Clippers Vs. Heat (Preseason) -- Game Preview -- Shanghai Surprise

Jeff Gross - Getty Images

The Clippers face the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat in the second of two preseason exhibition games in China. The Heat won the first meeting in Beijing easily, with LeBron James scoring 20. The Clippers will again be without Chris Paul as he recovers from thumb surgery. Chris Paul is expected to play in Shanghai for the first time since thumb surgery.

2012/2013 NBA Preseason
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1-1
October 13th, 2012, 9:30 PM
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Shanghai, China
NBA-TV, KFWB 980 AM
Probable Starters
Eric Bledsoe PG Norris Cole
Willie Green SG Dwyane Wade
Caron Butler SF LeBron James
Blake Griffin PF Shane Battier
DeAndre Jordan C Chris Bosh
Advanced Stats (2011/2012)
89.2 (27th of 30) Pace 91.2 (16th of 30)
108.5 (4th of 30) ORtg 106.6 (8th of 30)
105.7 (18th of 30) DRtg 100.2 (4th of 30)
Injuries
Chris Paul (thumb surgery) out probable
Mario Chalmers (quad) questionable
Chauncey Billups (Achilles surgery) out
Udonis Haslem (leg) questionable
Trey Thompkins (knee) out
Joel Anthony questionable

The Big Picture:

The Clippers and the Heat meet for the second of two exhibitions in China. The Heat won easily in Beijing on Thursday, dominating the listless Clippers on both ends of the court. Of course, that was against a Clippers team playing without Chris Paul, who will miss tonight's (or it is tomorrow's) game in Shanghai as well. LeBron James looked to be in midseason form as he carved up the Clippers for 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in limited minutes and without much effort. Dwyane Wade was a rusty 2-9 in the first game, so it could get very ugly for the Clippers if Wade plays well. For the Clippers, Blake Griffin scored 19, most of his points coming in a pretty solid third quarter. DeAndre Jordan was solid aside from his atrocious 1-10 performance at the foul line, and Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford looked good. The rest of the team left much to be desired. Eric Bledsoe will be looking to bounce back from a lackluster game in Beijing after opening the preseason with a terrific performance against the Nuggets.

The Subplots

  • [Note by Steve Perrin, 10/13/12 2:25 PM PDT ] Paul likely to play. Well, I guess I should pay more attention. As was pointed out in the comments, it seems as if Chris Paul will make his preseason debut, playing for the first time since his off-season thumb surgery. He has been participating in full contact practices since arriving in China, and according to Eric Patten of Clippers.com has been given the go ahead to play some game minutes tonight. I doubt he'll play a lot of minutes, but it will be a welcome sight to see him back on the court.
  • Comparison of key metrics. The Heat won the NBA Championship last season by being good on offense (eighth in the league) and even better on defense (fourth). The Clippers regular season offense was actually more efficient than the mighty Heat -- but their defense was much worse, so it provides a little glimpse into what will be needed in order to take the next step. Of course the Heat also stepped it up in the playoffs.
  • Goal: Play better. It doesn't matter if the Clippers win; but it would definitely be nice if they played better. They were sloppy and listless during the Beijing game, committing 25 turnovers, many of them unforced. These games don't count -- but they do count in terms of how the team is able to execute together, and Thursday was not good on that front.
  • Leslie and Blakely. Coach Vinny Del Negro has yet to play Travis Leslie, Marqus Blakely or Trent Plaisted in the preseason. None of those three are expected to be in the rotation this season of course, but one of them could make the roster, and isn't preseason the time to find out about these guys? Plaisted has no chance of making the team, but Leslie already has a contract (though I'm not completely clear on how much of his salary this season is guaranteed) and Blakely has been on the cusp of making the league a couple of times. If one of them is going to be the 15th contract this year, seems like now's the time to get them out there.
  • Bledsoe's minutes. In two preseason games, Eric Bledsoe has led the team in minutes played, logging 41 against the Heat. This is largely out of necessity; without Paul or Chauncey Billups, the Clippers only available backup at the point is training camp signee Hank Thorns. Other than Thorns, it's either Willie Green or Jamal Crawford at the point, and Green has been pretty terrible in general while Crawford has been required to score. Now, Bledsoe is young and freakishly athletic so worrying about wearing him out in preseason is probably misplaced, and getting a chance to run the team for an extended period is good experience for a youngster still developing as a point guard -- but 41 is a LOT of minutes in a meaningless game. Seems like it needs to be dialed back at least a bit.
  • Jordan's free throws. Holy FSM, that was ugly Thursday. DeAndre has always been a terrible free throw shooter, but 1-10 is by far the worst performance of his career. With more and more teams (including the Heat of course) going small, DeAndre will find himself with a physical advantage in the post many times this season. He's actually showing signs of being able to press that advantage with an improved offensive game -- but none of that matters if he can't make free throws. It's expected that reworking a shooting motion will result in a drop off before it begins to improve, but he's been at this for awhile with shooting coach Bob Thate, and also ... one for ten! It doesn't bode well for the season.
  • Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. It was just a single preseason game, but it seemed to confirm what one might have suspected about the Heat's new additions, Allen and Lewis. That is, Allen still has a lot left in the tank and could help the team immensely, but Lewis is pretty much done. Now, Lewis will probably get plenty of good looks this season and may knock down some threes, but he's not going to be able to be on the floor much. Allen on the other hand is going to be a key part of the rotation -- and could lead the league in many shooting categories like three point percentage, effective field goal percentage and the like. In general, how amazing is it that two players in the top eight all time for NBA three pointers made joined LeBron this summer? FYI, Chauncey Billups is fifth on that all time threes made list.
  • Grant Hill. Hill made his debut in a Clipper uniform on Thursday and looked solid on defense, but his shot was way off. Hill's always been a solid mid-range shooter, so one presumes he'll be fine there.
  • Lamar Odom. Odom is now 1-8 in two games back with the Clippers, and has looked beyond rusty. He has rebounded very well, which is certainly good, and still has the skill to take a rebound and head down court on the dribble. But he's tended to get in over his head when he's tried to make plays on offense, because he's just not as sharp as he needs to be. Whether it's a question of conditioning or rust or simply declining skills is impossible to say right now. The Clippers can only hope that he starts looking better.
  • Lyrical reference:

    Heat of the Moment -- Asia

    It was the heat of the moment
    Telling me what my heart meant
    The heat of the moment showed in your eyes


    OK, so I'm not exactly a fan of Asia -- though a supergroup featuring members of Yes and ELP and Roxy Music was obviously a stroke of genius. But this song does give me a chance to reference a great Seth Rogen line from The 40 Year Old Virgin: "I mean, seriously, Asia? You framed an Asia poster? How hard did the people at the frame store laugh when you brought this in?"
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