In a preview of a potential NBA Finals showdown, two high-powered offenses were on display as Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 29 points to carry the Miami Heat over the Los Angeles Clippers, 102 – 97. The Clippers came into Miami leading the NBA in points per game but a stifling Heat defense limited them to 41 second-half points. Blake Griffin led Los Angeles with 27 points, adding 14 rebounds.
Miami, with Chris Bosh back in the starting lineup after missing Tuesday’s victory in Toronto, once again started slowly. The Heat turned over the ball twice in the opening minutes, letting the Clippers build a quick 7 – 0 lead. But Bosh (12 points) was very aggressive in the first quarter, scoring 7 of Miami’s first 11 points. Miami shot a blistering 63% in the first quarter and ended the period only down 4, 31 – 27.
The Miami bench kept the game close through the first half. Ray Allen hit his first four shots (finishing with 12 points) and a four-point play by Rashard Lewis tied the game at 44 halfway through the second quarter. Los Angeles’ bench also made timely contributions, led by perennial Heat nemesis Jamal Crawford (14 points), Byron Mullens (6 points) and Darren Collison (6 points). At halftime, the Clippers lead was back up to 4, 56 – 52.
In the third quarter, the Heat’s defense simply overwhelmed Los Angeles. A unit led by LeBron James (18 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists), Allen, Norris Cole, Shane Battier and Chris Andersen (10 points), swarmed passing lanes, and double-teamed superstar point guard Chris Paul, holding the Clippers to 17 points in the period. Paul racked up 11 points and 12 assists, but was forced into 3 of 11 shooting and 5 turnovers. Tightened defense kept the Clippers scoreless for just over 3 minutes of play and a run of 5 straight points by James gave Miami their first lead of the night, 69 – 68.
The beginning of the fourth quarter was Wade’s time to shine. The All-Star guard shot confidently from long-range, hitting four quick shots to push the Heat lead to 7. Battier added a three-pointer to extend the lead to 11 but Shane’s quick rotations on defense were true game-changers, always appearing one step ahead of the Clippers, drawing three offensive fouls on the night.
Griffin hit some long-range jumpers of his own to keep the game close (including a rare three-pointer) but the Heat always countered with a quick pass and a score at just the right moment to maintain the lead.
The Heat fluid offense was the key to victory, recording 27 assists on 38 made field goals and shooting 54% for the night. Every last shot count, as Miami was cold at the free throw line, hitting only 64% (21 of 33).
Los Angeles, viewed as championship contender after numerous off-season improvements, has now lost two in a row and their record drops to 3 – 3 ; their next game is Saturday against the Houston Rockets.
Miami, now 4 – 2 and the winner of three straight, continues their home stand on Saturday, hosting the Boston Celtics at 7:30 P.M. from the American Airlines Arena.
- Ray Allen’s four made field-goals were all 2-point shots. He finished 0 – 3 from beyond the arc. Allen also missed a free throw, adding to Miami’s woes at the stripe.
- Norris Cole finished with 0 points for the first time this season, on 0 – 5 shooting. Cole did add 3 assists and 3 rebounds.
- Dwyane Wade was the only starter with a positive +/- rating (+3) for the game.