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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.

Nike “very concerned” after LeBron James’ jersey rips on opening night

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In the team’s first preseason game, the jersey of the Lakers’ Tyler Ennis was torn in the back with a tug from an opponent. Everyone made tearaway jersey jokes and moved on, thinking it was a one-off situation.

Then LeBron James‘ jersey ripped down the back on opening night, on national television.

Now Nike is looking into the issue, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

Nearly three days after one of its jerseys tore in the first regular-season game of its new deal with the NBA, Nike released a statement Friday expressing worry about the issue, without offering insight as to what happened or what will be done.

“The quality and performance of all our products are of utmost importance,” the company said in a statement. “We are obviously very concerned to see any game day jersey tear and are working with the NBA and teams to avoid this happening in the future.”

This is the first year Nike has the NBA apparel contract, having just taken it over from Adidas. They made the jerseys similar to what had been done for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where there were no issues, but these jerseys are lighter than the former Adidas ones. It’s unclear what, if any, changes could be coming.

Like many of the jerseys from opening night, LeBron’s ripped one is being auctioned by the NBA to raise money for hurricane relief.

Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson.

C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.