(Photo Credit: Marc Serota)The Miami HEAT host the Los Angeles Clippers tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena. The HEAT (32-14) lead the Eastern Conference. The Clippers (35-16) are holding onto the third seed in the West. Tip off is set for 8:00 PM; coverage on Sun Sports starts at 7:30 PM. 1: As of this writing, the Clippers may or may not have Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford and some guy named Blake Griffin available tonight. There’s not really a question here.
Couper Moorhead: Yet another HEAT game with an opponent not at full strength. It’s getting a little old, but fans would rather the HEAT be the ones at full strength than the other way around. What this means is that, even if all their guys play, throw out the idea of a statement game that really *means* something and just enjoy the game for what it is.
Danny Martinez: I can’t say I’m really surprised. If I listed all of the marquee players who have missed games against the HEAT we’d be here until next week. It’s unfortunate because if both teams have their full rosters, we’re in for a great show. My fingers have been crossed since Wednesday night. They’ll stay that way until game time.2: Since we likely both consider the Clippers an elite team despite of all their injuries, do they need to be 100 percent healthy to remain elite come playoff time?
Couper: They could probably be without Billups or possibly even a DeAndre Jordan and still have enough to make a serious run, but an injury or two, while never ideal, might make things easier on Vinny Del Negro. There are some serious rotation questions to be answered once we pass the mid-point of April, and the Clippers won’t be able to play all of their role players. That means, if healthy, that (probably) the most valuable bench unit in the league would have its minutes reduced, and players like Crawford and Eric Bledsoe would have to get used to some different combinations on the court.
Danny: They don’t need to be 100 percent, but they need Chris Paul to be 100 percent. In the playoffs, depth is often overrated. For the most part, production only comes from the top six or seven spots. And even then, it’s heavily skewed towards the top two or three. So if Paul and Blake Griffin are healthy, the Clippers will be a problem out West.3: Assess how Chris Andersen is playing so far and how he is fitting in. Go. Now?
Couper: He’s doing just fine. According to Erik Spoelstra, Andersen’s – no, I’m still not referring to him as Birdman, at least not in print – conditioning is well ahead of schedule considering Spoelstra wasn’t planning on him playing before the All-Star break. Andersen’s rebounding rates are off the charts right now, and even if they don’t sustain, he’s doing everything you could expect from him so far, albeit with fewer blocks that has more to do with randomness than an indictment of his skills. He’s coming along nicely with his grasp of the defensive system as well – there has still be a little freelancing – but what is really going to keep him on the court is his ability to provide offensive value as a spread-pick-and-roll guy. If he can keep doing that, he’ll play.
Danny: It’s hard not to be excited about what Andersen has shown the last couple of weeks. His relentless energy fits right in with HEAT beliefs. Andersen’s ability to crash the glass, on both the offensive and defensive ends is a huge plus for the HEAT. Once Andersen gets his legs under him, I suspect his shot blocking and defense will become big time assets. He’s fitting in, and that’s really all you can hope for.