A lot can happen in 17 days in the NBA, as the Miami Heat (34-13) will surely find out. Miami begins a six-game road trip - with a stop in New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game for good measure - against a high-scoring Los Angeles Clippers (34-17) team that is missing one of the league's superstars.
All-Star Chris Paul has missed the past month due to a shoulder injury, and the Clips are doing their best to keep other Western Conference challengers at bay. They've done so successfully, having won 12 of 17 games without Paul. Blake Griffin leads the team in scoring (23.3 points per game) and has expanded his game in the low-post and mid-range to help the Los Angeles with spacing. DeAndre Jordan, at nearly 14 rebounds per game is a beast; keeping him away from the boards will be an interesting subplot. Jamal Crawford (18.1 PPG) and J.R. Redick (15.7 PPG) will test Miami's perimeter defense, as will Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes and the recently-signed Hedo Turkoglu.
Miami looks to win their third straight, building momentum as the road trip extends. Dwyane Wade's recent play has been encouraging, especially his 30-point outing on Monday against the Detroit Pistons. And Greg Oden continues to be productive in limited minutes; it will be interesting to see how he handles Jordan on Wednesday. Point guards Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole have both struggled lately, particularly with turnovers. Staying focused against a quick team of scorers like Los Angeles will be a good test for both players. Miami won the first matchup between both teams, a 102-97 victory in November.
An added subplot to tonight's game was presented by ESPN's Brian Windhorst, suggesting that the Clippers are a viable alternative for James, should he choose to leave Miami as a free agent.
The telecast of this game begins at 10:30 P.M. on ESPN from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Check back with HotHotHoops for a recap after the game.