The HEAT (6-6), without Dwyane Wade for a fourth straight game suffered a defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers (7-4) in a game that wasn't really in doubt after the first quarter.
The Clippers raced out to a 24 point first quarter lead, often scoring a combination of easy transition buckets off Miami misses and hitting three pointers off the sublime ball movement spearheaded by All-NBA point guard, Chris Paul. Miami's offense struggled mightily outside of Chris Bosh in the early go and no substitution seemed to be able to stem the bleeding before it got out of hand.
The lone bright spot for Miami was Bosh, who had a big game against the imposing Clippers frontline. Bosh finished with 28 points and 7 rebounds on 9-17 shooting and a perfect 9-9 free throwing in 31 minutes, scoring from the post, midrange, and on the move. There was also some encouraging play from little-used Shannon Brown (9 points and 2 steals) and Shabazz Napier in the 2nd half (13 of his 17 points after halftime).
Miami would fight in spurts through the 2nd and 3rd quarter to the point where the lead was reduced to 14 multiple times, but the Clippers had an answer every time and the lead would balloon back to over 20 in the blink of an eye. Paul (26 points and 12 assists), Blake Griffin (26 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists) and DeAndre Jordan (6-6 from the field, all dunks), simply looked to be in another weight class throughout the night. The Clippers as a team shot 13-31 from downtown while Miami started 0-10 before finishing 6-26.
Luol Deng and Josh McRoberts made their return from injuries, but their play was mostly uneven. McRoberts (who seemingly does this once a game) tantalized with a massive dunk in the 3rd quarter and threw a few nifty passes, but the box score production continues to be minimal as he recovers and works his way back from a toe injury and blister. Deng started out 2-2 from the field, but faded quickly and his All-NBA Defensive Team credentials were not on display today as he and the team as a whole were far too slow on closeouts and rotations through the 1st half. Deng finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds.
Norris Cole also left the game in the 2nd quarter with a dislocated finger, so you wonder how Miami's already thin guard rotation will hold up. Regardless of who plays, Miami has to start playing much better defense. They lack the interior presence to erase mistakes so they must emphasize their rotations and trust one another to adhere to their assignments. The defense tightened up a bit in the 2nd half, but Miami dug themselves too deep a hole.
Miami's fallen to 3-4 at home and travel to Orlando to take on the Magic. A strange sight to be a better road team than a home one, but Miami will look to continue the trend Saturday at 7:00