The Heat looked noticeably different in this contest with Hassan Whiteside back after missing four games to an eye injury. Miami wasn’t the only team with a returning face as Chris Paul also returned to the Clippers.
Though the Heat were the first to get on the board, they would enter an immediate scoring drought shooting only 1 for 6 through the first five minutes. The main issue seemed to be Miami’s tendency to try and go for a three point attempt every possession, seemingly ignoring Whiteside. The Heat would clean this up as the reserves entered the game, but Miami’s turnover issues once again reared their ugly head.
Dion Waiters provided a much needed scoring punch for the Heat, resulting in a 7-0 run. The Heat would head into the second quarter down only one point.
Both teams would struggle to score early in the second, but once again it was Dion Waiters filling that go-to scorer role for the Heat as he found his way to the foul line multiple times. Hassan Whiteside would find his way back into the game, but appeared lethargic though he did convert on a few buckets.
The Clippers found their offensive groove in the second with Chris Paul acting as maestro. He was able to find multiple players for easy buckets, allowing for them to take a double digit lead over Miami. Whiteside would come alive to keep Miami within striking distance, but the Clippers would pull away during the half’s last few minutes thanks to JJ Redick’s three point shooting.
The Heat spent most of the third quarter scrambling. Scrambling to get open looks and scrambling to get back on defense. There are times when the Heat seem to enter “the zone” so to speak, but as the Clippers continued to barrage the Heat with three pointers Miami rolled over.
Nothing was falling for the Heat, every time they set up an open look from within or beyond the arc the shot was consistently short or rimmed out. Eventually a few threes fell, but it was a little bit too late. It’s not even as if Miami was playing that poorly, they just couldn’t hit shots. However, their defense was significantly lacking as the Clippers continued their offensive assault with no sign of slowing down. The Heat would show signs of life as the quarter came to a close, but it remained to be seen if Miami could scale an assault in the fourth quarter especially with Dion Waiters being ejected (elbow) heading into the fourth.
Here's the Dion Waiters Flagrant 2 (elbow to the back of the head of J.J. Redick). pic.twitter.com/JozvUPz5PW— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) January 8, 2017
Miami was never able to find their groove in the final quarter. Chris Paul was on another level as he shredded the Heat defense with bullet passes to his open teammates. The Heat just didn’t seem to have any answers for the Clippers except for Goran Dragić and Hassan Whiteside.
There are pieces of this team that can be a strong part of Miami’s next chapter, but it’s clear that as of right now this iteration of the Miami Heat is a lottery team.