|America Airlines Arena
|Mar. 10, 2008 - 4:30 PM
The Clippers play in Miami tonight against perhaps the only team they are currently capable of beating. They've lost 8 of their last 9, with the lone victory coming in double-overtime against the Kings playing without Kevin Martin and Ron Artest. Five of the losses have been by 18, 28, 30, 26 and 37. And the most recent loss featured a blown 13 point lead against the worst team in the Western Conference. It's been pretty bleak. Chris Kaman has looked a little better, but still has not come close to his early season form. Tim Thomas is 1 for 13 since returning from a groin injury. Cat Mobley is 31 for 85 (36%) during the 1-8 stretch. And Dan Dickau, ostensibly signed as the 4th string point guard before the season, has started the last two games. And although Corey Maggette and Al Thornton have been scoring well, they both turn the ball over at an alarming rate. None of this matters if the team can rally around Elton Brand when he returns - and his recent remarks make it all be certain that he'll be a Clipper sor at least one more season. But there's a right way to lose and a wrong way to lose - and the Clippers have been losing the wrong way lately.
Still, it's hard to imagine losing to the Heat without Dwyane Wade. The Clippers have been a disappointment this season, despite playing without Elton Brand to date. But the Heat were the champions of the NBA 21 months ago, and now they have the worst record in the NBA. I haven't looked it up, but I'm pretty sure that's never happened. Even the Bulls only fell to second worst, and they got rid of everyone from Michael Jordan to Phil Jackson to the ball boys. The Heat were supposed to be gearing up for another run, and certainly were one of the favorites in the East. Yes, Wade has been playing hurt - but he still managed to average almost 25 points during his 51 games, and his other numbers haven't dropped a lot either, so it hardly seems as if his ailments explain 11 wins. So if you think ClipsNation is disappointed in this season, imagine the Heatniks.
- Ricky Davis. In Wade's absence, Ricky Davis is the Heat's best perimeter scorer, and the only one even remotely capable of creating his own shot. Davis has had some big games against the Clippers playing for Boston and Minnesota - he'll have the green light tonight, so look for him to potentially have a big game.
- Kaman needs to break out. The Heat began the season with the best center tandem East of Yao and Dikembe. And as bad as Chris Kaman has looked against Shquille O'Neal over the years, he's probably looked worse against Alonzo Mourning. Well, with Mourning long gone due to a season-ending knee injury and Shaq in the desert playing for the Suns, the Heat are manning the middle with power forward Udonis Haslem, Mark Blount, and Earl Barron. If ever there were a game for Kaman to break out and dominate, this is it. He's never had a lot of success against the Heat for obvious reasons. He can take out years of frustration on Mark Blount, and really, who wouldn't want to do that?
- Avoiding the Sweep. The Heat only have 11 wins so far this season, and one of those came against the Clippers in LA back in December, 100-94. They have not beaten any team twice this season. They have lost at least once to 28 other teams. This game against the Clippers is their last chance to get a sweep this season. As embarrassing as it was to lose to Minnesota in LA, to follow that up with a loss to the Wade-less Heat, and in the process be swept by Miami, would be significantly worse.
- Shawn Marion - Alone at Last. Reports out of Phoenix implied that the Suns were willing to gamble on Shaquille O'Neal, at least in part, due to the fact that Marion was a disruptive influence on the team. He felt like he was always in the shadow of Nash and Stoudemire, that he didn't get enough credit as a superstar in his own right. Well, he's getting his wish for the final 21 games of the season, because there will be none of those other pesky superstars (or even average NBA players) to get in his way. Unfortunately, like Kenyon Martin after Jason Kidd and Joe Johnson after Steve Nash, Marion is going to find out just how easy it is to play next to a great point guard. Life without Nash is going to feature fewer fast break layups, fewer lobs for dunks, and fewer wins - by a wide margin.