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Miami Heat vs LA Clippers: Breakdown and Analysis

The Miami Heat were ousted by the LA Clippers in Staples Center, 107-100. What happened with the world champs? We break it down, quarter by quarter:

1st Quarter

What happens when two free-flowing offensive teams square up in a marquee game? A LeBron James dunk, Blake Griffin layup and a DeAndre Jordan hook shot to start the game, that’s what. Mario Chalmers looked as patchy in the 1st as he did the entire game at Memphis, coughing up the ball twice against Chris Paul in the first four Heat possessions. Blake Griffin’s new-and-improved jump-shot was on full display, as he knocked down two 15-20 footers early in the first. Wade was playing with a sprained ankle, and it showed, as he forced shots and continued his ordinary play from Memphis and Houston.

Chris Bosh had an uncharacteristically quiet first quarter, this time not being gifted the half-a-dozen-or-so open jumpers that the Rockets gave him in the Heat’s stop at Houston on this 5 game road trip. The Clippers ran a smooth, fluid offense with Paul at the helm. Both teams forced turnovers and played active defense, and knocked down three-pointers. Sixth Man of the Year candidate Jamaal Crawful lit it up, as did Rashard Lewis for the Heat. In one incredible sequence, Ray Allen played Celtics-style defense on Crawford behind the three-point line, and Crawford faked his crossover and shot an off-balance three, Allen didn’t bite, and challenged and yet…swish.

Oh, and LeBron? The whole package – playmaking, tenacious defense, post play – was on show. It’s official – we have run out of narratives to vilify/degrade LeBron James.

LAC lead MIA 25-24.

2nd quarter

Early on in the 2nd, head-scratching play: Haslem brings the ball up the court for the Heat on a 3-on-2 fast break (!) and attempts a 15 foot jumper that clunks off the rim. Rest assured, that play will never be seen again in Heat basketball.

Clippers reserve point guard Eric Bledsoe was his usual explosive self. Perhaps Billups should not be given too much burn when he recovers because the Clippers are probably better playing at the kind of pace that Bledsoe affords them. Sample this: Wade steals the ball, sprints down the floor for a breakaway dunk and…is rejected by Bledsoe at the rim! This wasn’t a chase down block, this was a full frontal!

Blake Griffin continued his solid offensive play, driving in from the perimeter for a number of layups. The Clippers didn’t perhaps go to DeAndre Jordan inside as much as they should have, and played perimeter basketball instead of inside-out like Memphis did the other night. Both teams continued their aggressive defense- each team recorded 7 steals – and consequently both teams turned over the ball quite a bit (combined 23 TOs).

At the half Rashard Lewis had 11 points off 3-3 shooting from downtown and Ray Allen chipped in with 8, conjuring up images of the Sonics teams from the early 2000s and helping make up for an ordinary half from Dwyane Wade.

MIA lead LAC 54-52.

LeBron: 11 points, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block

Blake Griffin: 13 points, 8 rebound, 3 assists, 1 block

3rd quarter

Heat continued to give up wide-open 3’s, with Willie Green burning them from the corner twice early in the quarter. Blake Griffin had his way with Shane Battier once again, getting to the basket at will. The Heat’s defense was a step slower than in the first half, and the lack of effort showed as the Clippers went up 67-60 midway through the quarter for the largest lead of the game. Chris Bosh’s activity on the offensive glass and a heavy dose of LeBron post-ups kept the Heat in the game till Chris Paul went ballistic.

In the final 3 minutes and something seconds, Paul scored 13 points to put the Clips up 85-74 to end the 3rd, starting with an incredible 27-footer with the shot clock winding down. The very next possession, Paul kaboom’s another three from 25 feet, following it up with two trips to the free throw line in consecutive possessions. The Clippers outscored the Heat 33-20 in the 3rd.

4th quarter

The Heat started the quarter looking tired and dispirited (this is the 3rd game on a brutal 4-in-5 nights stretch) and were picked apart by the Clippers’ second unit, who were younger and faster than the Heat. Eric Bledsoe repeatedly blew by his defenders, and exploited the Heat’s lack of size inside, consistently shooting floaters and layups to give the Clippers a 19-pt lead with 8 minutes to go in the 4th.  The LA Clippers second unit is high-energy, high-offense – I’m not sure that they should mess with this good a thing even when Grant Hill is healthy. They didn’t even need Paul/Griffin to put the world champions away!

The Heat inserted Joel Anthony into the lineup with about 6 minutes to go in the 4th promptly sparking a 9-0 Heat run, forcing Del Nego to put his starters on the floor to put an end to the run. The Heat have now been blown out by three different playoff-bound teams this season (NY, LAC, MEM) and their defense has looked ugly at best without a defensive anchor in the frontcourt. Reports suggest that Kenyon Martin is interested in playing for the Heat, and they might just give him a look – they sure could use his defense. The Heat are almost guaranteed to lose in Mile High Denver tomorrow, and will face questions if they fall to 6-4, as will Dwyane Wade – who has looked awful in the past few games.

Final score: LAC 107-100 MIA

Players of the game:

MIA: LeBron James: 30 points, 12-23 FG, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4 TOs, 42 minutes

LAC: Blake Griffin: 20 points, 8/16 FG, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, 3 TOs, 30 minutes

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