Postgame Report: Clippers 99, Heat 89
SHANGHAI–Much like their initial matchup in the 2012 NBA China Games, the buzz before the Clippers-Heat game in Mercedes-Benz Arena was palpable.
Fans arrived early and stayed late, clapped noise-makers in-sync, cheered for superstars Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, and cheered louder for hometown hero Yao Ming, who was sitting courtside.
It was the first-ever basketball game in the state-of-the-art facility and the finale of the Clippers’ weeklong trek through Beijing and Shanghai. And after a somewhat lackluster showing in China’s capital city, the Clippers used a 58% shooting first half to seize the lead and never relinquished it, defeating the Heat, 99-89, Sunday in Shanghai.
“When you’re playing against champions you’ve got to hit first,” said Lamar Odom, who had four points and three assists off the bench. “The last game they hit us first and today we did. We did a good job of talking on defense and communicating. When you play good defense like that it helps you offensively.”
The Clippers’ offense was much more efficient, particularly in the early going. Some of that was due to the return of Chris Paul, who had missed the previous two preseason games while recovering from surgery on his right thumb. It also had to do with DeAndre Jordan’s dominance on the interior.
In 24 minutes, Jordan showed what has a number of players and coaches excited about the fifth-year center’s potential. He had 18 points without missing (8-for-8), almost exclusively on jump hooks and finesse shots around the rim, nine rebounds and was a factor in holding Miami to 10 points in the paint in the opening half.
As he so often does Jordan got the crowd on its feet with a high-low alley oop courtesy of Odom and another from the versatile forward a possession later. Afterwards, Jordan said the Clippers were much improved from Thursday. “We still had turnovers, but our intensity and our effort were better than before.”
If the theme so far this preseason for the Clippers has been looking for things to build on, Sunday offered plenty. Matt Barnes was an energizer, Jamal Crawford a perfectionist from the perimeter, Jordan a monster on the low block, and Paul, while appearing winded at times, a calming influence.
“I felt OK,” Paul said. “I think I was just excited to finally be out on the court and play. The guys have been working so hard in camp and all the practices that I missed. I was just excited to run up and down a little bit.”
Jordan sounded excited to have Paul back as well. “We’re a really good team, but with Chris we’re a great team,” he said. “He definitely runs the team and runs the floor offensively and defensively. With him you can just see out on the floor how much of a difference he makes.”
Paul finished with four points, six assists and five rebounds. Crawford had 15 on 5-of-8 shooting (4-for-4 in the first half) off the bench, his third consecutive double-digit scoring effort. Blake Griffin went for 13 points and 10 rebounds. And Barnes chipped in 11 points and six rebounds, a day after missing practice because he was not feeling well.
Head Coach Vinny Del Negro used Barnes at power forward at times with a bench unit that included Odom at center, Grant Hill at small forward, Crawford at shooting guard, and Eric Bledsoe at the point.
The group showed a brief sample of its dynamism as Barnes and Bledsoe caused havoc defensively, making five steals, and Crawford, Bledsoe, and Odom were used to initiate the offense. The unit was a major factor in extending a 10-point first-quarter lead to as many as 19 in the second half.
Asked after the game what the team can take away from their stay in China, Paul said, “We really came together, and that’s what you’ve got to use these trips for. We spent a lot of time together. Everybody’s ready to get back home, but I think all-in-all the trip was great.”
Wade did not play in the second half… Forward Trent Plaisted made his first appearance of the preseason and had a dunk with less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter… Caron Butler was sharp for the third straight game, scoring 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting, including 3-of-4 from 3-pont range… The Clippers shot 50% for the game, while the Heat made just 40% of their shots.
|C. Billups||NWT - Torn Left Achilles|
|M. Blakely||DNP - Coach's Decision|
|T. Leslie||DNP - Coach's Decision|
|T. Thompkins||NWT - Bone Bruise Left Knee|
|H. Thorns||DNP - Coach's Decision|
|R. Turiaf||DNP - Coach's Decision|
|50.0%||27.8%||59.3%||TEAM REBS: 11||TOTAL TO: 24|