Clippers vs. Miami - Game Preview

2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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4-3
8-2
Staples Center
January 11th, 2012, 7:30 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, ESPN, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul PG Mario Chalmers
Chauncey Billups SG Dwyane Wade
Caron Butler SF LeBron James
Blake Griffin PF Chris Bosh
DeAndre Jordan C Joel Anthony

The Back Story:

First meeting of the season. The teams split the two game season series last year each winning at home.

The Big Picture:

It was almost exactly a year ago (364 days, to be exact) that the Clippers beat the Heat in Staples Center for what was probably their biggest win of 2011. That was then. For this Clippers team, expectations are higher, and a win at home over even a top team has to be expected - it can't be the highlight of the entire season. That's not to say that a win is at all certain, but the mindset has to be different this season. It is not a matter of getting sky high for a single win; it's a matter of taking care of the home court no matter who is in town. Regardless, the Clippers will need Chris Paul to break out of his mini-slump. An average of 10 points and 5 assists over the last two games is not enough.

The Antagonist:

The good news is that Miami played an overtime game in Oakland last night. The bad news is that Dwyane Wade returned to the lineup and must have felt pretty good since he scored 34 minutes and played 37 minutes. The other bad news is that the Heat lost, making it unlikely that they'll be complacent in this game. LeBron James is leading the league in scoring so far, at a shade under 30 per game. Along with Wade, the two of them comprise by far the best wing tandem in the league, which could give the Clippers diminutive guards big trouble.

The Subplots

  • Quick Preview. It's late, I'm mad about the Portland loss, and I'm tired. This will probably be a short preview. Maybe I'll add stuff to it during the day Wednesday.
  • [Note by Steve Perrin, 01/11/12 3:29 PM PST ] Wade back-to-back? According to Marc Spears, Wade may try avoiding back-to-backs because of his recent foot issues. "Wade said he’s not certain to play on the second night of some back-to-backs, including Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers." I've seen no official indication as to whether he will play versus the Clippers tonight or not.
  • Tough loss to start a tough stretch. We knew this set of games was going to be difficult. The Clippers lost in Portland last night in a game that they could have won with a more typical performance from Chris Paul. It's Miami tonight and the Lakers tomorrow, and ideally the Clippers will win both, but I'd settle for a split at this point.
  • 1/12/11 to 1/11/12. Pretty weird about the dates of last year's home game versus the Heat and tonight's game, right? The game last year was probably the most fun of the season. The Heat came into the game riding a record setting 14 game road winning streak. The Clippers were flying high the entire game and the crowd was completely nuts. I assume the energy will be similar tonight.
  • PER 25. James and Wade both had regular season PERs above 25 last year (27.3 and 25.6 respectively, to be exact). I decided to check some rather famous duos to see how many teammates had put up 25s in the same season. Shaq and Kobe didn't do it. Jordan and Pippen didn't do it. Stockton and Malone didn't do it. In fact, I could only find one pair that has accomplished the feat in over 30 years: Kareem and Magic, in 80-81, Magic's second season in the league.
  • By the way. You know that 27.3 PER for James last year? His PER so far this season is over 35. That's just crazy.
  • Improved bench? It isn't saying much, but the Heat bench has been better this season than last. Udonis Haslem is healthy, Shane Battier has been added to the mix, and rookie point guard Norris Cole is contributing. It's still three guys and a bunch of role players, but the role players appear to be marginally better.
  • Winning some matchups. The Clippers are going to get killed on the wings. Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups are nice players, but James and Wade are in another zip code. No one in the league can guard James, and I suppose Butler has as much chance as anyone, but Wade is going to feast on the small Clipper backcourt all night. Which all means that the Clippers have got to dominate the other matchups. Chris Paul has simply got to break out of his slump and feast on Mario Chalmers, while Griffin and Jordan have got to dominate the inside. It's the only way to win this one.
  • Griffin versus Bosh. The good news is that Blake Griffin should be able to overpower the pillow soft Bosh in the paint. In fact, don't be surprised if Eric Spoelstra assigns LeBron to defend Griffin at some point in the game.
  • Rotations. After the Milwaukee game, I wondered if perhaps Vinny Del Negro shouldn't consider playing Ryan Gomes at the four at times, leaving Brian Cook on the bench. Last night in Portland, after Cookie (ClipperZoe calls him Crocker after the hunched villain of Fairly Odd Parents fame) posted a jaw dropping minus 14 in less than 5 minutes of first half action, VDN did just that in the second half. In fact, Gomes could get minutes at both the two and the four tonight, since he may also be needed to help contain Wade. Oh, and surely we won't see the three guard rotation tonight, right Vinny?
  • Cook. Not to beat a dead horse, but the guy is 6 for 28 shooting on the season - and that's supposedly the thing he does well.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    heat

    n.
    Gun(s)

    We gotta pack some serious heat for this drive by
  • Get the Heat perspective at Peninsula is Mightier.
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