It’s very unfortunate,” Casey said. “Just this weekend I was talking to people saying how safe Toronto is, how it’s a melting pot and you don’t have the same crime. Hopefully though, sport can offer a relief, some reprieve.”

Like Casey, Ujiri said he is proud of Toronto’s reputation as a safe, welcoming place.

“Everywhere I go, I brag about this city,” Ujiri said. “It’s the safest place in the world. It’s the best city in the world and it’s going to continue to be the best place and the best city in the world.”

Toronto police said the 10 people killed and 14 injured in the attack were “predominantly” women, but have declined so far to discuss a motive. The 25-year-old Minassian has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.