The LA Clippers maintained their season without back-to-back losses, as a shorthanded squad rallied from a deep 1st half hole to beat the Miami Heat 109-105 at AmericanAirlines Arena on Thursday.
With Clippers starters Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley all out for the second consecutive game, Ty Lue went with regulars Serge Ibaka and Nicolas Batum alongside Terance Mann, Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson. This was the first game of the season where actual fans were in attendance, with the Heat letting in approximately 2,000 for the game.
The Heat raced out to a quick lead, and extended it to 16 points before the first nine minutes had elapsed in the game. The 1st quarter ended with the Heat holding a 33-19 advantage.
From there, LA chipped away at the deficit, and pulled within three points, before Terence Mann drained a corner 3-pointer with two minutes left in the 2nd corner to tie the game at 45-45. The Heat took a lead again, but the teams went into the halftime break with Miami leading just 50-48, a scoreline the Clippers had to be satisfied with after their abysmal 1st quarter.
The scoring was evenly distributed through the first half, with Jackson just edging the pack with eight points.
The Clippers rally continued in the 3rd quarter, with Batum hitting a vital 3-pointer with 6:58 left in the stanza to give LA a 62-60 lead, their first of the night.
They quickly poured it on from there, extending the edge to 70-62 before the next timeout, as the Clippers’ poor shooting start was firmly in the rear view mirror. They ended the 3rd quarter with a stunning 88-69 lead, going 9-for-14 from 3-point range, the Clips outscoring the Heat 40-19 to wrest control of the game.
Miami weren’t ready to give up, and mounted a rally to open the 4th quarter, with Gabe Vincent the unlikely leading scorer with Jimmy Butler out for the night. But the Clippers kept battling, even if their shooting touch started to fail them again on an incredibly streaky night.
With 27.5 seconds to go, the Clippers left the door open to the Heat, with Jackson calling a timeout even with LA out of timeouts at that point and his side leading by six. Tyler Herro made the bonus free throw, before Bam Adebayo hit a dunk to pull within three points. In the end, LA held on and record the victory.
Ibaka posted a double-double, with 13 rebounds and 10 points, and Batum’s 18 points was closely followed by Lou Williams’ 17, the veteran sixth man putting in one of his most assured performances of the season. Mann was also solid, posting the best +/- on the team on the night from a rare start.
From the rhythm of play, the Clippers were sloppy for much of the game and obviously they were significantly worse or merely grinded except for the outstanding 3rd quarter, but let’s not forget, they were missing their two best players again, on the road. The Heat weren’t full strength, either, but you have to think the Clippers are pleased to have picked up a win at all, shaggy or not.
The Clippers will stay in Florida for their next game, Friday against the Orlando Magic. The Magic are off to an 8-11 start this season, but as we know with these unpredictable times, prior record means less than ever with player availabilities uncertain each game.