The Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Clippers finally played a game that actually counted after their joint China preseason tour last month. Unfortunately for the NBA Champs, plenty of flaws were exposed in the second half of this one that were conveniently swept under the rug in the aftermath of the dominant fourth quarter performance from LeBron James to salvage a victory against the Houston Rockets on Monday.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh (a combined 5-23 from the field) needed to have big games for the Heat to be able to counter the depth that the Clippers boast and it didn't happen, with Wade a shell of his former self after almost sitting out this game after injuring his foot during the Rockets game. After receiving a perfect long pass from LeBron after a jump ball minutes into the game and throwing it down for a nice dunk, it was all downhill from there - including getting blocked at the rim by Eric Bledsoe early in the second quarter. It was clear that Wade didn't have his usual lift but he also tried to force the issue several times when the right play would have been to facilitate for his teammates.
LeBron did what he could to keep the Heat afloat with his 30 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists but it wasn't enough to counter the offensive exploits of Chris Paul, Heat killer Jamal Crawford and an imposing DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin that met little resistance from the Heat inside the paint. Rashard Lewis didn't miss from the field on his way to 11 points off the bench and Ray Allen notched 14 points in 27 minutes but was unable to effectively defend any Clippers players out on the perimeter and was torched by Crawford. To be fair though, Crawford was able to knock down some very difficult shots regardless of the quality of the defense on him.
But the Heat's failure to close out long range shooters, poor interior defense and an ineffective rotation (in which Joel Anthony and Mike Miller could arguably have helped the team out in bigger roles) ultimately doomed the Heat in the second half after a competitive first half that featured plenty of highlights from both teams.
The final score was not indicative of how dominant the Clippers were in the second half, with the Heat scoring in bunches in the last half of the final quarter when the game was all but decided.
With the loss, the Heat drop to 2-2 on the six game road trip with a brutal back-to-back set that ends later today in Denver against the pesky Nuggets.