Pinto’s Preview: Clippers at Heat
The bitter disappointment of an opportunity lost last night in Orlando must be overcome this afternoon (4:30pm PT opening tip) in Miami if the Clippers are to even their record at 1-1 on their season-long six game, ten day Eastern road trip.
Los Angeles led my as many as eleven points against the injury depleted Magic but laid an egg in the game's second half to succumb to Orlando 91-86. Mike Dunleavy's squad was outscored 50-38 in the game's final two quarters, allowing 51% shooting to the Magic while surrendering 18 offensive rebounds and committing 19 turnovers aiding Orlando in outscoring them 25-7 in second chance points. The setback tempered visions of a win fest on this six game swing as L.A. fell to 14-17 on the season and two full games back of Golden State for the West's number eight spot.
This afternoon they'll confront a 13-17 Heat team that is expected to welcome their top scorer Dwyane Wade back from a three game absence due to a sprained right wrist. These two teams share the fact that both were beaten by Orlando in their last outing.
Miami fell hard in Central Florida to the Magic on Saturday night 97-68. The Heat figure to come out breathing fire after the embarrassment of that setback as they compete with the Clippers on a getaway night, with a six game Western road trip looming when the final buzzer sounds in this game at the American Airlines Arena.
This is the second and final collision between L.A. and Miami this season. The Clippers hung on for a hard-earned 101-97 triumph over the Heat at Staples Center December 5 as Elton Brand came through with a virtuoso 33 point, 17 rebound gem.
Dwyane Wade was equally spectacular in that game pouring in 33 points of his own along with 5 assists, 4 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots. His presence will have L.A.'s defense on red alert all night long as it peforms the second night of a back to back sequence versus the well-rested Heat. But keep in mind the Clippers are 6-2 in such circumstanes this season, now a stunning 0-9 in the opener of back to back series.
:: Sam Cassell to continue sitting to completely heal a case of plantar fasciatis in his left foot. Sam's close to returning but will likely miss his sixth consecutive game with a full practice up ahead on Thursday in Washington D.C. If he endures that session without any setbacks it is possible that he'd return to game action Friday against the Washington Wizards.
:: Miami ageless medical marvel Alonzo Mourning to give Clippers center Chris Kaman a hard time in this game. While 'Zo is well rested, last working Saturday night Kaman logged 41 grueling minutes banging granite tough Dwight Howard last night. Mourning's sheer strength, will and shot-blocking prowess figures to at least neutralize Kaman's effectiveness inside. Mourning outscored Kaman 16-4 while outrebounding him 11-6 in the first meeting between the two teams in early December in L.A.
:: Elton Brand to demand the ball throughout this game and put another big numbers night on Miami's defense. Brand managed just four points from the first quarter on last night in Orlando after lighting up the Magic for 11 opening frame not receiving anywhere near enough touches in scoring range over the final three quarters. Heat starting power forward Udonis Haslem will struggle to stop Brand from scoring the ball, while Elton will likely be extra-motivated to negate any possibility of Miami duplicating Orlando's 18 offensive rebound showing of last night. Expect Brand to come up big in an effort to lead the Clippers into the win column in this game.
:: Three point shooting to be a potential game deciding X factor in this one. Miami hit just 3-25 from beyond the arc in L.A. December 5th. The Heat possess a stable of long range marksmen that will fire away when given an open look. Will Jason Kapono, Gary Payton, Antoine Walker and James Posey be more effective from downtown on this night? If so, the Clippers could be hard pressed to stay with the Heat on their home floor.
The Clippers road struggles just won't quit. Last night Los Angeles seemed to be in control of the game's tempo establishing a domination in the paint early to build an eleven point lead in Orlando only to begin self inflicting wounds by carelessly turning the ball over eight times in the third quarter and failing to beat the Magic to loose balls in the second half. The end result was another frustrating close loss away from home where this team is now 2-11!
Has the Clippers will to win and belief in themselves under fire away from home faultered to the point that it's becoming a lost cause on the road? Let's hope not. Any chances of a winning six game road trip likely come down to L.A.'s ability to respond to adversity immediately in the wake of the slip in Orlando this afternoon in Miami.
The Heat have been abundantly beatable this season without their diesel Shaquille O'Neal, who continues mending off of right knee surgery. While Dwyane Wade's return will lift the spirits of his teammates on Miami's home floor, he could well be rusty in finding flow offensively.
Quinton Ross, Shaun Livingston, and Cuttino Mobley will all take their shots at defending the '06 NBA Finals MVP, with help not far away in the Clippers team defensive scheme. It will take an outstanding Los Angeles defensive effort to gain win number 15 on the season. That and a continual feeding of the ball to their Horse Elton Brand offensively for the Clippers to even their record at 1-1 on this looong road trip.
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Five Things to Know About the Miami Heat
- Dale Brown, LSU's coach at that time, states that he first met Shaquille O'Neal while visiting Germany, and mistook the 13-year-old for one of the soldiers. At the time, O'Neal was already 6 ft 6 in.
- Dwyane Wade chose the number “3” because it represents the Holy Trinity.
- Udonis Haslem once broke a backboard while dunking in the ninth grade.
- James Posey’s full name is James Mikely Mantell Posey, Jr, and answers to the name “Mike” from his family and friends.
- Udonis Haslem had a pet snake named “Tango” while attending the University of Florida.