Don’t laugh, this finals match up could definitely happen…
After defeating four possible playoff teams so far this young season (Lakers, Grizzlies, Spurs, and Hawks), the Clippers face their toughest test to date, taking on the NBA Champion Miami Heat Wednesday night at Staples. This begins a brutal seven game set over 12 days against arguably the NBA’s top tier, with games against the Heat, Bulls, Spurs, Thunder, Nets, Hawks, and improved Hornets.
Last season, the Clippers earned a thrilling 95-89 overtime win over the Heat in their only meeting, with Chris Paul scoring 27 points to go along with 11 assists. Caron Butler and Blake Griffin had 20 points apiece, with Chauncey Billups adding 12 to register the upset. LeBron missed several free throws down the stretch that could have tied or outright won it in regulation. He finished with 23 points, Mario Chalmers and Dwayne Wade chipping in 18 and 17, respectively, Chris Bosh tallying 16 points and 11 boards.
This season, the Heat will be battling the inevitable letdown after winning a title, but so far are off to a 6-2 start with impressive victories over the Celtics, Rockets, Hawks, and Nuggets (notwithstanding blowout losses to the Knicks and Grizzlies). LeBron James is once again the Heat’s unstoppable force, averaging just shy of 24 points (4th in the league), 10 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. The Heat rank 1st in the league in scoring, but only 24th in points allowed, meaning the Clippers can probably score quite a few points with CP3 leading the way and a high octane, Jamal Crawford led bench that ranks 3rd in the NBA in efficiency to keep things moving. The Heat aren’t a particularly good rebounding team, either, ranking only 25th, meaning the Clippers can rely on Blake and Jordan to do a service able job on the glass and get out for some easy transition baskets. The Heat have added Ray Allen this season, so the Clippers’ propensity for giving up lots of threes may be an Achilles heal the Heat can attack; however, with a raucous crowd behind them, the Clippers will be primed to make a statement and have tended to play up to their competition.
My prediction: Clippers 112, Heat 108.