With every Clippers player finally suited up and ready to play for the first time this season, it would stand to reason the Clippers stood a reasonable chance of making at least a game against the NBA defending Champion Heat. After all, the Heat were without Chris Bosh and Ray Allen, both out with the flu, so it would seem their size-challenged lineup might be susceptible to the Clippers big front line of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
But that would be, um, wrong on all counts as the Heat pummeled the albeit rusty Clippers 111-89, a score belies the beating that actually took place. The Heat lead ballooned as high as 33 points in the second half before the Clippers reserves trimmed it down in garbage time and LeBron James sat the entire 4th quarter and watched his teammates coast. The Clippers actually didn’t play all that bad, but Miami did play all that GOOD. Here are five takeaways from the game…
LeBron James is Space Jammin’
Remember the movie “Space Jam,” in which Michael Jordan is kidnapped by Bugs Bunny and recruited to play against the best players the universe had to offer? Well, consider LeBron James in alien terms. In only 31 minutes, James scored 30 ponts on 9-11 shooting (4-5 from 3 point range and 8-11 free throws), dished out 6 assists, grabbed 5 rebounds, and blocked two shots. He was so dominant that no matter who or how many defenders the Clippers threw at him, he simply brushed them off like flies and did whatever he pleased. If the defense collapsed on him driving, he’d kick the ball out to wide open shooters, if the Clippers tried to guard him with a single defender, he just shot over them or blew by for easy layups. This is the league’s best player and he will win the MVP easily, folks.
Clippers need to study Miami’s Defense
It’s not so much that the Clippers defense was bad, but if they want to be considered in the championship conversation they should simply watch as much film as they can and attempt to emulate the Heat’s smothering rim protection. The Heat rotate well, challenge every shot, and most importantly play with extreme urgency on every possession. There are no gimmes or easy fast breaks; indeed, on a steal and clear path fast break toward the rim, Eric Bledsoe seemed so paranoid about going up for a dunk that he blew an easy layup. The Heat played hard up to the very end and the Clippers need to mirror this type of effort if they want to occupy the elite status of the Heat.
Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups back, but clearly rusty
No excuses here, but Chris Paul was hardly effective in his meager 20 minutes, shooting 1-5 and handing out only 3 assists. Billups was only slightly better with 7 points on 2-5 but badly missed on three 3-pointers and dished out only 4 assists. Clearly the squad was out of sync and Paul committed 3 uncharacteristic turnovers and Miami took advantage of Paul’s layoff by double teaming him hard on every possession. Blake Griffin, freshly back from a strained hamstring, only played 24 minutes and scored a respectable 13 points on 5-7 shots, even hitting most of his free throws and pulling down 5 rebounds; however, the players will need more game time to fine tune their rotations and sharpen their offensive sets.
DeAndre Jordan still improving
Aside from his free throw shooting woes, Jordan has been sensational in his time on the court, both from a playing and energy standpoint. He led the team with 17 points, hauled in 6 rebounds, and had a nice block in his 22 minutes as he continued to show he’s capable of dominating inside – if coach Del Negro would just play him more. True, DeAndre’s minutes would have been increased had the Clippers been more competitive, but he certainly seems to be making the most of his on court playing time.
Lamar Odom and the bench disappear
Aside from Jamal Crawford’s 13 points, the vaunted Clippers bench virtually disappeared. Odom had zero points and took only three shots, collecting 5 fouls in only 22 minutes. Matt Barnes managed only 10 points, and Eric Bledsoe barely reached 7 points on 2-6 attempts. Ryan Hollins, who may have earned minutes at the expense of Rony Turiaf, was decent enough with 5 points on 2-2 shooting and 8 rebounds, but the Clippers bench was unable to match their counterparts from Miami to dent their lead in any substantial way. The embarrassment of riches that everyone feared has come to light, with too many reserves vying for too few minutes now that the starters are back. Willie Green, who has started all season long, played only 7 minutes, all at the end of the 4th quarter and the game well out of reach.
The Clippers will now travel to New York to face the Knicks, though the game is in danger of postponement due to the severe storm affecting the north east.
Tags: Blake Griffin Caron Butler Chauncey Billups Chris Paul DeAndre Jordan Eric Bledsoe Grant Hill Injury Jamal Crawford LA Clippers Lamar Odom Lob City Los Angeles Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Clippers Matt Barnes Miami Heat NBA Vinny Del Negro