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Clippers vs. Heat Preview: LA returns home to host ailing Miami

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The Clippers get a reprieve from the schedule makers tonight as they face a depleted Miami team at Staples Center.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

When: 7:30 PST

How to watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups:

LA Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat

Miami Heat: Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, Justise Winslow, James Johnson, Bam Adebayo

Injuries:

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (left knee) - OUT, Jerome Robinson (strained right foot) - OUT

Heat: Dion Waiters (left ankle) - OUT, Goran Dragic (scheduled rest) - OUT, Hassan Whiteside (paternity leave) - DOUBTFUL, Wayne Ellington (personal reasons) - DOUBTFUL

The Big Picture:

The Clippers went 2-2 on a road trip against Sacramento, Dallas, New Orleans, and Memphis, a perfectly acceptable showing against four Western Conference teams all vying to make the playoffs. They return home, where they have been dominant this season, in search of their 10th straight win at Staples Center, and hopefully, a return to the offensive prowess that has defined this team. LA scored a season-low 86 points in their last game against the Grizzlies, only the second time this season the team has failed to crack triple digits. Tobias Harris missed his first 10 shots, finishing 2-of-13 from the field, and the Clippers’ two other leader scorers, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams, shot 7-for-23. LA could use a nice high-scoring game before the schedule picks up again next week.

The Antagonist:

The Miami Heat are currently 10-14, 10th in the Eastern Conference, and fourth in the worst division in basketball. They’ve struggled with injuries throughout the season. Dion Waiters has yet to play, and the rest of their guard rotation, including Goran Dragic, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Johnson, and Dwyane Wade, has been in and out of the lineup. Add into that the drama of Hassan Whiteside, who left the bench during the end of Tuesday’s loss to Orlando, and it’s been a tumultuous start to the season for the Heat. This is the same team that is capable of beating New Orleans and Utah but has also suffered multiple losses to the Atlanta Hawks.

Miami presently sports the ninth best defensive rating in the league (106.7) and the 27th best offensive rating (105.6). That second number is a little misleading, because the Heat are closer in offensive rating to the 10th-ranked Spurs than the 28th-ranked Suns. The team theoretically has some momentum heading into tonight’s game against the Clippers, having won 3 of 4, but they are also missing two starters, and a key reserve in Ellington. Nevertheless, Miami under head coach Erik Spoelstra is never a team to take lightly.

What to watch for:

  • This could be a game where LA’s depth overwhelms its opponent, particularly at home, since the Heat only have eight healthy rotation players. Doc Rivers often talks about his team dictating the pace, and tonight would be a good opportunity to push it.
  • Dwyane Wade will play in front of the Clippers home crowd for presumably the last time in his 1000th regular season game. The future Hall of Fame shooting guard was rumored to be interested in joining the team last year before eventually signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but regardless, it’s a nice time to say goodbye to a legend.
  • After a strong East coast road trip against Brooklyn, Atlanta, and Washington, Mike Scott fell back down to Earth during this Western Conference trip. Scott should take this opportunity to reassert himself as an integral part of the second unit, in part because Luc Mbah a Moute appears to finally be on the mend.