Los Angeles Clippers at Miami HEAT Game Preview
Photo Credit: Issac Baldizon
The Miami HEAT host the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Get your tickets now! The HEAT defeated the Clippers 104-101 in their last meeting on Nov. 5. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.
1: What did you like most about Miami’s win in Charlotte?
Couper Moorhead: This felt like a formulaic win for the HEAT, which is a good thing. They defended consistently throughout the game, they hit their threes with Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington shooting 9-of-14 from deep and, in putting both those aspects together, outscored the other team’s bench. And then the lead they build from that was enough to absorb a late run by the best player on the opposing team. That’s how this Miami team can win consistently.
But Johnson and Ellington shooting like this, and by this we mean they’ve been both been hot for about 10 days now, brings up another point that’s always healthy to make. At some point, they will both cool off. If they stay cool long enough, people will begin to wonder what is going on with their jumpers (as happened with Johnson early this season). That’s not how the narrative should operate. Both are proven shooters, and shooters can be streaky – or perhaps a better word is cyclical. For every time you are scorching hot, you’ll have other games when you aren’t shooting as well. That’s how percentages balance themselves out. Enjoy the hot streak while it happens, just treat it as much like an outlier as the valleys.
Joe Beguiristain: I liked that the HEAT dominated on both ends of the floor for pretty much the entire contest, as seven Miami players scored in double-figures and the Hornets shot just 41 percent on the night. As Coup mentioned above, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Johnson led the way, but James Johnson and Goran Dragić also had strong performances.
JJ picked up steam in the second quarter with aggressive attacks to the basket and some nice feeds to his teammates, while Dragić got into the paint often and led the team with seven assists.
Another encouraging thing about Friday night was how the HEAT responded to adversity. Even though Kemba Walker went off in the fourth, Dion Waiters hit an important bucket with 1:09 left and Miami got enough stops down the stretch.
As Erik Spoelstra said after the game, “You have to be prepared to play a full 48 minutes. I like our guys having to go through all that stress and anxiety and have to execute under duress…in context of a close game.”
2: What we did learn from the last game with the Clippers and what has changed since then?
Couper: The most important changes are health related, as Patrick Beverley underwent knee surgery and is out for the season while Blake Griffin suffered a knee injury and was declared out for up to two months in late November. With Danilo Gallinari in and out of the lineup and now Austin Rivers out Friday night with a concussion, there’s been a struggle for consistency despite remaining in the Top 15 offensively (though that ranking figures to drop the more time Griffin misses).
As for the lesson of that game, it was one Miami has learned a couple times this season which is that no matter how good your offense is early on and how much you’re able to stretch a lead, it’s your defense in the second half that holds off the opponent. The HEAT led by as much as 25 points in the second half but the Clippers stormed back in the final period, scoring 35. The HEAT may have gone cold down the stretch, but if you don’t allow an explosive scoring period the game doesn’t come down to a Griffin jumper missing the target in the final seconds.
Joe: It’s hard to glean too much from that last game in terms of individual performances since Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers and Hassan Whiteside will all be out this time around. That said, the HEAT should be wary of Lou Williams, who was the catalyst in the Clippers’ comeback bid.
Since then, Williams has actually played even better. With so many guys hurt, the 31-year-old vet has seen a major uptick in minutes over the past month or so. In fact, Williams has averaged 23.3 points, 5.7 assists and 1.2 steals in 35.1 minutes per game over his last 17 outings.
We also should mention Miloš Teodosić, who missed that last matchup in early November. Teodosić is currently on a minutes restriction since he’s easing his way back from a plantar fascia injury, but he’s a fantastic passer who makes LA’s offense run much smoother.
3: Without Blake Griffin, who will Miami have to focus on stopping defensively?
Couper: While it depends on whether or not Gallinari or Rivers are available to play, the man who can do a ton of damage (and is using 28 percent of the team’s offensive possessions with Blake out) is Lou Williams. While he may not be an All-Star, Williams has some of the elite skills of one as he’s capable of shooting and making off the dribble just about anywhere on the floor and doubles as one of the best in the league at getting to the free-throw line. Given that Miami’s recent slate of games has included Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Kemba Walker, they’ll be practiced at using the same coverage (should they choose to do so) against Williams and force him to give the ball up. Because if you give him space, he’s going to shoot. After that, do your best not to foul. Easier said than done.
Joe: Like I stated in my previous response, Williams really is the guy Miami has to watch out for. Although he’s not as proficient in the pick-and-roll as Damian Lillard or Kemba Walker, he can still hit some really tough shots like both of those guys. A perfect example of that came on Dec.9 when he hit a well-contested three with 1.2 seconds left to give the Clippers a narrow victory over the Wizards.
Since Williams is one of the only offensive threats on LA thanks to all the injuries (especially if Danilo Gallinari can’t play), it’ll behoove the HEAT to play up on him and make nothing come easy. As long as Miami sticks to its principles and minimizes its mistakes, all should be fine.
- The HEAT have won three of four and are 14-14.
- The Clippers have also won three of four, but they enter the contest at 11-16.
- Erik Spoelstra is one win away from breaking Pat Riley’s record for most regular season wins in franchise history.
- DeAndre Jordan leads Los Angeles in rebounds (14.7) and blocks (1.1) per game.
- HEAT Offense: 102.5 (23)
- HEAT Defense: 104.4 (13)
- Clippers Offense: 105.0 (15)
- Clippers Defense: 106.9 (20)