It’s déjà vu all over again. The Clippers are set to play the Miami Heat, and they’ll be without Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Patrick Beverley, just like they were three weeks ago in South Beach. They squeaked out a win that night in a back-and-forth affair, but the Heat have been much improved since then.
A key factor in Miami’s resurgence? The return of Jimmy Butler, who has come back from contracting the coronavirus to get the Heat back into the national conversation. Butler has been averaging 21.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.1 assists per game since returning to the floor while earning 11.9 free-throw attempts a night. The Clippers know how helpful it is to just give the ball to your superstar and let him work at the end of the clock, and Butler has provided that release valve in the half court.
Miami had won four games in a row before running into the buzzsaw that is the Utah Jazz Friday. The team’s defense has been the fourth-best in the NBA over the last two weeks, per Cleaning the Glass. The Heat haven’t faced anyone with the talent level of the Clippers, but LA won’t be putting its best foot forward Monday due to injury absences.
When: Monday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. PT
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
How to watch/listen: NBA TV, Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570 Radio
Opposing perspective: Hot Hot Hoops
Projected Starting Lineups:
Clippers (20-8): Reggie Jackson, Lou Williams, Terance Mann, Nicolas Batum, Serge Ibaka
Heat (11-15): Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo
Clippers: Patrick Beverley (rest), Paul George (right toe bone edema), Kawhi Leonard (left leg contusion) — OUT
Heat: Gabe Vincent (right knee) — PROBABLE; Avery Bradley (right calf), Goran Dragic (left ankle), Meyers Leonard (left shoulder), Chris Silva (left hip flexor) — OUT
Lou Williams will once again be the primary creator on the offensive end. He’s been running the pick-and-roll to perfection with both Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac. That allows Williams to create for himself, for the bigs, and for the shooters spaced around the floor.
“I think when he’s setting the table, it’s opening his offense because when teams are blitzing or trying to take the ball out of his hands, he’s making the right play and the right pass and guys are making shots,” head coach Ty Lue said Sunday after LA beat Cleveland. “Then they tend to do something different, and it opens up Lou’s scoring ability as well. Like I said, he’s playing the game the right way, taking what the defense gives him, and he’s doing a great job.”
Williams’ job will be a little more difficult without Beverley on the court, who helps with the ball handling and also spares Williams more taxing defensive assignments. That means the Clippers will have to rely more on Reggie Jackson, Terance Mann, and Luke Kennard. They also have Amir Coffey available off the bench.
The schedule only picks up from here, as the Clippers host the Jazz twice and the Nets once in the next week. Miami isn’t exactly an easy opponent — this team did win the Eastern Conference last year, after all — but the Heat aren’t at the level of the next two teams. This game should help the Clippers ramp up for the rest of their competition in what could be a revealing week.
Enjoy the game, and comment below!