The Clippers’ six-game road trip had an uneven start in Atlanta Tuesday. On the one hand, the energy and defensive effort were definitely good enough to earn a win. However, the Clippers couldn’t score enough to keep up with Trae Young and a deep Hawks team. Scoring hadn’t been a problem for the no. 1 offense in the league, but it’s something that this depleted roster will have to work harder at.
Not only are the missing players the three best players on the team (quibble if you must about that rating of Patrick Beverley), their absence has resulted in an imbalance of perimeter players and bigs, given that all three are guards or wings. That resulted in the Clippers turning to Amir Coffey off the bench while not even trying Patrick Patterson simply because they needed more smalls on the court.
That rotation question is something that head coach Ty Lue could address in game two of the road trip. Perhaps thinking of Nicolas Batum as a 3 and getting Patterson some power forward minutes would be a way to have more of the team’s best players on the floor. It could also save their depth on the front end of the back-to-back.
When: Thursday, Jan. 28 at 5 p.m. PT
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida
How to watch/listen: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Opposing perspective: Hot Hot Hoops
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers (13-5): Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka
Heat (6-11): Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, KZ Okpala, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo
Clippers: Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness), Kawhi Leonard (health and safety protocols), Paul George (health and safety protocols) — OUT
Heat: Jimmy Butler (health and safety protocols), Goran Dragic (left groin), Moe Harkless (left thigh), Meyers Leonard (left shoulder), Chris Silva (left hip flexor) — OUT
LA’s current opponent can relate pretty well to what the Clippers have going through. The Miami Heat have been hit by the injury bug, and then some; they’ve also had multiple games postponed because they haven’t had eight players available due to health and safety protocols. The Heat are still down their best player in Jimmy Butler and are missing two more of their best creators in Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro. As a result, despite much of the same roster that led this team to the NBA Finals last year, Miami ranks 28th in the league in point differential, per Cleaning the Glass. The Heat are 26th in offense and 23rd in defense and have actually won more games than would be expected of those markers.
The player to keep an eye on for the Heat is Bam Adebayo, who has built off a strong bubble run by putting together what is currently an all-NBA campaign. Adebayo is scoring at a high volume, whether out of isolation, pick-and-roll, or handoffs with Duncan Robinson. All of that aggressiveness on offense hasn’t dimmed his impact on defense, where he still covers ground well on the perimeter while providing rim protection.
It looks like the Heat will be without former Clipper Moe Harkless for Thursday’s game, but Avery Bradley should be ready to go. His last outing against the Clippers back in March 2020 suggested he still has a little extra for this matchup, but it’s been almost two years since he donned a Clipper jersey, and only Lou Williams will be present from that team.
The Clippers haven’t yet lost two games in a row this season, and the Heat aren’t exactly brimming with firepower. This is a winnable contest provided the Clippers approach it the same way they did against the Hawks.
What are you looking forward to seeing from the Clippers tonight?