In the aftermath of a solid victory over Atlanta on Sunday afternoon, the Clippers can hardly afford to waste their 2 day break before their next game. Why? Their opponents: the defending NBA Champions, the Miami Heat.
Before we get into anything else, it's important to pay tribute and show some respect for Miami. They did it. They put together a team, and won a championship. People can hate on LeBron, and say they didn't build their team "the right way"... what's the "right way" again? I'm pretty sure that if you have two conference titles and a Larry O'Brien trophy in your first two years together you're doing something right.
However, maybe the Heat should be a little more keyed up for this matchup than others on their 5-game western trip: the Clippers have won 2 out of 3 matchups against Miami since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwayne Wade in South Beach.
It started in Blake Griffin's rookie year, when on January 12th, 2011 the Heat came to the City of Angels with a .750 winning percentage to play a team who boasted a victory percentage of less than half of that stellar mark. Despite having all of their superstars score over 25 points, and winning the rebounding battle, the Heat fell to the then-Baron Davis led Clippers in overtime.
Remember Eddie House decking Blake as he went to finish a lob from Baron? Remember Blake's squabble with Mario Chalmers followed by a poster and the textbook "Blake Face" staredown? Remember Baron Davis logging 20 points and 9 assists in one of his finer Clippers performances while Eric Gordon finished with 26 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds and the Rookie of the Year-to-be Blake Griffin exploded for 24 points, 16 boards, and 6 assists?
Remember Ryan Gomes (Ryan freaking Gomes!?!?!?!?) guarding LeBron James for most of the night?
When the Clippers played in Miami a little less than a month later, the magic couldn't be repeated. Without Gordon, the Clippers played a solid game but shot a measly 32.5% from the field and fell by 18- despite Blake Griffin adding 21 points and grabbing 16 rebounds again.
Then, just a day before the 1-year anniversary of the Clippers defeat of the Heat in Los Angeles, the two teams faced off again on January 11th of this year. It was a completely different atmosphere- the Clippers were no longer a young team who could shock the league's best. They had added Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Caron Butler, and once again the Clips would figure out a way to best the first modern 'super-team' in overtime at Staples Center.
Blake Griffin would have another impressive game, scoring 20 points and notching 12 boards, while Chris Paul was the player we saw in big games all last season, finishing with 27 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals while playing 45 of the 53 minutes in a nationally televised overtime thriller. Even DeAndre Jordan helped out, with 8 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks in the game.
LeBron was only 9-17 on free throws on the night, including several key misses near the end of regulation that could have won the game for Miami. When Chris Paul missed a shot as time expired in the fourth quarter, the teams began an overtime period that the Clippers would take 9-3 in order to secure their 6th win of the young season.
Due to the shortened nature of the schedule last season, we were deprived of a Clippers-Heat matchup in South Beach during the 2012 campaign, but worry not: the Clippers will travel to Miami for a Friday night ESPN game in February of 2013.
But as we approach Wednesday night's highly-anticipated game against the NBA's reigning champions, know that the game will be played at Staples Center, and know that the Heat have yet to beat the Clippers at Staples Center since the formation of the Big Three. Know that Blake Griffin has career splits of 22 and 14 against Miami. Know that the Clippers protect their home court (24-9 in games where Chris Paul plays since his arrival).
Know that Heat players like Mario Chalmers want revenge against Blake Griffin.
Know that Chris Paul wants to win against his friend LeBron James.
Know that the Heat know that they haven't won in Staples Center on the Clippers court, and know that they want it.
And Know that the Clippers are going to do everything they can to keep it that way, and with two days off with no travel before hand for preparation and two days off with no travel after for rest, LAC will be giving everything they have come 7:45 on ESPN Wednesday Night.