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Clippers Step Up on Defense, Beat Heat 111-99

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After a back and forth first half, the Clippers pressed the gas in the second, leading to a 12 point win over the Heat

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Miami Heat Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Picture:

Despite being on the road and depleted due to injury, the Clippers needed to take care of business against a middle-of-the-pack Heat team without it’s best payer in Goran Dragic. The Clippers did just that and did it in a grit-and-grind fashion, relying on a solid bench performance from the likes of Jerome Robinson, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, and Johnathan Motley.

The first quarter started out like most Clippers’ games have, as the Clips struggled with the Heat’s size inside and gave up the majority of their points in the paint. Marcin Gortat had a hard time handling Hassan Whiteside and the Clips didn’t have a great answer for Josh Richardson or new “point-forward” Justice Winslow. Despite giving up easy buckets on defense, Tobias Harris almost single-handedly kept the Clips in the game, making shots from everywhere, leading to a 22 point first half performance. Avery Bradley shot the ball decently, as he seems to do every third game, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander impressed — playing within his game and finishing well in the mid-range and at the rim. The lineups have changed a bit, as Robinson and Motley have been coming in earlier than expected, but both played well (better in the second half) and contributed with some timely buckets. Lou did Lou things as Harrell was stymied early on by the length of the Heat. Despite a solid 2nd quarter, the Clips were still only tied going into the half.

L.A. started the third quarter slowly, only to go on a seven point run despite some missed shots from Harris. Gortat and SGA played a great two-man game, however, as the “Polish Hammer” had one of his better games all year. The Clips did the unthinkable tonight and won the battle of the offensive glass — finishing the game with a 21-2 positive mark in second-chance points. This was a total team effort as Patrick Beverley, Gortat, Harrell, Harris and Bradley all contributed on the offensive glass. The lead was five at the end of the third, but the Clips were in control of the game and had the pace handled. The Heat even tried to throw a matchup 2-3 zone against the Clips (which worked when they played in L.A.), but to no avail.

Doc let the bench, who ended the third, continue into the fourth and with Harrell and Lou connecting on multiple pick-and-roll’s, the Clips seized the game. There’s a reason the entire bench was a positive in plus/minus tonight as they bullied both units in the fourth. Positive contributions from every player tonight was key and led to a coast of a fourth quarter that resulted in a 12-point dub over a team that smoked the Clips a few months ago.

Notes:

Avery Bradley back to normal?: Over his last five games, Avery Bradley is averaging 12.6 points and nearly four boards on 41 percent shooting from the field and 42.3 percent from three. This is a shocking development (and I hope he keeps this up for trade purposes), but a very welcome one. Scoring in double digits four out of his last five, let’s see if he can maintain this.

SGA has a good game: After shooting a combined 7-of-29 over the past two games, SGA showed up tonight. He had 10 points on an efficient 5-for-10 shooting performance including three assists and any one turnover. SGA looked confident, as he didn’t force anything and stayed within his game: attacking the rim and shooting 10-foot jumpers. This is the game he would have had two months ago when the Clips were rolling and if he can keep this up, the Clippers become much more dangerous.

Trez gets hot in second half: Montrezl Harrell had a quiet first half….only to erupt when he got in the rhythm of the game in the second. Destroying the pick-and-roll with Lou, Trez finished with 16 points and five rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting.