Postgame Report: Clippers 80, Heat 94

BEIJING–The atmosphere inside MasterCard Center for the opening of the 2012 NBA China Games felt more postseason than preseason.

Fans waved noisemakers and yellow foam basketballs that were a little too much like Frisbees and reacted to nearly anything that resembled a highlight. The on-court performance, though, still looked much like an exhibition game, or in the Clippers case, a work in progress.

The Heat took advantage of Clipper mistakes and used a high-scoring first half Thursday to coast to a 94-80 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 17,006.

Blake Griffin, who had a team-high 19 points and eight rebounds, said the Clippers (0-2) can use a loss like that as a lesson. “We’re going to experience adversity a lot,” Griffin said. “When we get down like that it’s important for us to stay together and keep fighting and fight our way back into it and still work on the things we need to work on.”

Miami (1-1) seemingly made the Clippers work for everything in the first half. They jumped out to a 10-2 lead with the only Clipper basket coming on a runner that Griffin banked home after snatching a rebound on the other end and driving the length of the court.

LeBron James led all scorers with 20 points, five assists and five rebounds for the Heat.

Despite 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting from Caron Butler and 16 points off the bench from Jamal Crawford, the Clippers struggled at times with their communication and chemistry. They committed 15 of their 25 turnovers in the first half with Griffin and Crawford accounting for 11 combined in the game.

To some degree the sloppiness is to be expected with a team trying to mix in seven new roster members and do so without superstar Chris Paul, who did not play Thursday but has been medically cleared for full-contact, in the lineup.

“I just think we’re really getting to know each other on both ends and trust is a big key in this game,” said Matt Barnes, who scored nine points in the second half. “And we make turnovers because we don’t really know if guys are going to pop or roll and we’ve got to trust each other on the defensive end, so we’re definitely a work in progress.”

In the second half, the Clippers showed an all-too-familiar toughness. Down by as many as 27 points, they rallied to pull within 13. Griffin helped by scoring eight consecutive points, including a jumper from the wing and another from the baseline and throwing down two powerhouse slam dunks.

The crowd reacted much like a Staples Center contingent would, rising in anticipation before Griffin made his move and exploding when he put the dunk down.

For Griffin, the second half was definitely something to build on going forward in the preseason.

“I thought we did a good job fighting back a little bit in the second quarter and a little bit in the third quarter,” he said. “I thought it was good for us to experience that and have to fight through it. We’ve practiced much better than that, which is promising. We just need to cut down the stupid mistakes and turnovers and stuff like that.”

Butler agreed, saying, “Our energy got a lot better [in the third quarter]. In the first half we were playing extremely relaxed and letting them (the Heat) run wherever they wanted out on the court. Coach came in and talked about some things we needed to correct and in the second half we came out with more energy and our disposition totally changed. Even though it’s a preseason game you’ve got to take these things serious because every day you want to get better.”

Veteran forward Grant Hill made his preseason debut with the Clippers, playing just over 10 minutes and finishing with two points and four rebounds.

“It was good to officially get out there and play and mix it up a little bit,” Hill said. “I think that said we were obviously disappointed not that we lost but there were a lot of mistakes, a lot of turnovers. They looked fresher than us. The good thing is those things can be corrected and fixed. All in all it was good to be out there.”

Dwyane Wade played his first game of the preseason and finished with five points on 2-of-9 shooting, including missing a breakaway dunk when he switched to his left hand in midair… James and Griffin guarded each other at times in the second half when the Heat used a lineup featuring Norris Cole, Ray Allen, and Wade in the backcourt… Eric Bledsoe had four points, eight rebounds and five assists starting in Paul’s place… In talking about the atmosphere in the arena, Griffin said, “You can tell [the fans] know the game and they know guys and all that so it was definitely fun to experience that.” Proof: The most enthusiastic cheer of the night came when Celtics legend Bill Russell was introduced during a third-quarter timeout.

C. Butler F 22:33 5-9 2-3 1-1 -9 0 2 2 2 2 0 2 0 0 13
B. Griffin F 31:38 8-16 0-0 3-5 -10 2 6 8 3 4 0 6 0 1 19
D. Jordan C 26:27 3-4 0-0 1-10 -7 3 5 8 0 3 1 0 0 0 7
W. Green G 22:09 3-11 0-3 0-0 -12 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 1 1 6
E. Bledsoe G 41:16 2-4 0-1 0-0 -13 3 5 8 5 2 0 3 1 0 4
J. Crawford   31:24 5-12 3-7 3-3 -6 0 0 0 2 1 3 5 0 1 16
G. Hill   10:12 1-5 0-1 0-0 -8 0 4 4 0 1 0 2 0 0 2
R. Hollins   09:33 0-1 0-0 1-2 -9 0 4 4 1 3 0 1 3 1 1
L. Odom   16:22 0-3 0-1 0-0 -4 3 5 8 0 2 0 2 0 2 0
M. Barnes   15:15 3-6 2-4 1-2 +3 2 3 5 1 2 1 1 0 0 9
R. Turiaf   12:00 1-1 0-0 1-4 +2 2 1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
H. Thorns   01:11 0-0 0-0 0-0 +3 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
C. Billups NWT - Torn Left Achilles
M. Blakely DNP - Coach's Decision
T. Leslie DNP - Coach's Decision
C. Paul DNP - Coach's Decision
T. Plaisted DNP - Coach's Decision
T. Thompkins NWT - Bone Bruise Left Knee
Totals   240 31-72 7-20 11-27   16 36 52 15 20 5 25 5 6 80
  43.1% 35.0% 40.7%   TEAM REBS: 15 TOTAL TO: 25