Without four members of their starting lineup, the Clippers would be forgiven for lacking their usual intensity against the Heat Monday. But this team has made adaptability its mantra for the season, and the Clippers were up to the challenge of playing significantly shorthanded, beating Miami 125-118 anyway.
The Clippers knew that they would be without Patrick Beverley, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard at the start of the day, but then received the additional gut punch that Nicolas Batum would be out with a migraine. The team later diagnosed it as a concussion.
Batum is out tonight with a concussion, the Clippers have updated their injury report to reflect. Batum took a shot when he got screened last night -- it seemed to daze him in the moment, had his rubbing his jaw. Wonder whether that's the play that did it. https://t.co/sZiuC41VAA— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) February 16, 2021
Batum’s absence meant that Marcus Morris Sr. was in the starting lineup for the first time this season, and he continued his hot streak. Morris set his Clipper high in scoring one night ago with 23 points; he had that and more by the end of the first half, scoring 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting before intermission, including six threes.
Morris wasn’t the only Clipper feeling himself from long distance. Amir Coffey, in his first extended action for the team in a few weeks, went 4-of-4 from the field, all beyond the 3-point line, in the first half.
The Clippers weren’t entirely successful on defense during the first two quarters, as Miami connected on nearly 60 percent of its shot attempts. But the disparity in 3-pointers (10 to five in favor of the home team) helped LA take a five-point lead into the break.
the clippers ball movement has been awesome all year man this is so fun to watch pic.twitter.com/97ivx6dKnj— Jamal Cristopher (@Clippers24seven) February 16, 2021
The jump shots weren’t falling for the Clippers in the second half — understandable with a shortened rotation on the second night of the back-to-back — so the team turned to the paint. Ivica Zubac had his way with the smaller Miami roster, dominating inside to the tune of 22 points and eight rebounds. When the Heat finally started to send help for Zubac, he had the presence of mind to make passing reads, like he did to Terance Mann late in the fourth.
Guess who the most excited player on the Clippers bench was after that Terance Mann dunk?— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 16, 2021
Patrick Beverley. pic.twitter.com/bma4lN0hBI
Down the stretch, Lou Williams did his usually fourth-quarter Lou thing, Zubac made more big plays, and the Clippers got enough hustle from the rest of their lineups, specifically Mann and Coffey. The Heat got within one in the final period but never closer, while the Clippers extended their lead to as many as 12.
This was the second straight game the Clippers had at least 30 assists, the first they’ve hit that total in consecutive games since December 2014, per team PR. It was also just the second time in Williams’ career that he’s had double-digit assists in consecutive games. It was a total team win, just what the Clippers needed down their stars.