Tonight’s matchup for the Los Angeles Clippers (3-2) is a great display of perception versus reality.
The Miami Heat (3-2) are who the Clippers aspire to be. Miami has the glamor, the superstar, the regular season success and most importantly a championship or two to lean on when things go opposite as planned. They lose a few games, no one worries how much it correlates to the teams chances to win in the playoffs. Benefit of the doubt is a huge friend of theirs.
And it’s something the Clippers would love to have. One loss to a Los Angeles Lakers team that’s devoid of talent and the buzz about the Clippers were the same. “New coach, same results”, “never trust the Clippers” or “same ol’ Clippers”. A loss to a hungry Orlando Magic team has fed into those same quotes. When it comes down to it, not many are comfortable with claiming Los Angeles as contenders.
But with every idea that is broken, there’s a starting point. Beating the defending champions in Miami could be just that for LA. Make no mistake, a win here doesn’t mean Chris Paul and company automatically get thrusted into the championship favorites contender, but as far as creating reassurance throughout the league, this helps.
Two Things to Watch:
1) Limiting 3-Pointers
This Miami Heat shot chart says everything you need to know about the way they approach the game. It’s a pick your poison affair: do you let the three stars in Chris Bosh, Lebron James and Dwyane Wade do the bulk of the scoring or attempt to limit their effectiveness in the pain by forcing the others to beat you. Since the 2011-12 season the Heat are 39-1 when they make 10 or more threes in a game. They’re 76-37 when making 9 or less. Those win-loss numbers say everything that needs to be said.
2) Who Dictates the Playing Style?
Over the past few years the Heat’s best play has come when Erik Spoelstra plays one big and four wings. This season the Clippers best play has come with 3 wings and two bigs on the floor. Both teams play at fast paces and excel in fast breaks situations, but the personnel on the floor will matter most tonight. The absence of Matt Barnes hurts the Clippers ability to go small as Rivers hoped to play a lot of Dudley-Barnes at the 3 and 4 over the break. Reggie Bullock and Willie Green will be Barnes replacement, both who lack in size to guard athletic wings, so expect to see a lot of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Whichever head coach caves first and plays into the style of the opposition will likely be the one who walks away from tonight with a loss.
Clippers win 108-104