The Miami Heat looked to be in a lot of trouble Friday night against a very strong Los Angeles Clippers when news spread earlier in the day after the team shoot around that several players were under the weather. Not helping matters was the fact that the Clippers would be welcoming back Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Chauncey Billups, and Jamal Crawford from injuries and would finally be at full strength with all 15 players this season.
Instead, the Miami Heat put together arguably their best game of the season with a blowout victory against a very strong and very deep Los Angeles Clippers team. The Heat's offense was positively sizzling, with the team scoring more than 30 points in each of the first three quarters, when the team's regular rotation played heavy minutes.
LeBron James somehow managed to top himself yet again with another extremely strong effort in which the reigning MVP showed off all of his considerable weapons in his arsenal. His hot shooting from all points on the floor was, to put it simply, awesome, and he put on quite the show at one point in the third quarter with a four-point play and then a subsequent three-pointer helped power a quick 14-0 run that turned a 10-point lead into a big lead that helped blow the game open and the defending champs never looked back.
LeBron went 9-11 from the field, good for 82% in field goal percentage, bolstering his February average of .684 from the field and 30.2 points per game. The All-Star forward took it upon himself to step up his own offense in the absence of two important players in the rotation but he also chipped in 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Though he led the offense, along with Dwyane Wade, he didn't force matters and was in the flow of the game with complete control of his shot selection, playmaking decisions and aggression.
But even as dominating as his game was, he led a time-wide effort that included a very strong performance from Wade who notched 20 points on 8-16 shooting as well as 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Wade showed plenty of hops as well, with several highlight-worthy plays at the rim. Shane Battier knocked down 4 of 5 shots from beyond the arc, not even bothering to shoot from closer range. Five Heat players reached double figures and Chris Andersen celebrated his new season contract with his best Heat performance to date as he quickly sheds the rust from his game. On top of his energy and hustle on the defensive end, he also attempted the second-most free throws attempts for the Heat (after LeBron), going 6-8 from the charity stripe. Rashard Lewis had another nice showing off the bench, grabbing 7 rebounds and contributing 10 points.
Meanwhile, the Clippers looked like a team that hadn't played together in a while. Chris Paul was clearly not at full strength with just 3 points and just 2 assists in 20 minutes and Blake Griffin's quick energetic start was quickly eclipsed by the Heat's exemplary team defense, notably in the second and third quarters. Lamar Odom was practically invisible during his 22 minutes on the floor and Chauncey Billups was ineffective as a starter, also looking like a player clearly not the same when healthy.
The Heat improved to a season-best 19 wins over .500 with this blowout home victory, and ended up knocking down 15 triples tonight that was tied for the second-most in a game this season. Along the way, LeBron also tied Wade's franchise record with four consecutive games scoring at least 30 points and Udonis Haslem grabbed his 5,000th career rebound, all of them with his home town team.