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Heat erase 19-point deficit, top Lakers 115-107

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MIAMI (AP) Halftime was longer than usual on Thursday night in Miami, to accommodate the ceremony in which the Heat retired Shaquille O’Neal’s number and raised a banner to the rafters.

O’Neal said he was humbled.

The Heat were apparently inspired.

Down 11-0 to start the game and once facing a 19-point deficit, the Heat got 23 points and 13 rebounds from Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside and beat the Los Angeles Lakers 115-107.

“It felt like 2006 in the arena,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Our young players were sitting there, eyes wide open, and they saw a vision of what we’re trying to build.”

Winslow set a career high for points and tied a career best in rebounds. Goran Dragic scored 21 and James Johnson added 19 for Miami, which snapped a three-game slide.

“Emotions came out,” Dragic said. “I was really glad we were part of the Shaq retirement. It gave us an extra boost, extra energy.”

Lou Williams scored 27 points for the Lakers, who fell to 5-14 on the road. Nick Young scored 20 and D'Angelo Russell had 17.

“We’ll get there,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “I told the guys, we will get there. We’re playing good basketball. We’re not doing the little things that make you win ballgames very well right now.”

Williams made three free throws with 1:01 to cut a six-point Heat lead in half. But on the ensuing possession, Whiteside tipped in a miss by Winslow to make it 112-107 and the Heat held on.

O’Neal brought Heat captain Udonis Haslem to center court for part of the ceremony. Fitting, then, because both had a role in the Heat rally – and neither played in the game.

Haslem emotionally spoke in the timeout when the Heat trailed 11-0, and his words resonated.

“The point I was making to those guys was nobody could look each other in the eye and say they were giving their best effort,” Haslem said.

That wasn’t the case in the second half, when Miami shot 53 percent, held the Lakers to 38 percent and outrebounded them 29-19.

“We’re supposed to put the nail in the coffin when we got teams down by 18,” Young said. “We have to keep going and not let up.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: Julius Randle left the team to fly back to Los Angeles and be with his fiancee, about to deliver their first child. … Luol Deng became the sixth player to record a start with both teams in the Lakers-Heat rivalry…. Larry Nance Jr. (bone bruise, left knee) will be evaluated again this weekend in Los Angeles.

Heat: Miami’s largest comeback win this season had been 14, against Milwaukee. … Tyler Johnson addressed the crowd pregame, wishing fans a happy holiday season. … Miami was again without Dion Waiters (groin), Rodney McGruder (ankle) and Wayne Ellington (hamstring).

SHAQ’S IMPACT

O’Neal not only has his numbers (32 in Miami, 34 with the Lakers) retired by both teams, he remains a fixture in their respective record books. O’Neal ranks among the top 10 for both franchises in several categories – including field goal percentage (No. 1 with Heat, No. 2 with Lakers), points per game (No. 2 with Lakers, No. 3 with Heat), rebounds per game (No. 6 with Lakers, No. 7 with Heat) and blocked shots (No. 2 with Lakers, No. 6 with Heat).

WITH SHAQ

The Lakers were 9-2 against the Heat with O’Neal in the lineup. The Heat were 3-1 against the Lakers when they had the Hall of Famer on the court.

UP NEXT

Lakers: Visit Orlando on Friday, before going home for a Christmas matchup with the Clippers.

Heat: Visit New Orleans on Friday, then do not play again until hosting Oklahoma City on Dec. 27.

NBA makes it official: LeBron did goaltend on Oladipo’s final shot

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Ultimately, this is moot. Nothing changes — not the critical last Pacers possession, not the fact LeBron James drained a three afterwards (and may well have anyway). All it provides is a little validation for frustrated Pacers fans and players.

Yes, LeBron did goaltend on Victor Oladipo‘s shot with 5.1 seconds remaining in what was then a tie game between the Pacers and Cavaliers. The NBA confirmed it in its Last Two Minute Report on Game 5 in that series. From the report.

“(Above the rim view) shows that James (CLE) blocks Oladipo’s (IND) shot attempt after it makes contact with the backboard.”

Oladipo called it goaltending. However, the officials didn’t call goaltending on the play, therefore it was not reviewable. Often on bang-bang plays like this one an official will call goaltending just to give themselves the chance to review it, but this crew did not (and that is a tough call to make accurately in real time).

From there, LeBron went on to hit the dramatic game-winning three that gave Cleveland the win and a 3-2 series lead.

The report also concluded that it was Thaddeus Young who knocked the ball out of bounds on the baseline with 27.6 seconds left, knocking the ball out of LeBron’s hands. The ball bounced on the line — and was therefore out, but the official didn’t call it — then bounced back up, hit LeBron on the arm and went clearly out of bounds. The referee called the second bounce after it hit LeBron. From the report:

“(Video) shows that Young (IND) deflects the ball away from James (CLE) and it lands out of bounds, but there is no whistle. The ball then bounces and hits James’ arm and lands out of bounds again, which is called. Possession of the ball is incorrectly awarded to the Pacers.”

One other note to Pacers fans: The goaltending call is not why Indiana lost. Oladipo shot 2-of-15 on the night. Darren Collison had a very an off night, was not aggressive, and was 1-of-5 shooting. There are a myriad of plays and decisions that go into a game, one blown call is not why the Pacers lost.

The question is can they regroup at home, get more secondary playmaking and buckets from someone other Oladipo, and can their defense force a Game 7? It can, but they have to put the end of Game 5 behind them first.

Kelly Oubre: Raptors’ Delon Wright ‘doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home’

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Delon Wright made some big plays down the stretch to help the Raptors to a Game 5 win over the Wizards last night. With Toronto up 3-2 in the first-round series and the home team winning the first five games, Game 6 is tomorrow in Washington.

Oubre, via Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:

“The next game is a different story. We’re back at home. Just like Delon doesn’t play well anywhere else, you know, other than at home,” Oubre said, sharing inspiration coupled with a touch of an insult. “You can kind of chalk it up as the same story.”

Wright decided not to escalate the conflict when reporters asked him about it.

Wright has been much better in Toronto than Washington in this series. His average game score is 14.7 at home and 5.7 on the road.

But that’s such a small sample. During the regular season, there wasn’t nearly such a big split between Wright’s average game score at home (8.4) and on the road (6.9).

For what it’s worth, Oubre has a somewhat similar home-road average-game-score split, both in this series (9.4 at home, 6.3 on the road) and during the regular season (8.1 at home, 7.5 on the road). Which Oubre basically acknowledged in his diss of Wright/self-own.

This is pretty typical Oubre – hyper-competitive verging on out of control. It’s fun regardless.

Let’s just say he’s right, though, and the Wizards win Game 6. Game 7 would be Sunday in Toronto, where, by Oubre’s own admission, Wright plays well and the Raptors are undefeated in the postseason. Then what?

Rumor: Bulls expected to wait until 2019 for free-agency splash

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The Bulls tanked so hard this year, the NBA warned them to cut it out. It was a rare instance of the league responding to actual tanking measures rather than just talk of preferring to lose.

Bulls executive John Paxson, via Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago:

“We did this year what we felt was in the longterm best interests of the Bulls,” Paxson said. “It’s not a situation that any of us want to ever be in again; it goes against everything as a competitive person that you believe in; but it’s the way the system is set up.”

Chicago could try to turn around quickly. The Bulls project to have about $25 million in cap space this summer – enough to land a good player or two.

Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago:

The assumption in league circles is the Bulls will wait until 2019 to make their big move when players like Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving could be on the market, and might consider signing with the Bulls after watching another year of development from LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn.

This is the wise course. It’s unlikely Chicago can lure anyone good enough to lift such a young core quickly. The Bulls are better off remaining patient – and bad, which will net another high draft pick as Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn develop.

This is also probably the course thrust upon Chicago. Even if they wanted to, the Bulls probably can’t land a premier free agent this summer. Star free agents can see the same problems with Chicago trying for a quick fix and will likely avoid the situation.

There’d be no harm in trying for top free agents like LeBron James or even Paul George. But the Bulls will probably be relegated to 2019 if they want to sign someone meaningful. Better they realize that than make a desperate attempt for relevance this year.

Rich Cho on Trail Blazers getting swept: ‘Being a previous Portland GM, that didn’t disappoint me’

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In 2011, the Trail Blazers surprisingly fired Rich Cho after only season as general manager.

Cho – since hired and fired by the Hornets – seems to be holding a grudge.

John Canzano of The Oregonian:

That’s a sentiment many people hold toward their former employer. Few say so publicly. That Cho did indicates just how strongly he feels.

Under owner Paul Allen, the Trail Blazers have run through numerous executives. It’s part of the culture in Portland, and it leaves a lot of outgoing people bitter.

Current general manager Neil Olshey ought to be mindful of that.