This game did not go how I thought it would. I expected that the Heat would win handily, which they did, but I thought it would be about Miami overwhelming the Clippers with their superior talent. Instead, neither team was sharp, but the Clippers were just so bad that they couldn't make it a contest.
The Clippers were shooting below 40% the entire game, and missing extremely makeable shots. They were missing layups. Blake Griffin missed two dunks. The ball simply wouldn't go in the hole. And despite all of those problems, with less than two minutes to go in the third quarter, the Clippers pulled within eight points. At that point, I allowed myself to have a little hope. After all, a run of decent play and they could take the lead, and surely the Clippers wouldn't continue to shoot sub-40% from the field.
Indeed not. They quickly got much, much worse. In fact, they did not make a field goal for almost eight minutes spanning the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. Before making three straight meaningless garbage time shots in the final 85 seconds of the game, LA was 3 for 18 in the fourth quarter. Stretching back into the third, the cold spell added up to 3 for 22. For the game, they dropped down below 30% before making those last three shots. Even with those makes, they finished the game at just 32.5% - still the worst shooting performance of the season for LA. The Clippers have shot 40% or below in 10 games this season - they are 1-9 in those 10.
A terrible shooting game against any team is almost always going to result in a loss. But the Heat are not just any team. And not only did the Clippers shoot poorly, they also handled the ball poorly. They turned the ball over 20 times (7 for Baron Davis alone), another almost surefire recipe for losing. It was the seventh time this season they've committed 20 or more turnovers in a game - they are 1-6 in those games. Particularly annoying was that most of the turnovers had nothing to do with Miami's defense - the Clippers dribbled the ball off their own feet, threw bad passes, traveled, etc. Most of the turnovers were unforced errors.
So there's not a whole lot of analysis necessary here. The Clippers shot a season low percentage from the field. They committed 20 turnovers. They were outscored 36-24 in the paint (that almost never happens). The rookies, Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe, combined to shoot 0 for 12. The bench on the whole was abysmal, shooting 3 for 21 and scoring just 14 points. DeAndre Jordan was missing in action. Blake Griffin was less than sharp. Even Ralph Lawler was off his game - he kept calling Bledsoe Eric Murdoch for some reason. The Clippers, playing as they did, would have lost this game to any team in the NBA, let alone the Heat.
It's perhaps a shame that they laid such an egg in a game when the Heat weren't overly sharp themselves. It's not often that you'll hold LeBron James to 12 points on 15 shots. But Dwyane Wade was extra sharp, scoring 28 on just 14 shots, to go along with 8 assists and 8 rebounds. The Heat also made ten threes, seven of them coming from their bench. (That's another barometer for the Clippers - it's the 14th time they've given up 10 or more threes in a game, and they're 2-12 in those games.) Wade even made 3 of 4 threes himself, which is just not fair. He's a 29% three point shooter, 30% this season; when he comes down and drains a three five seconds into the shot clock, it means he's really and truly feeling it. He did that three times today.
Whether it was the extra early tip or something else, let's hope the Clippers got this game out of their system. Because if they play like this in, say Cleveland, they could be the team that ends the Cavs' losing streak. In that sense, if you're going to have a completely terrible game, it's great to do it when you had little chance of winning anyway. There's nothing to do now other than prepare for Orlando and plan to play better.
A word about the Eddie House flagrant: Look, we know these things are going to happen. No one wants to be on Blake's poster, not to mention that if you're the Heat the one thing you don't want to happen is to give Griffin a reason to wake up in this early morning game. House tried to get away with a shove that would knock Griffin out of his lane going to the basket. In a way, it was a super smart try by House - once Blake goes wheels up, it's all over, so why not try to get him early? He just happened to get him as Blake was gathering to take off, which made him vulnerable enough that House's shoulder shove took Blake down.
Whether it was a flagrant 1 or a flagrant 2 I can barely discuss anymore. The rule book description of the difference sounds like it was written by a kindergartner, and the league's application of the rule is maddeningly inconsistent. I'm fine with where they ended up on the call.
And good for Baron Davis for getting into House's grill. It seems like we're heading for punches at some point this season; eventually, Griffin is going to get taken out on a play like that, and Baron or DJ is Craig Smith is going to pop someone. But on this play, Baron handled it well. He got in House's face to let him know what he thought of the play, but he didn't get his hands up, didn't shove or punch, didn't give the refs or the league any reason to eject or suspend him.
One strange note is that both the announcer in the arena and the play-by-play indicate that they called a double technical on Baron and House. If so, why did Baron go to the line? The box score indicates that there was also a technical foul called on Miami Coach Eric Spoelstra during the game, which might explain Baron's technical free throw, but there certainly didn't seem to be any actions by Spoelstra that would have warranted a T at that point. Confusing.