The Back Story (The Heat swept the season series last season 2-0):
|11/07/13||Miami||Heat 102, Clippers 97||Recap||Box|
|02/05/14||Los Angeles||Heat 116, Clippers 112||Recap||Box|
The Big Picture:
The Clippers have been incredibly unimpressive to begin the season. But maybe they just needed a road trip to bring them together as a group. If that's really it, then they're in luck, because this afternoon in Miami is game 2 of a seven game trip, one they opened with their easiest win of the season yesterday in Orlando. Old folks from the Northeast have for years headed south to Florida for health reasons -- for their arthritis or their asthma or their consumption or whatever old timey disease those people get. Now maybe the Clippers can get to feeling better as a team in Florida. There is something to be said for the bonding experience of the road trip, and this is the first extended trip of the season. Away from the distractions of home, will this Clippers team finally find itself?
These are not the same Miami Heat as we've seen the last few seasons. There's no LeBron James, which is pretty much all you need to know. But as if that weren't enough, both Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng (who switched places with James, moving from Cleveland to the Heat in the off-season) are doubtful for this game. The Heat began the season hot, but it felt like they were overachieving. Sure enough, after opening 5-2, they lost three in a row before beating the Nets on Monday. If they are without Wade and Deng, the pressure will really be on leading scorer Chris Bosh, who must feel like he's back in Toronto they way he's having to carry this Miami team right now.
- Comparison of key metrics. Last season these were the top two offensive teams in the league. So far this season? Not so much. For the Heat, we know why that is. For the Clippers? Again, not so much. The safe bet is that the Clippers offense will be fine. As for Miami, it's clear that coach Eric Spoelstra is taking a different approach in the post LeBron era -- they played at one of the fastest paces in the league last season, but are 28th three weeks into the season. Makes sense -- when LeBron is on your team, you want lots of possessions.
- TNT. The Inside the NBA crew at TNT is going to absolutely crucify the Clippers on National TV tonight -- and it will be difficult to fault them. Whatever they want to call the Clippers three weeks into the season -- flat, disinterested, complacent, boring, unimaginative, stagnant, porous, pretenders -- there's ample evidence to back it up right now. It won't be fun to hear -- I probably won't listen.
- Orlando. Yes, it was as easy win. But it didn't really feel like the problems were solved. Chris Paul had a good game. But J.J. Redick was still ice cold. And Jamal Crawford was unsustainably hot. It was nice to see them finally put a team away certainly, and if Jordan Farmar and Matt Barnes are out of their respective funks, that's something. But it still didn't feel great. Did it? Am I being overly harsh?
- Slumps busted? Farmar was shooting 29% prior to Orlando. Barnes was shooting 39%. Last night they were a combined 9-15 with six three pointers. One game doesn't constitute a vanquished slump, but it's a start. Now if only J.J. (37% and 1 for 6 last night) can get going.
- Alternating wins and losses. The Clippers opened the season with (unimpressive) consecutive wins over the Thunder and the Lakers. Since then, they've alternated wins and losses, never loses two in a row, but neither winning two straight since Halloween. Let's hope they can end this pattern tonight.
- Rested Heat. While the Clippers are on a road back-to-back having played in Orlando last night, the Heat are well-rested, having last played on Monday. The good news is that the Clippers were able to take the fourth quarter off against the Magic, and no one played more than 30 minutes. Combined with the short trip to Miami, you can't ask for much more on the opening night of a back-to-back.
- Hedo Turkoglu, small forward. Through most of his very successful NBA career, Hedo Turkoglu has played small forward. When he first signed with the Clippers, we thought it was strange since at the time the Clippers seemed to have bigger needs at the bigger positions. In reality, Doc Rivers has played Turkoglu exclusively at the stretch four since his arrival in LA -- until yesterday. With the Clippers desperately searching for someone who could provide some production at the three (and with many of us wondering if a big lineup with Blake Griffin on the wing might make sense) we had all forgotten about Hedo as an option. In 15 minutes last night in Orlando, all of them coming at the three (including some in an ultra big lineup with DeAndre Jordan and Spencer Hawes) Turkoglu was +12. It's certainly not a great solution -- he's not going to be mistaken for a wing stopper -- but he's smart, he can make plays on offense, and he's shooting out of his mind right now (though he did finally miss a shot, his first miss of the season). Nothing else is working -- so why not?
- Bosh. Chris Bosh, out of the shadow of James and with Wade clearly on the decline, scored 21 or more in the first six games of the season. He's scored 20 or less -- sometimes a lot less -- in the last five games. He had a 2-17 game on Sunday and was 3-13 a week ago. The Heat won't be a great team this season, but they can be pretty good if Bosh is good. If not?
- Clippers-Heat rivalry. Until the Heat swept them last season (thanks in part to a Chris Paul-less game at STAPLES in February) the Clippers and Heat had been splitting games for six straight seasons. But the Clippers haven't won in Miami since a one point squeaker in March 2008.
- The comfort of the road. Obviously teams lose more games on the road for a reason. But sometimes, just maybe, it's what a team needs. The Clippers' disappointing 5-4 start came on eight games in LA and one in Oakland. This is their first extended trip of the season, and with Doc Rivers' laissez faire practice schedule, it's probably the first time they've spent two days in a row together since training camp. Matt Barnes has marital problems, J.J. and Blake have babies, everyone has distractions in their home town -- for a team that has seemed distracted on the court, maybe the road is the best place to be right now.
- FanDuel. Don't forget to sign up for FanDuel, SB Nation's fantasy hoops partner.
- Connections. Danny Granger played with the Clippers after the trade deadline last season and into the playoffs before signing with the Heat this summer. Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo is the only league MVP in Clippers franchise history, having won the honor in 1975 with the Buffalo Braves before the team moved west. There's a strong Duke presence in this game, with J.J. Redick of the Clippers and Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts and rookie Andre Dawkins on the Heat. Deng and Redick were teammates during Deng's only season in Durham and McRoberts was Redick's teammate two seasons after that.
- Get the Heat perspective at Hot Hot Hoops
- Wikipedia entry: Heat is a 1995 American action film written, produced and directed by Michael Mann, and starring Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer. The film was released in the United States on December 15, 1995. De Niro plays Neil McCauley, a professional thief, while Pacino plays Lt. Vincent Hanna, a veteran L.A.P.D. robbery-homicide detective tracking down McCauley's crew. The central conflict is based on the experiences of former Chicago police officerChuck Adamson and his pursuit in the 1960s of a criminal named McCauley, after whom De Niro's character is named. Heat was a critical and commercial success, grossing $67 million in the United States and $187 million worldwide (about $290 million in 2014).