Tonight’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the defending champion Miami Heat was more than just a match-up of two of the NBA’s most talented teams.
The two rosters bolster a combined 10 All-Stars with 56 All-Star Game nods between them.
Additionally, the game would feature a handful of the NBA’s most freakish athletes in Dwyane Wade, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Eric Bledsoe (we’ll get to an incredible play of his a little later) and the incomparable LeBron James.
This game was bound to be fun, and it certainly lived up to the hype.
To start the game, the energy in Staples Center was palpable and both teams came out lighting it up.
Starting quarters off hot would become a recurring theme on the night for the Clippers.
The Clippers jumped out to an 8-2 start, but as predicted, the lead wouldn’t last for long against this talented Miami Heat team.
The Heat would not play flawless basketball, with the Clippers forcing them into five turnovers in the first period of play.
Blake Griffin did something he hadn’t done too much of during this young season: get out to a fast start scoring the ball in the first quarter.
Griffin had 11 points after the first period of play, already more than half of his scoring average on the season. Griffin would make five shots in the first quarter, and as a good sign of improvement on his jump shooting game, three of the makes were from 16 feet and beyond.
Jamal Crawford, as he’s done for the Clippers seemingly every game this season, game in and immediately made an impact. His first three shot attempts were all makes, with the latter of the three being a well-contested, high-arcing three point that not many would take, let alone make.
After one period of play, the Clippers were up one on the Heat, 25-24.
But in the second quarter, Rashard Lewis, a guy who is regaining a formerly lost scoring touch, began to knock down some big shots for the Heat. Lewis would hit three three-pointers in the quarter, en route to the Heat posting a big 30-point quarter.
The early contender for play of the game happened with 9:56 to go in the second quarter, and boy did it set the Twittersphere abuzz.
And no, it oddly wasn’t this big-time throwdown by DeAndre Jordan from Blake Griffin.
Why don’t I set the scene for you.
Dwyane Wade was off on on a fast break when Eric Bledsoe caught up and… well… see for yourself.
Uh… yeah. Whoa.
Here’s how much buzz Bledsoe’s block brewed up.
But apparently his block wasn’t good enough to dethrone the hashtag #WhenIDrink. Oh Twitter.
Caron Butler would hit a triple right before the half to cut the Heat’s lead to two, and the score at halftime would see the Heat head to their locker room in front 54-52.
But much like the first half, the Clippers came out hot to start the second half. Backed by some good defense and a pair of Willie Green three-balls, a quick 10-2 run gave the Clippers a six point edge, matching their largest lead of the game leading up to that point.
Like in most games, you’ll have a particular play, shot or defensive stand that can be marked as the game’s “turning point.”
Chris Paul made sure the turning point was going to benefit his team.
Nursing a 74-72 lead as the two minute mark drew near in the third, Paul hit a deep, deep three from 32 feet out and then would hit another big triple on the next possession (those would be two of his three made baskets on the game).
The Clippers finished the third quarter strong and would lead by 11 going into the fourth, outscoring the Heat 33-20 in the period.
Then, just like in the third quarter, the Clippers got off to a 10-2 start in the fourth quarter.
One play that stood out was, not surprisingly, from Bledsoe again. Early in the fourth quarter, he would take a bad shot early in the shot clock from the right baseline, beat Dwyane Wade to his own rebound despite being out near the three point line, go up and lay it in uncontested. A quick timeout from Eric Spoelstra would follow.
Bledsoe would record the Clippers’ first eight points in the fourth quarter, and he and the rest of the bench would again be the difference for the Clippers in this ball game.
Backed by superb bench play, the Clippers would reach Lawler’s Law tonight, eclipsing the 100 point mark just before the halfway point in the fourth.
But as I mentioned earlier, don’t ever count the Heat out of any ball game.
Backed by none other than LeBron James, the Heat would make a solid run and cut what was a 19-point Clipper lead at the 6:48 mark down to 11 three minutes later, but by then, the game would prove to be out of reach.
Coach Spoelstra would wave the white flag and throw in the towel after opting to pull his starters with under three minutes to go.
At the final buzzer, the Clippers would emerge victorious for the third time in a row over the Miami Heat at Staples Center, with tonight’s game being a 107-100 final.
- The Clippers have now won four in a row following two brutal back-to-back home losses to the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Blake Griffin had one of his most complete games of the early season tonight. Griffin would tally up 20 points on 50% shooting (although he was bothered a few times when Spoelstra assigned Shane Battier to pester him on defense), 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocked shots. His fast start set the tone for the Clippers and was a big boost for the home team coming out of the gate.
- The bench was huge. Again. It’s becoming a broken record that the Clippers feel is music to their ears. The Clippers’ bench would pour in 41 of the team’s 107 points on the game and would be the main reason behind the Clippers stretching their lead to 19 points at multiple occasions in the fourth quarter.
- For the fifth time in eight games, Jamal Crawford would lead the Clippers in scoring. With an über-efficient 22 points on 7-of-11 shooting, Crawford was again a difference maker in the game and is flourishing in his role with a level of confidence that makes the Clippers even scarier than they already are. Oh, and if you want to see Crawford go to work on Ray Allen, click here. His Twitter handle isn’t @jcrossover for nothing.
- The Clippers won the battle of the boards. After starting the season as one of the league’s worst rebounding teams, the Clippers have certainly been rounding into mid-season form on the glass. They’d outrebound the Heat by two tonight, making it the third time in four games that the Clippers would hold the rebounding advantage over their opponents (not surprisingly, the Clippers won all three of those games).
- Eric Bledsoe did it all right when they need him to. His big block in the second quarter will get all the highlights, but Bledsoe would outscore the Heat himself 8-to-2 to start the fourth, stretching the lead from 11 to 17 points. He’d finish with 12 points on the night, but those eight points truly helped seal the deal for the Clippers tonight.
- Chris Paul isn’t scoring as much as Clippers fans would have thought, but that can actually be considered a good thing. It has only led to Paul distributing the ball as well as he ever has in his brilliant seven-plus year career. Paul was again in double digits in the assist column tonight, lending a helping hand on 10 made baskets tonight. However, he did contribute by scoring the ball, netting 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter to help build an 11-point lead heading into the final period of play. The Clippers are dangerous when their stars are good scoring the ball, but they’re even more deadly when they win games without Paul and Griffin each scoring 20+ points per game.
- Lamar Odom played an active 16 minutes. Odom didn’t record a shot attempt, but he grabbed three rebounds, pilfered in two steals and added an assist. He played with better energy and had a beautiful entry pass down low to Eric Bledsoe cutting underneath the basket, leading to Bledsoe being fouled. It was a vintage Lamar Odom pass. It was something Clippers fans hadn’t seen yet in him this season. It may be a minute play like that that could prove to be a turning point in both his confidence and conversely, his overall game.
- There were so many turnovers between these two teams tonight that you could’ve opened up a bakery right at half court. The Clippers would force the Heat into 19 turnovers, but would also cough it up 18 times themselves. They’ve been bitten by the turnover bug all year, which is so atypical of the team after being so sure-handed a year ago (the Clippers were the second best team at protecting the ball in the 2011-12 season).
- LeBron James would do his thing (30 points), but the rest of the Big Three was shut down offensively. Dwyane Wade (who was a game-time decision going into tonight’s game) would have only six points and Chris Bosh would pitch in 11, with the two going a combined 5-of-23 from the floor.
Overall, it was another excellent win for the Clippers, who move to 6-2 on the year, but they are yet to be tested on the road (only one true road game considering their only other “away” game was against the Lakers). But fear not, the Clippers have stiff road tests against the Spurs, Thunder, Nets and Hawks, starting on Monday.
But before then, the Clippers will have a few days of rest before hosting the 5-3 Chicago Bulls on Saturday at 6:00 pm. The Clippers will have their hands full on the boards with Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng all averaging more than seven rebounds per game, and will surely want to hit the road on a high note.