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Danny

HEAT at Clippers Official Game Thread and Preview

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(Photo Credit: Noah Graham)

The Miami HEAT get back to action tonight in Los Angeles as they take on the Clippers. The HEAT are looking to build off of Monday's dramatic victory over the Houston Rockets, and improve their record to 7-2. The Clippers have surprised some with a quick 5-2 start.

1. The Clippers pulled out a close game last year on their home floor against the HEAT, but was that indicative of anything?

Couper Moorhead: Only that the Clippers were a good team and the HEAT were in the middle of a long road trip. There was a good deal of panic-button pushing after that game, despite the loss largely being due to missed free-throws and missed shots out of mismatches – generally good opportunities – and the team as a whole shooting less than 40 percent from the field. Folks got worked up even more when the HEAT were promptly blown out soon after by the Denver Nuggets, but there wasn’t much carryover after that. There’s no reason to say the Clippers have Miami’s number.

Danny Martinez: I’m hesitant to place much value in any one-game sample. So many weird things can happen that they tend to not mean much in the long run. In that game the HEAT shot 58.8 percent on free throws, missing 14 in total, including a few late in the game. Had the HEAT shot their season average 77.5 percent, they would have won. It’s as simple as that, really

If we want to reach, that game showed that the Chris Paul-led Clippers could hang with title contenders and would be a strong playoff team. They advanced to the second round in the West, so I guess that proved to be right.

2. Should we just assume Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will grab some offensive rebounds, or can things be cleaned up without altering the rotation?

Couper: There’s nothing wrong with giving up a few offensive boards a game, especially if things are working fine on the other end, but there’s some work to be done to keep things from being quite as egregious as they have been. No, that doesn’t mean Miami needs to play bigger players, it means they have to do a better job at boxing out both their own guys and those of their teammates. A number of times so far, Shane Battier has provided help from the weakside of the paint, caused a missed shot and had his man grab the rebound because nobody slid down to put a body on the offensive player Battier left. Boards are going to take bad bounces sometimes, but your chances of controlling the defensive glass go up dramatically if you simply have a body on every man.

Danny: I don’t think there’s a magical solution hidden in the rotation. The reality is the HEAT are playing a lot of new and unconventional lineups. It’s going to take time and a few practices for the players to figure out who’s boxing out who.

Through eight games the team is grabbing 73.6 percent of available defensive rebounds. Last season they grabbed 73.9 percent. I have a feeling that the rebounding concerns are much ado about nothing. It’s easy to think that small lineups automatically lead to poor rebounding, but that stats, at least on the defensive end, haven’t really shown that just yet.

3. In a clutch-off between LeBron James and Chris Paul, who wins?

Couper: We all win. James has had the highest PER in the league in the final five minutes of close games over the past few years, but Paul isn’t far behind. Both players have exceptional patience under pressure, willing to let plays develop rather than just taking the first decent opportunity they can find for a score, and though Kyrie Irving’s clutch numbers were excellent in his rookie season, there are no two better players at controlling the tempo, managing the clock and balancing an ability to score and create open shots for their teammates. We can only hope to see these two work their magic against one another.

Danny: You? Me? Everyone? Chris Paul and LeBron James approach these “clutch” moments different than most other players. They’re both unselfish and always looking to make the right play. This is why they’re both so dangerous. If either draws help from the defense, the ball is finding an open shooter who’s more than capable of beating you. A “clutch-off” would be a ton of fun to watch.

4. Just about any HEAT fan will bemoan the exploits of Jamal Crawford against this team over the years. Is there anything to that?

Couper: Ever so slightly, sure, but it’s nothing worth anywhere near the amount of attention it gets from fans. In 33 games against the HEAT, Crawford has scored 18.3 points per 36 minutes on 50.5 effective shooting with a PER of 16.66, all numbers that are just a small tick above his career averages. The myth of Crawford likely stems from the fact that he takes and hits shots that look very difficult, and confirmation bias has taken hold over the years, with people remembering his good moments more than the bad. There are plenty of players that hurt the HEAT more, Crawford is just a streaky shooter that takes tough shots and can get the ball off at any time.

Danny:He only has a better scoring average against six other NBA teams. He only has a better field goal percentage against two other NBA teams. So, yea, there’s a little something to that. Crawford has no qualms with putting up lots of shots. If the HEAT help off of him tonight, he’ll be more than happy to shoot, especially beyond the arc. On a per-minute basis, Crawford is scoring more this year than any other year save his 2008 season. We’ll see what he has in store for the HEAT.

5. As long as the HEAT are winning road games, should we be overly concerned with the defensive miscues?

Couper: Not this early in the season. As long as the wins are coming, it’s tough to be too concerned about pieces of the process we’re fairly certain the team will figure out eventually. It’s impossible to expect a team to be flawless over the course of an 82-game season, just as fans shouldn’t want them peaking before Christmas. The rotations – everything from backline defense to communication in transition to picking up shooters – has to be figured out eventually, but if you notice the HEAT’s defense has been much better in the fourth quarter of close games, hinting that they’re on the right path.

Danny: I’m a process over results kind of guy, so while they’re winning, the HEAT probably haven’t been doing it how they want to. That said, we still have a long time before we need to be concerned about the defense. The HEAT have had a top-6 defense the last three seasons. Erik Spoelstra and the coaching staff know how to handle any of these little slips.

It’s important to remember that the HEAT are working in new players and lineups, all while playing more games than any team in the NBA. After this road trip the HEAT’s schedule frees up a tad, allowing for more practice time. If the defense is still struggling at the end of December, then we’ll address it.

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Going forward the first comment under the game previews will be user input. I think it's important that all of you have your voice heard and I think this is a fun way to do it. For now, some members are going to answer the same questions Coup and I do. In the future I may add some new wrinkles. We'll see how it goes. First up are KevinFromDade, Scar and Wuchuhurd. I'm expecting more responses and will add them as they come in.

1. The Clippers pulled out a close game last year on their home floor against the HEAT, but was that indicative of anything?

KevinFromDade: I'm not one to over analyze a regular season game, particularly one in the middle of a west coast road trip (which over the years have been proven to be gruesome.) The Clippers have a strong core and can definitely hang with the NBA's elite, but one game proves nothing. Also, the Heat shot themselves in the foot that game, shooting under 60% from the free throw line. So, no reason to assume the same will happen twice.

Scar: I don't think so, no. Looking back at last's year match-up, the Heat missed 14 shots from the free throw line. The team also dealt with consecutive overtime games and lost both in dramatic fashion from the home team. It was a good win for the Clippers, and an ugly loss the Heat quickly tried to forget.

Wuchuhurd: The last two home games against the Heat have been nailbiters and there is reason to believe that it will be the same tonight as each team has gotten better by adding a key sixth man and a couple of other pieces. If Miami can keep it close again tonight you have got to like their chances seeing how they've been able to close out games as of late.

2. Should we just assume Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will grab some offensive rebounds, or can things be cleaned up without altering the rotation?

KevinFromDade: Unfortunately, some things are just unavoidable. That doesn't mean we should assume they'll grab twenty offensive boards on us, but you can't argue the size and athleticism of the LAC frontcourt. It's a matter of boxing out, hustle, and just overall effort. No need to bring out the "We Need Dexter Pittman" signs.

Scar: We should. The Heat have stuck with their small ball lineups through the first eight games and look to continue that trend going forward. Joel Anthony could help fend off Lob Cities bigger bodies, but for now the team seems content with giving up a couple lose balls here and there.

Wuchuhurd: They are two of some of the most athletic bigs in the game today and considering their activity on boards I think it's safe to say that they will help themselves to a couple of offensive boards, I'm not sure altering the rotation is going to help as much as matching their activity level.

3. In a clutch-off between LeBron James and Chris Paul, who wins?

KevinFromDade: Chris Paul and LeBron James do one thing better than any other players in the league, facilitate. The beauty of CP3 and LeBron's game is that they don't need to score to win the game, but can score almost at will if neccesary. With such an wide arsenal of possible moves, it is almost impossible to guess what they're going to do. Drive, shoot, draw in the defenders and kick it out to a shooter, etc. LeBron's PER in the final five minutes is the best in the NBA, and CP3 isn't too far from him. So, there is no clear cut winner in this debate.

Scar: I hate to sound bias, but right now I would take LeBron James. Looking over some of their stats, James is playing out of his mind. James is shooting better from the field, from beyond the 3-point line, and he is turning the ball over at a lower rate, though CP3 does dish out almost twice the amount of dimes than the King. While Paul has always played well during the more dire situations, it seems James has finally hit a groove where there is no stress or pressure in his game. In other words, LeBron is playing scary good.

Wuchuhurd: It can go either way really, but if it came down to who can stop each other on the final possessions(s), LeBron would be the favorite. It would be silly to assign Chris Paul on LeBron other than to try and draw a charge (made more difficult with the enforcement of flopping). But as we saw in last years matchup on the final possession of regulation, LeBron was able to force Chris Paul into holding the ball too long and letting the clock run out to force overtime.

4. Just about any HEAT fan will bemoan the exploits of Jamal Crawford against this team over the years. Is there anything to that?

KevinFromDade: It seems like no matter what jersey J-Crossover is wearing, he finds a way to burn us. Is there anything to it? Probably, but not enough for me or any HEAT fan to be too concerned. Crawford has quick, Iverson-like handles and a nice shooting stroke, so I don't think he has a personal vengeance with the HEAT, the guy is just good.

Scar: Crawford always seems up to the challenge when the Heat are his opponent, and with the way the Heat have defended the 3-point line this year, he must be licking his lips at another chance to pad his stats against us.

Wuchuhurd: Crawford is one of the best in breaking down defenses off the dribble, they don't call him J-Crossover for nothing. And now playing on possibly the best team he has played on in his whole career their is now more concern over him than ever.

5. As long as the HEAT are winning road games, should we be overly concerned with the defensive miscues?

KevinFromDade: I think there should be a level of concern here, but nothing too drastic. Our current defensive miscues are short-term issues. You have to take into consideration that Coach Spo is constantly experimenting with lineups, as well as how early we are in the season. The HEAT are a defensive-minded team and have been one of the more elite defenses in the NBA for the past couple of years. Last year, we had the 4th best opponent PPG. If the playoffs come around and we're still "struggling" on defense, then I'll be concerned. For now, we'll be fine.

Scar: Yes and No. We should worry that the Heat are allowing teams to score so easily against us. The same problem popped up early last year, but we fixed those issue to an extent. I feel as though Spoelstra has noticed these trends and is working on solving the issues behind the scenes. Right now, the offense is clicking better then ever, and it we were to address the defense, it would shake up the lineups which might mess up the chemistry the team has settled into.

Wuchuhurd: Still too early to tell but the team has shown flashes of that trademark defense that they've played at a really high level quite awhile now, I find it hard to believe that they would forget how to play defense overnight. I think it's great that Miami is establishing themselves as a really high scoring team right now as more teams will now not only have to worry about the swarming Heat defense but they will added stress in figuring out how to guard such a high octane group as well. As a fan of defense I like seeing the defense win many games for the team but their will be instances where the offense is going to have to pull through like the game we saw in Houston.

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Ha. I guess that's how it comes off. But they're really the only two superstars, or whatever you want to designate them, who play the final minutes like they do.

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The only reason the Clippers won last year was due to that fact that in that game the Heat shot very (VERY) bad from the free throw line.

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Crawford with 30 points on 10 three pointers

Deandre Jordan with 30 rebounds and 10 blocks

CP3 20 assists and 20 points.

Scrub of the night = Matt Barnes with 25 points and a monster dunk on LeBron.

Lol seriously though I'm not feeling to confident about this game. We need to get our defense back to an elite level, until we do that we won't beat these very good teams on the road.

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I hope the Heat will improve on:

1- Attack the basket and GET TO THE FRAKING LINE! (Make your D*#$ Free throws)

1- Transition Defense

2- Reduce off dribble Penetration

3- Stop DOUBLING CENTERS soo much

4- COMPETE

and finally We gotta compete and attack the basket

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I hope the Heat will improve on:

1- Attack the basket and GET TO THE FRAKING LINE! (Make your D*#$ Free throws)

1- Transition Defense

2- Reduce off dribble Penetration

3- Stop DOUBLING CENTERS soo much

4- COMPETE

and finally We gotta compete and attack the basket

I don't think they can stop doubling centers so much, especially against a team like the Clippers. Deandre Jordan is big, good, and athletic, but if they could stop doubling centers and play good inside defense at the same time, that would be cool. I'm not sure though if you were referring to the rest of the season in general or just this particular game. Nevertheless, your suggestions are good. May I add that they also need to shoot outside shots well. If remember it right, the outside shooters we have right now are supposed to open up driving lanes for Lebron and D-Wade and vice versa. If outside shooting does not work, we're in trouble. Go Heat!

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"I THINK ALL OF YOU GUYS WILL BE ASLEEP WHEN WADE DUNKS ON BLAKE ON ONE FOOT

...except Wade isn't playing tonight, so...

Is that true, man?

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I dont if Wade playing tonight is a good thing or a bad thing.... I guess we'll have to wait and see...

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Sloppy start, defense is ok minus these TO's. Also keep giving Blake that 15 ft jumper, I don't care if he's making it, you want him to take that.

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