The Miami HEAT defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 116-112 Wednesday night at the Staples Center. The HEAT used an early push to grab a commanding lead in the first half, one that they never relinquished.
Impact Performance of the Night: LeBron James collects near triple-doubles at a rate unlike anyone else in the league. Tonight, he fell just two rebounds shy of the mark, finishing with a spectacular 31 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds, three steals and a vicious chasedown block. James was electric in the early going, delivering pinpoint passes to HEAT cutters. He also threw down a couple of highlight-reel dunks, including one where his head was, at the very least, on the same level as the rim. It wasn’t the only absurd rim assault from James, who finished a halfcourt alley-oop from Dwyane Wade. James was forced to defend Clippers bigs for much of the night and more than held his own on that end. He was able to disrupt early pick-and-rolls with DeAndre Jordan and then later was key in keeping Blake Griffin away from the rim. He was everywhere for the HEAT and played a key part in the HEAT getting their first win on the road against the Clippers since 2007.
The Deciding Run: The HEAT opened the game with great offensive and defensive execution. Through the first 14:16 of the game, the HEAT outscored the Clippers 43-24, taking a commanding 19-point lead. The HEAT were generating all kinds of open looks at the rim through spacing, cutting and ball movement. On numerous possessions, the HEAT made the late, extra pass to turn a good look into a great one. It may have been Miami’s best sustained stretch of offensive basketball all season. The Clippers were able to claw back into the game and make things interesting at a few different points, but they were never able to tie the game or take the lead. The work that the HEAT did early helped ensure the victory.
Play of the Game: Ray Allen hitting corner threes in big spots is becoming routine for the HEAT. He did it a couple of times from the left corner early last season and then hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history in Game 6 of the NBA Finals from the right corner. He went back to the left side tonight to hit the biggest shot in the HEAT’s win. After the Clippers cut the HEAT lead to two for the first time since the first quarter, Miami called a timeout to draw up an offensive set. Dwyane Wade took possession at the top of the floor and the HEAT ran the clock down until they were ready to make their move. Allen came across the floor, right to left, using a pick from LeBron James at the left wing. As Allen shaded to the corner, Wade drove hard into the paint. Jamal Crawford, who was defending Allen in the corner, crashed down to help on Wade’s drive. Once Wade felt the help, he kicked the ball out to Allen. He took care of things from there.
Efficiency Ratings: Offensive Efficiency: 119.0; Defensive Efficiency: 108.2
Trend to Watch: The HEAT tallied a season-high 33 assists in the win over the Clippers, 15 of which came in the first quarter. Assists very often don’t correlate to strong offensive performance, but for the HEAT it’s generally a good sign. The team’s early ball-movement was basically perfect. Everyone moved the ball well and, as a result, dominated at the rim and from beyond the arc. The offense was crisp and reacted perfectly to whatever coverage the Clippers threw their way.
Los Angeles was able to make adjustments and slow the attack some, but the HEAT still got a number of easy baskets because of their passing. A few plays in the second half come to mind. First, a beautiful lob from LeBron James to Chris Andersen in the third quarter. Functioning as a power forward because of foul trouble, James was used as a screener on a number of possessions. This time, he slipped a screen on the left wing and received a pass rolling to the rim. When the defense collapsed, James released what looked like a possible shot, but it was actually a perfect lob to Chris Andersen who was cutting in from the weakside. The precision was impressive. James read the defensive coverage perfectly, the entry pass to James was great, Andersen cut at just the right time and James delivered the pass right on target. It’s not possible to draw it up any better. The other play that comes to mind is the Allen three at the end of the game, but we already covered that.
Notes: Ray Allen and Chris Bosh scored 15 points apiece. Dwyane Wade and Shane Battier each added 14 points. Chris Andersen scored 12 points off the bench.