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Clippers vs. Heat Preview: LA looks to even the score against Miami

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LA has a chance to split the season series with Miami after suffering one of its most surprising losses of the year to the Heat in December.

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Game Information:

Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL

When: 4:30 PST

How to watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups:

LA Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Avery Bradley, Patrick Beverley, Tobias Harris, Montrezl Harrell

Miami Heat: Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside

Injuries:

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (sore left knee) - OUT, Danilo Gallinari (back spasms) - DOUBTFUL

Heat: Goran Dragic (right knee surgery) - OUT

The Big Picture:

The Clippers lost last night to the Mavericks in one of their poorer offensive performances of the year, as Tobias Harris and Lou Williams combined for 24 points on 6-of-25 shooting. At one point, LA even missed 15 consecutive shots. It seemed like the Clippers had solved their problem of slow starts by adjusting the starting lineup; however, they’ve just been robbing Peter to pay Paul, experiencing ruts later in the game.

Earlier in the season, LA would have been well-equipped for back-to-back games. However, the deep Clippers lineup has shown some cracks, and rest may be an issue after their starters played heavy minutes in Dallas. Lou Williams didn’t quite look himself in his return from a brief injury absence, and a second game in two nights doesn’t figure to improve that situation.

The Antagonist:

If the Clippers had difficulty scoring against Dallas, Miami provides an even stiffer challenge. The Heat have the sixth-best defensive rating in the league and feature a series of long-armed athletes on the perimeter and in the paint, making life challenging for opposing offenses. Since Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra have been in Miami, the Heat have consistently been high-energy and active on defense. This year is no different. In the teams’ first meeting, Miami broke open the game with a fourth-quarter run, even though the Heat were on a back-to-back, and the Clippers had been in Los Angeles. Williams said after the game, “I think we just got our ass kicked, just didn’t play hard for four quarters. They played harder than us, they won the game.”

The Heat threw an interesting wrinkle against LA in December, playing zone for the majority of the game. It’s unlikely Miami will turn to zone so heavily now that the team has nearly a full complement of healthy players, but it’s something the Heat can use occasionally, particularly against the shooting-challenged Clippers second unit. After the first matchup, LA players maintained their problems with the zone stemmed from their lack of familiarity playing against that defense — hopefully, that isn’t a problem this time around.

What to watch for:

  • The Clippers are 3-4 in back-to-backs this season while the Heat are 11-16 with one day of rest. Neither trend feels like something that should strike fear into an opponent.
  • Speaking of unimpressive, Miami leads the Southeast Division with a sub-.500 record (22-23), having won 11 of 23 home games. LA isn’t exactly heading into the lion’s den — this is a very winnable game.
  • The last time these two teams met marked the beginning of the Heat’s experiment with Justise Winslow at point guard, mostly because all of the team’s other lead guards were injured. Now, Miami has embraced the idea of one of its bigger wings playing the point, providing another challenge for Avery Bradley as he covers yet another tall primary ball-handler.
  • The center matchups between Bam Adebayo and Montrezl Harrell or Johnathan Motley should be really fun. Adebayo can jump out of the gym, but Harrell and Motley have unstoppable motors.

Check out the opposing perspective at Hot Hot Hoops, and enjoy the game!