PREGAME REPORT | FEBRUARY 8, 2013
Tipoff: 5:00 p.m. PST | AmericanAirlines Arena | Miami, FL | Game Notes »
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MIAMI – The cavalry may be coming, minute limitations and all.
After winning two nights ago without four of their most prominent players, the Clippers (35-16) may get all of them back for Friday’s marquee matchup with the Miami Heat.
The game marks the sixth game of the Clippers’ eight-game trek across the Midwest and Atlantic coast. And while Chris Paul (bruised right kneecap), Blake Griffin (strained left hamstring), Chauncey Billups (peroneal tendinitis left foot) and Jamal Crawford (sore right shoulder) could be in the lineup, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro says they will remain game-time decisions. He also said Thursday that no matter which of the plays they will likely be closely monitored in terms of their minutes.
All four players participated in Thursday’s practice at American Airlines Arena and were involved in Friday morning’s shoot-around. The Clippers are 13-3 with their projected starting lineup of Paul, Billups, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler in the last two seasons.
“The bar just goes to a whole other level,” Butler said when asked about the lineup. “We were playing great basketball, winning 17 in a row and making history pretty much every time we’d step on the floor. To insert some of these guys back into the lineup, we still have those same expectations.”
The defending champion Heat (32-14) are in the midst of a five-game home stand and have won three in a row and four of their last five. However, they are also fighting through a bout with the flu. After their morning shoot-around Head Coach Erik Spoelstra ruled Ray Allen out and said that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will be game-time decisions.
It’s the second and final time the Clippers have faced the Eastern Conference’s top team after winning 107-100 in L.A. on Nov. 14.
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 86, Magic 76: Youngsters Eric Bledsoe and Jordan took snapping the Clippers’ three-game losing streak into their own hands Wednesday. Bledsoe scored a career-high 27 points with six rebounds and six assists, while Jordan threw down his seventh double-double providing 13 points and 14 rebounds. The Clippers pulled away from Orlando in the second half, despite playing without Griffin, Paul, Crawford and Billups.
With only nine available players, reserve center Ryan Hollins earned an opportunity to perhaps see more minutes going forward. He scored 13 points with eight rebounds and was on the court for most of the fourth quarter, finishing with a season-high 24 minutes.
“[Hollins] really helped us win the basketball game,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “His energy was great. He scored. He did some really good things for us.”
Heat 114, Rockets 108: Wade and LeBron James combined for 64 points and the Heat blistered the high-scoring Rockets en route to a 17-point lead in the second half. But the visiting Rockets battled to within a possession in the fourth quarter before three key defensive plays effectively sealed the game for Miami. The Heat built their lead, in part, by scoring 20 points off turnovers and converting 10 3-pointers, offsetting 36 points from All-Star James Harden.
Blake Griffin vs. LeBron James. They don’t play the same position in the starting lineup, but if Griffin is able to go it is a near certainty that he and James will matchup at different points in the game. In the last two weeks, two of Miami’s three most-used lineups have featured James at power forward and Griffin, prior to sustaining the strained hamstring, had played about a month’s worth of games that resembled James. He averaged 23.2 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals in a five-game week in January. The last player to produce such gaudy numbers in a five-game week: James in 2005.
James, a three-time MVP, has continued his statistical dominance of the league this season. He’s scored 30-plus points in the last three games, albeit against Toronto, Charlotte and Houston, and has scored 20 or more points in all but one game this season.
Griffin and James are arguably the most exciting players in the league, in part, because of their mesmerizing ability to finish at the rim. They are the top two players in the NBA in field goal percentage in the restricted area (minimum 250 attempts) with James shooting a gaudy 75.6% and Griffin behind him at 71.9%.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Protecting the rock. The Heat have a record of 20-2 when they force 15 or more turnovers. Without Paul, the Clippers have struggled at times protecting the ball. But they only committed three turnovers in the second half versus Orlando and with the return of Paul and Billups seemingly imminent that could return things to normalcy, when L.A. was among the most efficient offenses in basketball.
Still, the Heat’s defensive prowess is not lost on the Clippers in their game preparation. “In the pick and roll we’re probably going to see a little more blitz coverage,” Butler said. “They’re going try to take the ball out of some of our guys’ hands. We’ve just got to prepared on the weak side and ready for that opportunity.”
Who will play. Spoelstra joked at shoot-around about throwing teams curveballs based on fluctuating lineups. But Bosh, one of the Heat’s three All-Stars, missed the Houston game with the flu and could be out again Friday. James was coughing as well. There is a chance Miami could be without three of their best four players, while the Clippers may get there’s back. While it remains up in the air for Friday, Billups said it will feel good whenever the time comes.
“It is going to feel good,” Billups said. “When you’re out there you really are a part of it... When you’re on the sideline in a suit you feel kind of helpless.”
The Clippers are 3-1 against the Heat since Blake Griffin’s rookie season… Heat center Chris Andersen, who was signed to a second 10-day contract on Jan. 30, scored a season-high nine points against the Pacers Feb. 1 and had a season-high six rebounds two games later against Charlotte… Miami is 8-2 in their last 10 games… The Heat are shooting 49% from the field, a franchise high… Butler, who was drafted by the Heat in 2000, is two points shy of 11,000 for his career. He will become the 48th active player in the NBA to reach that milestone… Ronny Turiaf, who won his first NBA title with Miami last year, will receive his championship ring prior to the game.
On the heels of being named to the 2013 Sprite Slam Dunk, Bledsoe said he is going to start practicing for the event “pretty soon.”
“Some of the guys are going to give some ideas on what they think I should do,” Bledsoe said. “I’ve got something, too.”
Bledsoe added that Paul helped talk him into it. “He was probably pushing me the most out of everybody. He was pushing me and DJ (Jordan) because he thought somebody from our team should do it because he was the captain.”
Paul was named the captain for the Western Conference in the newly formatted All-Star Saturday Night which pits East versus West. Wade is the captain of the Eastern Conference squad.
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