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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.

Russell Westbrook dogs Warriors, Damian Lillard after Paul George misses All-Star roster

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Ah yes, let the mud-slinging begin.

Russell Westbrook is on a team with three huge stars in the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was always going to be difficult for all of them to make the 2018 NBA All-Star team out west.

But that doesn’t matter to Russ.

After Tuesday night’s win over the Brooklyn Nets (where Westbrook hit the game-winning shot, no less) the reigning NBA MVP had some thoughts about teammate Paul George missing out on the All-Star Game, calling it “outrageous”.

Westbrook wasn’t too happy with teams getting “four people” onto the team (a dig at the Golden State Warriors) and that players are, “Talking about getting snubbed until they get in.”

That last part seems to have taken aim at Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, one of the most talked about snubs in recent years who finally got another All-Star bid.

Via Twitter:

Westbrook also said that George was “Top 2 at his position” which really colors the underlying issue at hand: Russ likes PG and wants him to stay in OKC.

Nobody reasonable would say that George is a Top 2 player on the wing. Not while LeBron James and Kevin Durant are alive, at least. And Westbrook’s comments about folks being stars vs. not stars, even if the voting goes one way says a lot.

The Warriors are the best team of all time. A bunch of guys getting on All-Star teams in their heyday makes sense, even if one of those guys is Klay Thompson (sometimes). We all have Warriors fatigue, I guess.

Meanwhile, Lillard is one of adidas’ biggest athletes when it comes to basketball, the face of a franchise, and has put up numbers deserving of making the team in years past. He’s also a big personality and a rapper. Lillard’s name is in lights each and every night. The issue with him sees to be that nobody watches him consistently east of the Cascades.

But all this arguing gives legitimacy to Westbrook’s point, which is mostly personal. George’s numbers have taken a dip in some areas, particularly when it comes to things like VORP, assist percentage, and true shooting. They’ve gone up in others, like 3-point shooting. He’s still a very good player and very valuable to the Thunder.

Each year, guys get left off the All-Star team for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just their turn to be on it or be off it. Nice of Westbrook to stop by with some takes.

Here’s hoping for him that George stays in OKC.

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning shot to beat Nets (VIDEO)

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Spencer Dinwiddie hit the game-winning shot for the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. At least, many thought he did.

But that honor actually went to Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, who had hit the real game winner with a little more than three seconds to go.

Westbrook’s bucket came on after a sideline inbounds play led to a hard drive to the right side of the bucket for the reigning MVP.

Then, Dinwiddie got the ball and had appeared to make a 3-pointer to win the game for the Nets. However, it clanged off the side of the rim, moving the net in a way that many watching on TV and in the arena thought had gone in.

Via Twitter:

OKC beat Brooklyn, 109-108.

Here’s LeBron James scoring the 30,000th point of his career (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is officially the youngest player to ever reach 30,000 points in an NBA career.

The Cleveland Cavaliers great, who preemptively congratulated himself in a weird Instagram post earlier in the day, got points 30,000 and 30,001 at the age of 33 years and 24 days, edging Kobe Bryant by a year and 80 days.

The play came with just a second to go in the first quarter while the Cavaliers played on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.

Dribbling on the left arc against Danny Green — a formidable defender — LeBron gave a hesitation dribble before stepping just inside the 3-point line for a pull-up jumper.

Via Twitter:

LeBron still has Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Where he ends up might just depend on how long Nowitzki plays.

Top five 2018 All-Star Game snubs

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We fans love to talk about who gets snubbed. There are 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and we argue about who was 69th and deserved to be there.

With the NBA All-Star game, there are always legitimate snubs — and with the Western Conference so ridiculously deep this season good players were going to get left out. Just picking my reserve choices for a podcast felt brutal.

We now know the All-Star Game starters and reserves, so who got snubbed. Here are the top five.

1) Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles has been devastated by injuries this season (not to mention losing Chris Paul in the off-season) yet they are still in the playoff hunt in the West and the main reason is Lou Williams. The leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate is averaging 23.3 points per game, 5,3 assists a night, and is shooting better than 40 percent from three. He had a red-hot January so far, averaging 29.2 points per game. This may be a case where Damian Lillard got the nod from the coaches for his multi-year body of work (he’s been good a long time), but Williams is having his best season ever and has a great case.

2) Chris Paul, Houston Rockets. He likely didn’t get selected because he has missed 17 games this season — but Stephen Curry missed 15 and is a captain. When CP3 has played he’s been brilliant, averaging 19.1 points and 8.9 assists per game, he’s been crucial to improving the Rockets defense this season, and when he is on the court the Rockets outscore opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets are 23-5 when he plays. Houston is the second best team in the NBA, they should have more than one representative tonight.

3) Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons. The coaches went with four guards for the East reserves, and that left just three frontcourt spots and four deserving players. Drummond is the odd-man out. Which sucks — he is averaging 14.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting, and he remains the best rebounder in the game today pulling down 15 a night. He has improved his defensive play as well, but what everyone notices is he hitting his free throws (62.9 percent) and that means Stan Van Gundy can play him at the end of games and not sub him out.

Drummond was more than a little frustrated he didn’t make the cut.

4) Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. George has played well on both ends this season next to Russell Westbrook. He is averaging 20.8 points per game and shooting 42.9 percent from three on one end of the floor, and defensively he is averaging 4.4 deflections per game and has 93 steals — both tops in the league. George is a four-time All-Star and it feels weird to see him left out, but he came to the ridiculously deep Western Conference and good players were not going to make it. He’s the odd man out in the frontcourt.

5) Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets. Could have got a lot of directions here – Ben Simmons and Goran Dragic can make their cases on appeal — but people have been sleeping on just how well Walker has been playing this season. Walker is averaging an efficient 21.8 points per game, dishing out 5.9 assists per night, and when he is on the court the Hornets outscore teams by 5.1 points per 100 possessions (that’s better than the Celtics or Timberwolves net ratings for the season). The problem is when he sits they fall apart, and Walker pays the price for his team struggling this season. His name has popped up in trade rumors, and he is the best guy available right now (not that he gets moved in a tight market). Walker was an All-Star last season and had a very strong case to be one again.